UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine

Referee Review

Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)


By Adam Higgins

Chief Football Editor 

Age-  41             FIFA Referee since-  2007             Promoted to the Elite List-  2009          Italian Serie A referee since 2002

Season 2011-12:      Matches-  18        Yellow cards-  137          Red cards-  6          Penalties-  9

Best game of the season:  6th May 2012         Serie A         Inter Milan 4-2 AC Milan         Venue:  San Siro (Italy)

Our average rating from Euro 2012:  22.5/10 (7.5/10)

Euro 2012 statistics-   Matches-  3        Yellow cards-  9         Red cards-  0         Penalties-  1       Average cards per game-  3

Best game of the tournament:  Sunday 17th June         Group B Game Three           Portugal 2-1 Holland

                                          Metalist Stadium (Kharkiv)

Nicola Rizzoli may not be viewed in the same esteem as the world-renowned Pierluigi Collina, who is a member of UEFA's Referees Committee and head of referees for the Ukrainian FA, but the Italian representative for Euro 2012 has quickly become one of the most respected match officials in the world game. His reputation as a match official that has been built up in almost no time at all. In Poland and Ukraine, he was the head referee for the country in his first international tournament. In terms of style, Rizzoli tends to be a bit card-happy and indeed hands out an average of almost five (4.89) cautions per match, nearly the highest among referees in Serie A, though his red card count levels out at 0.21 per match, in the bottom half of his compatriots. As a con-sequence, the Bologna-born official is viewed as one who likes to keep the match in check, but is also known for his ability to talk calmly with the players on the pitch. Like any referee, however, Rizzoli divides opinion and throughout his career some of his decisions have been heavily criticised including Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson after he dismissed Rafael in a Champions League quarter-final second leg between the Red Devils and Bayern Munich at Old Trafford in March 2010. Rizzoli's tendency to book players and even stop the game has frustrated some teams and fans alike in the past, but his ability to remain calm and composed under pressure made him one of the top candidates for the Euro 2012 final. Nonetheless, Rizzoli's handling of the 2010 Europa League final, two matches at the 2011 Club World Cup in Japan, and a 2-2 draw between Napoli and Roma in the 2011-12 Serie A campaign have all been considered extremely competent displays. Additionally, in January this year, he was chosen as the 'best referee' by the Italian Footballers' Association at the Oscar del Calcio awards. The architect took charge of three games at the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. He was always going to be under pressure to perform from the first minute, similarly to every individual match official, player and team, especially when he was handed the appointment of refereeing England's first match on the final day of matchday one in the group stages against France. The Group D clash was eagerly awaited in Donetsk as the whole nation in England froze from their daily work to see how the football team would manage against a rejuventated France side under the stewardship of Laurent Blanc after their 2010 World Cup debacle. Rizzoli, who took charge of a Europa League semi-final second leg last season, didn't have his most consistent display with the English media criticising his fairness all over the pitch after the game saying he favoured the French. He showed yellow cards to England's Ashley Young and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for fouls which a more lenient referee would have just ticked off and given them a flea in the ear in regards to future conduct yet the Italian was very quick to get the yellow card from his pocket. Yet, France's Yohan Cabaye escaped a caution despite his persistent fouling while Samir Nasri also avoided further punishment in the shape of a booking when he cynically brought down Steven Gerrard from behind in the second half when he strode forward for England with the likelihood of a potential counter attack. This upset many England fans who felt the referee treated the team unjustly throughout. There was also an occasion when Glen Johnson looked to have been tripped in the attacking third with the ball running out of play, but Rizzoli and his assistant referee gave a goalkick in unison. Definitely not his best game but not a completely disastrous one either. His second match saw him oversee a cracking match between Portugal and Holland on the final round of fixtures in Group B in Kharkiv. Both teams needed a win to stand a chance of reaching the next phase with Denmark playing Germany at the same time. Rizzoli turned in a much more fluid display in terms of his refereeing skills and man-management co-ordination. He allowed an extremely open game to flow with lots of good attacking play on show while he wasn't in a hurry to get the yellow card out and he showed a high degree of understanding with the players which is what they particularly like to see from officials. Throughout this match, the main word to use is common sense as he used this impeccably. He got round the pitch well, he must have been feeling the effects of it at the end going up and down the pitch unremittingly however he coped and it was a significant improvement on his first performance. Weighing up all the options, UEFA decided, at the end of the group stages, that Rizzoli and his Italian team of officials would be kept on for the knock-out phase of the tournament and they were immediately thrust into action with a quarter-final appointment. Nicola was man in the middle for Spain against France at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. He had another decent display, getting a lot of free-kick decisions right and dishing out the yellow card only when necessary. He awarded a late penalty to Spain after a foul by Reveilliere on Fabregas which was correctly penalised with a spotkick by the referee who was up with play and got himself in a position to have a great view of the challenge. Having taken charge of some of the best teams in the tournament, Nicola can feel that he has performed well in the circumstances handling some difficult players and managing different personalities. That was where his tournament ended- overall, a largely successful experience for Rizzoli who, having already received refereeing appointments for World Cup 2014 qualifiers, will be high on the list for the tournament in Brazil in two years time.


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