Brazil's Home-Field World Cup Advantage? The Refs

Brazilian fans during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12 in Sao Paulo Photograph by Dennis Grombkowski/FIFA via Getty Images

Refereeing controversies are to World Cups what gaffes are to political campaigns: overly discussed and inevitable. This year’s tournament kicked off yesterday, and already it has its first. In the opening game between Croatia and Brazil—this year’s host and the most soccer-crazed nation on earth—the heavily favored Brazilians played unevenly. They went ahead only on a questionable penalty kick: The Brazilian forward Fred (just Fred, as Pelé was just Pelé) went down after a Croatian defender placed his hand on Fred’s upper arm with all the aggression of an usher at a memorial service.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.