Stephanie Frappart to Referee 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final

July 7, 2019 – Parc Olympique Lyonnais
United States vs Netherlands – Final
REF: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA)
AR1: Manuela Nicolosi (FRA)
AR2: Michelle O’Neill (IRL)
4TH: Claudia Umpierrez (URU)
VAR: Carlos del Cerro Grande (ESP)

I have to admit, I raised my eyebrows for more than a few seconds when I saw this announcement. I did outline in my predictions that I thought Stéphanie Frappart was one of the only three serious contenders to take the Women’s World Cup Final, but inside my head I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that it would go to anyone other than Claudia Umpierrez. From the Uruguayan getting the tournament opener, to the two high-profile matches in the third round of the group stage and then the quarterfinals, to the fact that she avoided pretty much any VAR controversy, to the fact that FIFA did a video feature on her several months ago, it just looked like such obvious foreshadowing.

That said, there’s no doubt that Frappart has been one of the better referees throughout the past month, and this is not an undeserving appointment. This will be her fourth match, after Argentina-Japan and Netherlands-Canada in the group stages and Germany-Sweden in the quarterfinals, and she has handled those three games without any notable issues.

I can’t help but think that Umpierrez’s disastrous player management in what was a pretty straightforward quarterfinal between Holland and Italy lost her the chance at the final. I thought she was without question the frontrunner after the group stage, but I see why she was passed over and is the fourth official instead – becoming the first referee to take part in two different Women’s World Cup Finals, after also having been a fourth in 2015.

Interestingly, Frappart and Umpierrez are two of the only three referees at the tournament—Bibiana Steinhaus being the other—that officiate men’s top-flight football. This has led to some speculation that they have been chosen less because of their performances and more due to the notion that they referee in supposedly ‘better’ leagues.

To some extent, I agree with this speculation, and we’ve seen FIFA supposedly reward referees for ‘political’ reasons rather than strictly based on performances in the past. Rumour has it that a strong reason Howard Webb and Yuichi Nishimura were the referee and fourth official, respectively, of the 2010 World Cup Final was that they were the only two ‘full-time’ referees at the competition, in the sense that they had actual contracts within their football federations and weren’t just being paid game-by-game.

Despite this, let me clarify that I don’t think for a second that Frappart and Umpierrez don’t deserve to be in the final. I just think it’s unfortunate for other referees who have been good, if not slightly better than these two in the tournament itself but don’t referee top-flight men’s football during the season.

VAR-watch

Carlos del Cerro Grande is the VAR for the final, meaning he has now been in the video booth in every single round of the tournament. I have to say, I’m a little surprised that FIFA didn’t turn to Massimiliano Allegri, who was the VAR for last summer’s World Cup Final and has been the go-to name for important fixtures in the Champions League this season, but I do think it’s good to spread the big matches around. In any event, VAR has been a hot topic over the past month to say the least, so the Spaniard will be hoping for a quiet day in the video room.

Pustovoitova takes the 3rd-place match

Russia’s Anastasia Pustovoitova took charge of the 3rd-place match today between Sweden and England, which was, incredibly, her first knockout phase appointment of the tournament. I don’t know if she was carrying a slight injury or something, but in my opinion she was clearly one of the standout performers of the group stage and I was quite surprised not to see her at all in any of the 16 ensuing knockout matches.

She ended her tournament well, however, with a solid performance in Sweden’s 2-1 win. One particular moment to highlight came in second-half stoppage time, when she initially pulled the red card out of her pocket for a professional foul around the halfway line for an English defender on a play which would otherwise have seen the Swedish attacker go 1v1 with the goalkeeper. The referee must have gotten information via her headset, though, and quickly put the red card away before pulling out the yellow instead – the correct decision in the end.

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