By Tom Webber
The Confederations Cup has been far from perfect off the field, with nation-wide protests offering a distressing sideshow to the competition, but, inside the stadia, things have also not gone quite to plan, either, with a pile of refereeing errors leaving spectators and players alike shaking their heads.
The hope was that the introduction of goal-line technology for the tournament would eliminate human error and the 'ghost-goal' which has haunted clubs and countries alike across the globe. However, officiating blunders in the past week have gone some way to undermining the progress which has at long last been achieved.
With Italy leading in just the competition's second game, Giovani dos Santos was hauled to the ground by the last defender Andrea Barzagli. Although Enrique Osses was correct in pointing to the spot, he neglected to follow the letter of the law and dismiss the Italian for denying Mexico a goalscoring opportunity.
The Azzurri, though, have had no respite from the refereeing controversy in Brazil, which once again proved inadequate in their second game as they faced Japan. Gianluigi Buffon was adjudged to have brought down Shinji Okazaki despite clearly taking the ball in his challenge, and Japan converted the resultant penalty.
Referee Diego Abal did balance the scales later in the game when he pointed to the spot as Makoto Hasebe failed to move his hand out the way of a thunderous shot from Sebastian Giovinco but, as the old adage says, two wrongs do not make a right.
Things have failed to improve. Indeed, the quality of officiating fell to a new low on the final day of Group A. In the dead rubber between Japan and Mexico, Okazaki had an early goal ruled out for offside even though replays showed him standing in a perfectly legal position before flicking the ball into the back of the net.
The real controversy came in the north east of the country at the Arena Fonte Nova. Brazil and Italy may have played out an entertaining 4-2 result in Salvador as the pair vied to finish top of the group but, once more, the referee and his assistants would prove sub-par in a game littered by their errors.
Firstly, Dante was in an offside position when he followed up from Fred's effort on the brink of half-time yet, with a clear view, the assistant on the near side failed to raise his flag. Then, Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov penalised Cristian Maggio for a foul on Neymar on the edge of the area. It seemed clear that the new Barcelona forward had taken a dive but, with the free kick won, he got up, dusted himself down and bent the ball into the top corner.
The most diabolical (in)decision, though, came in the 71st minute. Following some physical play from a corner the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot in order to award Italy a penalty but, within seconds, Giorgio Chiellini had swept the ball into the back of the net and he reneged and awarded the goal, much to the dismay of the Brazilian side. Even the game's final goal was not absent some dispute as a foul was ignored in the build-up to Fred putting the ball into the back of the net, which could so easily have gone another way on a different day.
So far most games have largely been of an impressive and enjoyable standard. We can only hope that, as the tournament moves into the latter stages, the highest calibre officials are selected, leaving only the football to discuss.