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Semi-final honour for Meier

Meier is hoping to avoid controversy on Tuesday

(Keystone)

Swiss football referee Urs Meier will celebrate another career milestone on Tuesday when he takes charge of the World Cup semi-final match between South Korea and Germany.

No stranger to big occasions, Meier has already refereed a total of three World Cup matches as well as this year's European Champions League final. However, Tuesday's game will be his most high-profile yet.

"Really happy"

"It's certainly an honour to be given a World Cup semi-final to referee," Meier told swissinfo from his hotel room in Seoul. "Ever since I got the news I've been really happy."

Meier is set to become the first Swiss referee to take charge of such an important international match since Gotti Dienst refereed the 1966 World Cup final in London between England and Germany.

Like Dienst, Meier will have a highly partisan home crowd all around him with the vociferous South Korean fans expected to drown out the visiting German supporters at the World Cup stadium in Seoul.

Avoiding controversy

The 43-year-old from canton Aargau says he will be happy, though, if he can avoid the controversy that still surrounds the 1966 final, in which Dienst allowed an English goal which the German team insisted had never crossed the goal-line.

"I hope none of my decisions on Tuesday will be that historic," Meier told swissinfo. "I just want a good game between two excellent teams with the referee not involved in the post-match discussions for once."

This year's World Cup has certainly seen the match officials coming under increased scrutiny with many pre-tournament favourites blaming their early departures on poor standards of refereeing.

Changes necessary?

Meier has little time for such complaints, although he believes that some changes may be necessary before the 2006 World Cup kicks off in Germany.

"I am really surprised (at the criticism of the referees)," Meier said, "because I think the standard has been as good if not better than at the 1998 World Cup. But sometimes the referees need a bit of luck too, and perhaps we haven't had quite as much as we had four years ago.

"I think the system we had in 1998 of using referees and assistants from the same country was a better one and I would welcome bringing that back."

No fan of video

However Switzerland's top referee is less in favour of video replays to determine close calls and believes such ideas should literally be kept on ice.

"I think video replays are fine in ice hockey," Meier argues, "but football doesn't keep stopping like ice hockey - it has to flow. I don't think it would be good to hold up a match for three or four minutes while waiting for an official to make a final decision."

Unfortunately for referees, millions of television viewers get to see those replays, while the referees themselves have just one chance to get things right. And if a 1966-type situation arises on Tuesday, Urs Meier could find his decisions replayed on video for many years to come.

by Mark Ledsom


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