FIFA should pick the best referees for the World Cup and not limit its list to one per nation, according to coaching great Guus Hiddink. Hiddink, a two-time World Cup semifinalist, told The Associated Press three or four referees should be chosen from the same country if they were best at a job getting more complex as video review is tested.
“It’s not a World Cup for referees, it’s a World Cup for football teams,” the Dutch coach said in St. Petersburg where he is analyzing Confederations Cup games for American broadcaster Fox Sports.
“We want to have the best teams so we want to have the best referees as well. Not necessarily European. Without looking to their nationality, which are the best referees?” At the 2014 World Cup, FIFA had 25 referees from 25 different countries working in Brazil.
“I don’t think it’s a law that you have to have from every country or from every continent a referee,” said Hiddink, who led the Netherlands in 1998 and co-host South Korea in 2002 to within a game of the World Cup final.
While Hiddink’s South Korea benefited from controversial referee decisions, his Australia team in 2006 lost to a stoppage-time penalty against eventual winner Italy in the Round of 16.
Hiddink likes the video review which FIFA hopes will get fast-track approval for the 2018 World Cup, though with one concern. Trials are scheduled next season in only some national competitions worldwide.
“Referees who are coming from, with all respect, less developed countries regarding this system, let them learn as soon as possible,” he said. Still, Hiddink supported the only African referee here, Bakary Gassama of Gambia, for handling a running melee involving New Zealand and Mexico players.
“This referee was a little bit criticized but I will defend this man,” said Hiddink, describing a “far over the top” incident with “15 or 16 players hustling.” In other observations on the World Cup rehearsal tournament:
Hiddink’s favorite from the first two rounds of group games was Chile and Germany playing to a 1-1 draw in Kazan. It was a “beautiful example” of trying to outplay an opponent from the first whistle.
Hiddink, whose last coaching job was with Chelsea in 2016 after Jose Mourinho was fired, enjoys the fast pace of Champions League games. “I don’t think the nature of the game is changing,” the 70-year-old coach said. “The attitude and the intensity is how it was. There are some small changes in the rules which are good and which have the intention to make it more fair.”
ADVICE FROM THE TOP
As a former Russia national team coach, Hiddink was not surprised that President Vladimir Putin urged players to impress the public at its home tournament.
“Everybody is a national team manager,” said the coach who led Russia to a surprise semifinal place at the 2008 European Championship. “From the man in the street to the high-ranked bosses in the Kremlin. “They all have ideas about football as we have ideas about politics. For me that is OK.”
GOT TO GET AHEAD
Hiddink sees a similarity in his two former teams at the Confederations Cup: Russia and Australia both seem to play better when trailing 1-0. “Then you can see the potential is there,” he said of a Russia team that tends to be “too cautious, too careful sometimes.”
“I know a lot of the mentality of the Aussies they always react when there is a setback,” he said, hoping they could “think in a different way” by scoring first.
Hiddink is in favor of video review and thinks players will quickly adapt as long as the system works fast. “Do it calm but quick,” he said. “You see players accept it. They accept it because it’s fair.”
Hiddink’s Fox Sports colleague Eric Wynalda, who played at three World Cups for the United States, also sees speed of decisions as key. “Hopefully it doesn’t take 3 minutes, it takes 30 to 40 seconds,” Wynalda told The AP. “So far, I think we’re working out the kinks.”
Wynalda hopes video review can be extended to post-match disciplinary action against diving and simulation. “It is a Big Brother approach but still it’s the only way to get guys playing the game in the right way. Fairness is the goal.”