Fewer fouls, longer playing time… the results of the refereeing after the first day of the World Cup

Sixteen is the number of matches played at the end of the first day of the group stage of the World Cup in Qatar (November 20-December 18). Often scrutinized in view of their importance to the smooth running of matches, referees seemed to follow two guidelines when they officiated: let play, and increase effective playing time through additional time.

The arbitration policy of this 2022 World Cup follows a trend generated since Euro 2016. The 2014 World Cup, in Brazil, saw more choppy meetings with more than 30 faults per game. The quarter-final between the Auriverde selection and Colombia (2-1) had staged a succession of faults (54). In subsequent competitions, referees showed more leeway in contact by whistling 5 fewer fouls during Euro 2016 (25.2).

If the 2018 financial year constituted a slight increase in the number of whistles (27.1), Euro 2020 (23.4) and the first day of the World Cup (23.7) illustrate a will of the referees to let more actions unfold.

The explosion of additional time

However, a major break was noted during the first matches: the unprecedented increase in added time. During this World Cup in Qatar, the referees were indeed instructed to “compensate as best as possible for lost minutes”as requested by Pierluigi Collina, the head of FIFA referees.

Brazilian referee Mr. Claus heard the message and the record for the longest World Cup match was broken on Monday at Khalifa Stadium: 117 minutes and 16 seconds of play, Opta statisticians had never seen that, excluding extra time, since they counted added time in 1966. A little later in the afternoon, Senegal – Netherlands ended in 90th +11, and United States – Wales in the 90th +9.

At the top of the ranking of players who committed the most faults, we find two Saudis: Saud Abdulhamid and Abdulelah al-Malki, two defensive profiles who did a lot of work during the feat against Argentina (2-1). The first is right side, the second defensive midfielder.

Neymar only played 68 minutes in his team’s 2-0 victory over Serbia on Thursday. Victim of a sprained ankle, the Brazilian had to leave his place on the ground. However, this did not prevent him from suffering 9 faults during this time lap, a total which greatly exceeds that of Gavi (5), the second most affected player.

Note that no red card was distributed at the end of the first day. In 2014, there had already been 3 at this stage of the competition, and 1 in 2018.

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