Howard Webb, the English referee who officiated in the last World Cup final, was caught in the crossfire, after a row where Chile raised concerns about favouritism toward Brazil, erupted ahead of a round of sixteen clash between the two nations at Belo Horizonte. Webb has been appointed as referee for the match.
Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez it appears has caused the issue by claming he is worried about the refereeing before the much-awaited encounter. "My worry is the referee, but we'll see," said the Chilean forward.
Brazil in turn have reacted angrily to these concerns. They have been termed immature, ridiculous and deeply disrespectful by Rodrigo Paiva, the director of communications at the Brazilian Football Federation.The Brazilians were of the opinion that this was pre-match pressure being put on English referee Howard Webb.
The issue was brought up by a Chilean journalist at the pre-match press conference here in Belo Horizonte .Rodrigo Paiva, did not take too kindly to the issue being raised and reacted sharply.
"Talking about this is not a lack of respect towards Fifa, or to the referee himself or to the Brazilian Selecaoor to the people who work here in a very serious manner, for a country with 100 years of football history and of a winning history – it is a lack of respect to the Brazilian people," said Paiva.
"Brazil doesn't need a referee to win the match and you should respect a little bit more the Brazilian Selecao and the Brazilian people," he made it clear.
The contentious penalty awarded to Fred in the opening tie against Croatia and the failure to disallow the striker's headed goal against Cameroon in the final group game, when he appeared to have been offside left the Chilean players greatly concerned. They reckon both these decisions were favourable home-town decisions.
Furthermore the standard of refereeing in their last group encounter against the Dutch left the Chileans aggrieved. Sergio Jadue, Chilean Football Association President, was less than impressed when he came down heavily on the Ghanaian referee, Bakary Gassama. Chile lost the game 2-0.
Incidentally Webb was the match referee at the previous World Cup clash, also in the round of sixteen, between the Brazilians and the Chileans. Brazil emerged as 3-0 victors in that game and Webb was thought to have had a good game. The Chileans do not have any particular problem with Webb, they appear to be in fear about him favouring the home team which they believe other referees have been guilty of.
"I'm very happy playing against Brazil, I am delighted to play against some of my club teammates like Neymar and Dani Alves, and I will enjoy this game a lot," he said.
Howard Webb, in the last World Cup final, handed out 13 yellow cards and one red card and was heavily criticised for it.