Argentina’s World Cup heroes greeted by fans in Buenos Aires
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World Cup final referee Szymon Marciniak has detailed a heart-warming interaction between himself and legendary official Pierluigi Collina after Argentina’s penalty-shootout victory over France. The Pole’s performance drew praise after a breathless showdown in Qatar, which has gone down as one of the greatest football matches of all time.
Marciniak’s selection to referee the World Cup final made him the first from his nation to do so, joined by assistants Pawel Sokolnicki and Tomasz Listkiewicz. He had already taken charge of France’s group-stage win over Denmark and Argentina’s last-16 triumph over Australia while in Qatar, as well as taking charge of matches at Euro 2016 and the Russia World Cup two years later.
With emotions high and two heavyweight teams fighting tooth and nail to get their hands on the top prize at Lusail Stadium, Marciniak was judged to have done a stellar job officiating the final.
Despite a hat-trick from Kylian Mbappe and a brace from Lionel Messi, there was still room for the 41-year-old in the headlines for keeping the game under control and making some impressive calls. The most eye-catching of all was the decision to book France’s Marcus Thuram for a dive that looked like a penalty until slow-motion replays revealed otherwise.
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Marciniak’s work was done after Gonzalo Montiel scored the decisive penalty for Argentina in the shootout following a dramatic 3-3 draw, and he has shed light on what subsequently went on behind the scenes with refereeing icon and current chairman of the FIFA referees committee Collina paying him a visit.
“After the match, champagne and some catering arrived in the locker room,” Marciniak told reporters. “I admit that I was so tired from the meeting that I had no strength for anything. There were some balls to sign, some photos had to be taken.
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“[Linesman] Tomasz Listkiewicz had already turned on his playlist. Massimo Busacca and Pierluigi Collina came. Collina knew he was always my idol. After this final he told me: now you are my idol. It was the best thing I could hear. You know how it is.
“We don’t have complexes that we’re from Poland, but when we started our international career, we ended up in the third basket of judges. Others who were in the second pot had much better matches and still refereed at the highest level, but somehow we ended up here.”
The kind words from Collina come as high praise indeed, with the Italian named the ‘World’s Best Referee’ a stunning six times in a row between 1998 and 2003. Marciniak’s no-nonsense approach came across in the Qatar showpiece last weekend and he was similarly bold during a recent press conference.
Amid claims from the French camp that he should have chalked off Messi’s extra-time strike due to Argentina players prematurely flooding onto the pitch, he smugly pointed out that Les Bleus’ stars did exactly the same thing when Mbappe netted earlier in the match.
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