Fortunately for the remaining teams in this year’s World Cup, a controversial referee will no longer be part of the action. The semi-finals tomorrow should find a little cleaner action after FIFA sends “useless” referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz to the showers, all the back in his home country of Spain.
Tomorrow’s semi-finals will see Argentina face Croatia and France take on this tournament’s Cinderella team, Morocco. When they take the field in Qatar, all four will be able to breathe a little easier, knowing that – just maybe – the referees will be a little more neutral.
Lahoz, a regular LaLiga fixture, was either looking to stand out in the crowd or actually thought he was doing the right thing in the quarterfinals match between Argentina and the Netherlands. Either way, he failed miserably as he repeatedly reached into his pocket for one card after another.
With Great Power
Perhaps he was on a power trip; no one will truly ever know. However, Lahoz, making his second World Cup appearance, handed out 17 yellow cards and one red one before Argentina overcame the Netherlands on penalty shots.
Everyone, from players on both sides to announcers to FIFA staff, thought the ref’s performance was embarrassing. Even Lionel Messi and Emiliano Martinez, who were targets of Lahoz’s, called him out. They publicly berated his actions and pleaded that he not be given another match.
I don’t want to speak about referees because after, they will sanction you. But people saw what happened,” said Messi after the match. “I think FIFA must take care of this; it cannot put a referee like that for a match of such magnitude, of such importance. The referee cannot fail to be up to the task.”
FIFA listened to them and everyone else. After seeing how he “gave 10 minutes” to the Netherlands “for no reason,” as Martinez put it, and handed out free kicks like expired dime-store candy, the organization sent the “useless” referee home.
Lahoz gave Spanish referees a bad name, but FIFA isn’t going after the other three. However, it also sent Argentine referee Facundo Tello packing. He policed Morocco’s 1-0 upset of Portugal in the quarterfinals, but has faced multiple allegations of bias, as well.
Both of tomorrow’s games will be played simultaneously, making it a little more difficult to follow all of the action. Fans won’t want to miss any of it, though, with both games promising to deliver fantastic finishes.
Argentina is ahead on DraftKings, getting -120 to Croatia’s +390. France, at -185, is the favorite to beat Morocco, which is out long at +600. However, as the matches have shown already, surprises await around every corner.
Illegal Betting Continues To Be A Problem
Authorities everywhere have been trying to keep illegal betting on the World Cup games to a minimum, even if it’s an uphill task. Over the weekend, they continued their efforts, busting up a few more illegal betting operations.
The South China Morning Post reports that police in Hong Kong arrested a man they accuse of illegal bookmaking. They descended on his apartment in a surprise raid, arresting him and seizing HKD1.5 million (US$192,635) in betting slips tied to the games. They also confiscated HKD100,000 (US$12,860) in cash.
In a sign of inexperience and immaturity, the 22-year-old looked for bettors on social media, pointing them to an illegal betting site. Police also determined that he would also act as a digital runner, collecting bets and placing wagers for certain people. He now faces up to seven years in prison.
That arrest followed one in Hong Kong last month of seven social media personalities and an actress who were promoting sportsbooks. It’s impossible to push illegal activity in silence when your entire life centers on being public.
Police in Malaysia have also been cracking down. Over the course of 10 days, they arrested 260 people across the country in a series of 219 illegal betting-related raids. They seized MYR417,613 (US$94,464) in cash, computers and online bank accounts and plan more arrests.
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