Case Study: Reckless or Excessive Force?

Mark Geiger (USA) and teammates Sean Hurd (USA) and Joe Fletcher (CAN) turned in a third very good performance in the World Cup Round of 16 match between France and Nigeria.  Mr Geiger’s fitness and presence were second to none and the offside decisions by the assistant referees were all 100% correct.

There was only one caution in the match, to France midfielder Blaise Matuidi in the 54th minute, for a challenge against Nigeria midfielder Onazi.  Referee Geiger was about three meters away from the challenge and immediately reached for his yellow card.

For consideration in this case study is whether this challenge was indeed “reckless” as decided by Geiger, or perhaps might have been executed with “excessive force”, which would require a send-off.

I think all would agree that this foul goes beyond “careless” and must be either “reckless” or done with “excessive force”.

Consider the following factors about this challenge:

  • It is a “50/50” (no player has control of the ball prior to the challenge)
  • The France player does not go “over the ball” when making the challenge
  • There was a reasonable chance that France player could win the challenge
  • The challenge is a split-second late (about 4 video frames or roughly .13 second)

Finally, consider the reaction of the Nigeria players.  There is no mass confrontation, no gesturing for a send off, not even a cross word to the referee (that we can see).  Based on what we see, they fully accept the decision of the referee.

Could this challenge have resulted in a send off?  Clearly, we can answer in the affirmative, and I don’t think many would argue, especially after seeing the replays.  This is a case where “in the opinion of the referee” applies.

Whether Signor Busacca agrees remains to be seen.

9 responses to “Case Study: Reckless or Excessive Force?”

  1. Very eloquently expressed & I fully agree with your points. At no time did any Nigerian player remonstrate with Mr. Geiger, I personally think he’s been the most consistently good referee in the tournament.


  2. Absolutely the correct call based on Mr Geiger’s angle of view. Matuidi has played the ball forward and chasing it, Onazi comes from the left across his path. Matuidi is a little slower getting to ball and the foul occurs. It’s slow motion, stop action viewing, from an entirely different angle than the Referee’s, that make it look like a case for dismissal.


  3. Under US Soccer Memorandum of excessive force the SIAPOA acronym should be used. Mr Geiger is absolutely correct in the yellow card as it was reckless. None of the conditions were met for a sendoff (any amount or combination of the conditions should be considered)
    Serious Foul Play- SIAPOA

    Speed of play and the tackle- The faster the tackler is moving, the greater the force and likelihood of endangering the safety of the opponent. Additionally, speed also equates to less control of the challenge and the less likely the attacker can cleanly win the ball.

    The Intent of the tackler-. Was the tackle intended to send a message or to cleanly win the ball?

    Aggressive nature- Did the tackler lunge for the ball with one or both feet? Consideration should be given to the distance between the attacker and the tackler at the time the tackler leaves his feet. The further the distance, the less control the tackler has of his actions and the less likely the tackler is to play the ball. Are cleats up and exposed to the opponent?

    Position of the tackler- In particular, his legs (height of the tackler’s leading leg and the follow-up action by the tackler’s trailing leg).

    Opportunity to play the ball- Was the ball within playing distance? Or, was the ball already past the tackler at the time the tackler’s feet came in contact with the opponent. Tackles from behind and from the side (outside of the peripheral vision of the attacker with the ball) increase the likelihood contact will need to be made with the attacker prior to playing the ball.

    Atmosphere of the game-
    Referees must consider the overall temperature of the match and the player in question. Has an aggressive attitude been displayed to that point? Is frustration amongst or between the players evident?

    I’ve been a soccer referee since 1994.


  4. Ran across this it looking at for other comments on Mr Geiger’s performance… Nigerian number 10, John Obi Mikel who saw full action in the game. Mikel chose not to criticize the tackle …: “I thought the referee didn’t help us at all. There were some heavy challenges and I think Ogenyi Onazi has broken his ankle. Challenges like this are bad but it was a 50-50, he just miscalculated.”

    The Nigerian Manager still does not acknowledge that it was a correct call on the goal that was disallowed. How can we give credence to those that wanted Nigeria to get the man advantage with the referee’s help.


  5. A very good analysis but I feel that it was SFP.
    Remember according to the laws: “a tackle that endangers the safety of the opponent is serious foul play.”

    On a side note; although Geiger and co. had been incredibly impressive before this game, Geiger lost control during this match. Unfortunaltely, I’d be surprised to see him again.


  6. Everyone is focusing on this singular incident, but it was Geiger’s man management that was the problem. The midfielder Onazi was being targeted before this challenge, as the French were unable to cope with him. This was the third brutel attack on him and he already left the field of play once. The French were also persistently bruising the Nigerians and Geiger failed to reel them in with a few yellow cards. Add to that the elbow by Giroud and Evra bearhugging a man in the box (in a situation where the player had a chance to get to the ball) only resulted in a talking to. With all these key decisions mounting against the team that played ‘clean football’, while benefitting the team that played ‘dirty football’ – well, then we have a problem. Geiger needed to issue a few yellows early on to keep control of this game. Instead he hurt one team, while helping the other. And in all honesty the team that plays dirty is the last team that should benefit.

    Also: Are we really going to discuss whether a decision is right or wrong on the basis if players crowded the referee? Are you suggesting players should impact referee decisions? Post-game the players from Nigeria publicly said that the referee was bad. So obviously they weren’t happy with his decisions.


    • I’m suggesting that reading the reaction of the players to decisions can be a barometer for judging whether we are giving them the game they want.

      I don’t have the link, but Jon Obi Mikel said in his post match interview that he didn’t have a problem with the caution.

      Since Geiger and crew were retained for appointments on the Brazil v Germany semi-final, the FIFA referee bosses must be okay with Geiger’s performance.


  7. when you encounter a similar situation in a very important game issue a caution and justify that by what Mr. Geiger did here and I sure hope you’d pass the assessment any day in the United Estates.

    However if you’d like to learn- show a red card for the lunge-that in it self is backed by the laws of the game.


  8. This is SFP for me, granted there is no speed or intent there but the direction of the studs and endangering the safety of an opponent are enough for me. I’m an advocate of managing the players and the game but if a tackle is red then its red.


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