It comes as little surprise that Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo has come under heavy fire after his officiating in Brazil’s 2-1 win over Colombia on Friday night.
The referee, known as a strict disciplinarian in La Liga matches, showed a marked reluctance to reach for his cards. Carballo blew his whistle for 54 fouls, the highest total in the World Cup thus far, yet only showed four yellow cards. But many of those watching felt the referee had lost control of the game, particularly as several harsh tackles went unpunished. It also looked as though Brazil were deliberately targeting Colombia playmaker James Rodríguez.
This all culminated in one of the saddest events of the World Cup. In the 88th minute, a frustrated Juan Zúñiga launched a heavy challenge at Neymar. The Brazilian was carried from the field on a stretcher, and it was later revealed that he would miss the rest of the tournament with a broken vertebra.
It was no surprise, then, that Hulk spoke out about the officiating, suggesting that his teammate is constantly targeted: “Every time is like this, players always come after Neymar, the referees need to do more to keep this from happening.”
But while Colombia manager José Pékerman refused to place the blame on Carballo, saying instead that it is not easy to referee such a high-intensity match, Radamel Falcao was not shy in expressing his frustration. The injured Colombia star took to his Twitter account, writing “For the next match, remember to call the referee, who today didn’t show up” :
While it is unknown whether FIFA will take action against Carballo, it’s clear the damage has already been done. Both Colombia and Neymar are out of the World Cup. What might have happened had the official remembered that he was, in fact, in charge of the game?