Four Things to Watch: FIFA Women’s World Cup Referees

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With only a couple of days before the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in France, players, coaches, and referees alike are going through their final preparations. As such, here I will outline some of the big referee-related storylines to watch out for over the course of the next month, including some shocking news that came out of Canada this morning.

1. Carol Anne Chenard is out of the WWC

Today it was revealed that Canadian referee Carol Anne Chenard has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and is out of the World Cup as a result. Football aside, this is obviously incredibly sad news for Chenard and her family. Here’s hoping for a full recovery, first and foremost, and, health permitting, a return to the pitch in the future.

As far as the pool of referees is concerned, this is a huge loss for Collina, Busacca, and company. Jonathan Johnson does a good job outlining just how significant her absence will be:

Chenard was, in my opinion, a very strong early candidate for the final, and surely would have been assigned a few very important matches along the way too. Her normal ARs, fellow Canadian Chantal Boudreau and American Kathryn Nesbitt, will still be at France 2019, although it remains to be seen who will accompany them in the middle.

2. Claudia Umpierrez gets the opening match

Uruguayan referee Claudia Umpierrez has been assigned the tournament’s opening match between France and South Korea, which, if previous FIFA World Cups (both men’s and women’s) are any indication, is an extremely good sign for her potential final prospects.

Argentina’s Nestor Pitana refereed last summer’s opener between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the men’s World Cup before going on to referee the France-Croatia final as well, while Ukraine’s Kateryna Monzul refereed both the opening and final matches at the last Women’s World Cup too.

Also of note is that FIFA put out a YouTube video a few months ago specifically featuring Umpierrez, something which they haven’t done for any other female referees recently. Is it a sign from FIFA? If Umpierrez has a solid first game on Friday, I think she’s a huge favourite to take July 7’s final.

3. Anastasia Pustovoitova looking to continue fine form

Having been in charge of the Women’s Champions League Final a few weeks ago between Barcelona and Lyon, Russian Anastasia Pustovoitova is the referee in form at the moment. She also had a really good tournament in the U17 Women’s World Cup last fall, so if she can continue in this vein over the next few weeks, don’t be surprised to see her in the latter stages of the competition.

Also worth pointing out is that with two of Europe’s top female referees, Bibiana Steinhaus and Kateryna Monzul, already having refereed a Women’s World Cup Final, they are out of the running this year. As such, if another European is chosen in 2019, there’s a very good chance that Pustovoitova could get the nod.

4. VAR-watch

While the procedures surrounding VAR for this tournament aren’t any different from how the system has worked anywhere else, FIFA continues to be a little unclear on the number of video assistants we will see in the booth for any given match.

It’s safe to say that there will be at least a VAR and an AVAR for every match. However, the voiceover in the above video that FIFA recently uploaded says that, “in some cases,” there will be a second AVAR that will be solely responsible for offsides.

My best guess would be that the group stage matches will each have two in the booth, and then a third person will be added for the knockout matches. Still, FIFA isn’t giving us many answers, not even revealing the identity of an AVAR for the opening match in their announcement tweet. It looks like, for the next few days at least, we will just have to wait and see.

I’ll be following the Women’s World Cup closely over the course of the next month, so if you’re not following my Twitter, now would be a good time to start doing so. I’ll be tweeting about the refereeing news and appointments throughout the tournament, and you can start expecting full blog posts and analysis probably from the knockout stage onwards. Until then, enjoy the football!

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