2019 Women’s World Cup: Semifinal Appointments and Final Predictions

Image courtesy of South China Morning Post

All but a few matches are in the books for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and, just as many countries have been eliminated, so too have various teams of officials. We’re down to the ones that deserve it the most.

July 2, 2019 – Parc Olympique Lyonnais
England vs United States – Semifinal
REF: Edina Alves Batista (BRA)
AR1: Neuza Back (BRA)
AR2: Tatiane Sacilotti (BRA)
4TH: Melissa Borjas (HON)
VAR: Carlos del Cerro Grande (ESP)

I’m a little surprised to see Batista taking charge of a semifinal, although she hasn’t been bad at all in her matches so far. She’s stayed out of the spotlight (and hasn’t had to award any penalties, which certainly helps), and had a solid round of 16 match between Italy and China to add to her case.

I’ve seen some criticism of her for being too lenient when it comes to discipline, but FIFA typically prefers referees who ‘let the games flow’ in major tournaments as opposed to the ones who are more stringent with fouls and cards, so I can see why Batista is still here. (Unfortunately, sometimes this leads to games spiralling out of control, such as Cameroon vs England, but I digress.) It’s not like this approach has caused her any problems up to this point—completely the opposite, in fact—so, while this isn’t necessarily an expected appointment, it’s not an undeserving one either.

July 3, 2019 – Parc Olympique Lyonnais
Netherlands vs Sweden – Semifinal
REF: Marie-Soleil Beaudoin (CAN)
AR1: Princess Brown (JAM)
AR2: Stephanie Yee Sing (JAM)
4TH: Kateryna Monzul (UKR)
VAR: Massimiliano Irrati (ITA)

I can’t explain how excited I am that a fellow Canadian is refereeing a FIFA World Cup semifinal. It’s clear that Beaudoin is well-liked by FIFA, having refereed the U17 Women’s World Cup Final last fall in addition to a few big matches already at this tournament in the past few weeks.

She’s in a magnificent run of form right now, and hasn’t been scared to make big calls when she’s had to. Unlike the raft of referees that seem to wait for the VAR to make painstakingly-obvious penalty calls for them, Beaudoin made two by herself in the Korea-Norway group stage match, and proceeded to handle the pick of the last-16 ties, France vs Brazil, with aplomb. All in all, a World Cup semifinal is no less than she deserves.

Image courtesy of South China Morning Post

World Cup Final Predictions

A lot of referees have come under intense scrutiny and criticism in this World Cup. There’s no doubt that if FIFA are hoping for one thing after the World Cup Final, it’s to avoid any such widespread condemnation of the officials. With this in mind, there are a limited number of candidates for the final on Sunday.

Strangely, for someone who’s had two solid matches so far in France, and who was also in the middle for the Women’s Champions League Final this past year, Anastasia Pustovoitova hasn’t yet been given a knockout stage match in the tournament. Typically, World Cup Final referees are given either a last-16 or quarterfinal match first, rather than being thrown straight into the final from the group stage. Now, the question becomes: are FIFA ‘saving her’ for the final?

Stéphanie Frappart is one of only three centre referees at the tournament who takes charge of matches in men’s top-flight football, and is one of the most experienced officials at France 2019. She’s had one major VAR incident, which was a penalty-turned-free kick handled correctly in Canada’s defeat to the Netherlands, and had a solid quarterfinal between Germany and Sweden.

In my opinion, however, the frontrunner for the final is Uruguay’s Claudia Umpiérrez. So far, she’s been awarded the opening match of the competition between France and Korea, the high-profile clash between Japan and England, and Italy’s quarterfinal tilt with the Netherlands, three significant matches that show FIFA’s trust in her. She’s largely stayed out of the spotlight in those games, not needing to make a single VAR review along the way. She has drawn some criticism for her overly aggressive approach to player management, particularly when it comes to cases of dissent, but compared to many other referees who have shown to be significantly less strong-willed, FIFA seems to not see this as a major problem.

Official prediction: 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final – USA vs Netherlands

July 7, 2019 – Parc Olympique Lyonnais
REF: Claudia Umpiérrez (URU)
AR1: Luciana Mascaraña (URU)
AR2: Monica Amboya (ECU)
4TH: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA)
VAR: Mauro Vigliano (ARG)

There’s no logical reason as to why Umpiérrez shouldn’t be assigned the final, if I’m being honest. She’s stayed out of controversy, she’s one of the most experienced officials still in the tournament, she’s had a really good first three matches, and FIFA clearly likes her. I really can’t see any other alternative.

Official prediction: 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Third Place Match – England vs Sweden

July 6, 2019 – Allianz Riviera
REF: Lucila Venegas (MEX)
AR1: Mayte Chávez (MEX)
AR2: Enedina Caudillo (MEX)
4TH: Qin Liang (CHN)
VAR: José María Sánchez Martínez (ESP)

I’ll be honest, this is a complete toss-up of a prediction. Venegas has had a good tournament, but so have others – Katalin Kulcsár and Kate Jacewicz are two other potential options. I do think that Liang will be involved in some capacity, probably as 4th official, as a way of FIFA sticking their middle finger up to Cameroon’s abhorrent behaviour in the aforementioned round of 16 tie.

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