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Jul 7, 2014

Urs Meier blames FIFA over Neymar

ESPN's World Cup Encore panel discusses Neymar's injury and whether bad refereeing led to his injury.

Former referee Urs Meier has blamed a FIFA directive telling officials to issue fewer cards for Neymar's vertebra injury.

- Marcotti: FIFA wants refs to show fewer yellow cards
- Johnson: Refs keeping cards close to their chests

Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo has come under fire for his handling of Brazil's 2-1 victory over Colombia, with star forward Neymar ruled out of the World Cup as a result of Juan Camilo Zuniga's late challenge, but Meier feels FIFA is responsible.

"I saw it coming," the Swiss told kicker on Monday. "The officiating is too generous. Whether it be fouls or dives, arguing with the ref or unsportsmanlike conduct, nothing happens. There are only a few individual punishments.

"It appears there has been a directive. I don't understand why that is the case. The referees should be there to protect the players."

FIFA's head of referees, Massimo Busacca, is reported to have said ahead of the World Cup that yellow and red cards should be issued only as a last resort.

German tabloid Bild, in a piece headlined "Referee scandal at the World Cup," reported on Monday that Busacca was hoping to see a minimal number of yellow cards shown in Brazil, and already it is clear that there has been a notable drop.

With four games remaining, referees have so far handed out a total of 168 yellow cards and 10 red cards; at the 2010 tournament, there were 241 cautions and 17 dismissals, while 2006 saw 345 yellows and 28 reds.

Meier was not the first to voice his discontent with FIFA's disciplinary strategy. Herbert Fandel, the head of the German FA's referee commission, told kicker last week that problems were evident.

"It's the referee's job to set certain boundaries," Fandel said. "If you don't do that, it's more likely to damage football. At first you are bewildered when those necessary bookings are not issued but, when it becomes the rule rather than the exception, you are irritated."

Before the tournament had begun, Germany's head of scouting, Urs Siegenthaler, told Frankfurter Rundschau that he had talked to FIFA about tactical fouls and stressed that Brazil's gameplan had been reliant upon them to break up the opposition's play during their Confederations Cup win last year.

"When the referees don't take any measures on that, the destination of the cup is already certain," Siegenthaler had said. "Brazil stopped some 90 percent of the opponent's counters with tactical fouls. That has to be discussed by the FIFA referee board, because it takes courage to send off a Brazil player for two tactical fouls in front of 80,000 people."

Only Costa Rica have received more yellow cards than Brazil's 10 this summer. Two of those have been for tactical fouls -- Luiz Gustavo's against Croatia and Ramires' against Mexico.

Neymar's injury came at the end of a match in which there were 54 fouls -- a record for this summer's tournament -- but only four cautions, and Meier stressed his belief that the incident was a direct consequence of officials failing to adequately punish foul play.

"Two days before the Neymar shock, in an internal paper in Switzerland, I took the stance that only broken bones for popular players could lead to a change," Meier said. "What I mean is that I saw it coming all along. The professionals soon realise that they are allowed to do anything."

Alex Feuerherdt of German refereeing podcast Collinas Erben -- or "Collina's Heirs" -- dismissed Meier's remarks as "populist to the core."

He told ESPN FC: "Referee Carlos Velasco Carballo had a shocking day. The foul had nothing to do with the FIFA directive -- it came late in the game, when there had already been bookings."

Feuerherdt argued that the key point in the match had been in the 23rd minute when the referee failed to send out a firm message after the Brazil and Colombia players' mass confrontation.

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