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 stadiums 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 their opening game, the second of the tournament, 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.
A similar case followed the next day when Spain's Roberto Soldado was felled by Alvaro Gonzalez at the top of the box. Yuichi Nishimura could have awarded a penalty or a free kick and shown a red to the Uruguayan but instead he let play continue having already failed to clamp down on foul play by only showing Sergio Ramos a yellow card for an elbow on Edinson Cavani earlier in the game.
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 that the highest calibre officials are selected, leaving only the football we are discussing for the next week.