SOCCER BLOGGING….The blogosphere and the airwaves are practically dripping with derision for the performance of Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda in Saturday’s USA-Italy World Cup match. Kieran Healy asks, “Where do FIFA find these guys?” Frank Foer is aghast: “How can we account for his Mickey Mouse performance?”

I didn’t get to see the game, but I’ve now read half a dozen stories about it. And I don’t get it. Larrionda’s sins included three red cards and an offside call against USA, but all of them appear to have been justified. Here’s a rundown:

  • BBC comment on the red card against Italy’s Daniele De Rossi: “De Rossi disgraced himself with a sickening, needless elbow on Brian McBride and was given his marching orders.”

  • BBC comment on the red card against USA’s Pablo Mastroeni: “His two-footed, reckless lunge on Pirlo was deserving of a red card and left referee Jorge Larrionda with little option.” And the New York Times: “The officials’ guidelines call for red cards for two-footed cleats-up tackles.”

  • LA Times comment on both red cards against USA, including the second against Eddie Pope: “Although the U.S. questioned the calls, replays appeared to show that both were justified.”

  • Washington Post comment on the offside call against Brian McBride that negated a second half goal: “Afterward, McBride admitted that he was not only offside, but had screened goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.”

Here’s The Telegraph’s summary comment on the match: “It was the United States’ own fault that they found themselves with nine players ? one fewer than the Italians ? for nearly half this extraordinary match.” And The Times: “There were three red cards, all of them justified, and three more yellow cards that might have turned the deeper colour.”

I gather that the American team played brilliantly after Pope was sent off, and deserves all the accolades it’s getting. But why the invective against Larrionda? I don’t know the first thing about soccer, but the press reports all seem to indicate he called the match fairly. What’s up?

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