Jul 7, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT
After Friday’s game against Colombia, Brazil’s rough tactics have come into focus, but consider their broader record at this year’s World Cup. In five games, they’ve “out-fouled” their opponents three times. Among the times they came up short was the tournament’s opening game, where the Selecao was only whistled for five infractions. Brazil’s yet to commit over eight fouls more than their opponents.
Given what happened in the quarterfinals, however, Germany head coach Joachim Löw’s worried the tend is heading in a more dangerous direction. Brazil drew 31 whistles on Friday (to Colombia’s 23) and committed six offenses against Colombia’s best player, James Rodríguez. Combine the numbers from the 120 minutes they played in the Round of 16 against Chile, and the host nation has committed 59 fouls in their last two games.
That’s the source of today’s pre-match gamesmanship form Löw, who expressed his hope that Tuesday’s official exercises more control of the match. From Sky Sports:
“I hope the referee, Mr Rodriguez from Mexico, will clamp down on things. That physical energy in the match against Colombia went beyond the limits in Europe. When I saw that match….in Europe, 22 players wouldn’t have ended that match.
“There were brutal fouls. People blocking opponents however they could. It was really exaggerated. That’s what we saw on the pitch, so I hope these really brutal and crude fouls are stopped, …
“The actual playing time was only 38 or 39 minutes, there were so many breaks in play. I don’t think players and fans like the match being constantly stopped.
“Players have been warned what would earn them a yellow or a red card but you saw in the Colombia match many fouls from behind which were really dangerous for the players. You have to protect the players when you’re a referee.”
To Löw’s credit, he didn’t resort to calling Brazil dirty or extending his “brutal” description beyond last Friday’s game. In the wake of Neymar’s injury, there’s been a lot of retrospective danger about the teams’ tactics. Löw stops short of dissociating Brazil’s behavior from that strange, heightened occasion.
There is, however, some reason to believe Brazil’s trending in the wrong direction. As games have become more important, the numbers hint Brazil has been more willing to embrace a more cynical style. Consider the escalation of fouls committed from game one to five: 5, 13, 19, 28, 31. As the stakes increased, so did Brazil’s willingness to test the rules.
That test is likely to fail on Tuesday, though. In Marco Antonio Rodríguez, Brazil and Germany have drawn one of CONCACAF’s strictest referees, somebody who’s more likely to err on the side of a dismissal than let game leave his control.
A 17-year Liga MX league veteran, Rodríguez (nickname “Chiquimarco”) has gained a degree of fame because of his resemblance to a child Count Dracula character from Mexican television, something fans probably wouldn’t care about if his officiating style wasn’t so distinct. When Rodríguez is assigned to a match, players must be careful. You never know when he will decide to crack down, and hard.
After all, this is a man that double-fists yellow cards. See 0:54, below:
In that way, Löw is probably already preaching to the choir, to the extent that Rodríguez is even listening. Still, it’s interesting to consider whether FIFA, after reviewing Brazil’s last match, decided the Mexican official is the man to reverse the Selecao’s tend.
If “who, we won’t want this” was followed by the question “how do we fix this,” Chiquimarco would be the obvious answer.
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