MARK HALSEY: BETDAQ Euro 2020 Ambassador and ex-Premier League referee Mark Halsey discusses all the latest goings on at Euro 2020, including his thoughts on England and the standard of refereeing in the tournament so far.

Rice and Phillips impressive but must be careful vs Ukraine

No game is easy to officiate and definitely not an England vs Germany game – you have to referee what’s in front of you. The way Danny Makkelie approached it from the beginning, he engaged with the players, they knew where they stood with him, his body language was superb. He let them know how he felt and how he didn’t like certain challenges. He stamped his authority on the game with that early caution of Declan Rice, which was absolutely spot on denying a promising attack, and then with Kalvin Phillips later on in the game. And I thought Rice and Phillips both showed great maturity to pick up two yellow cards in the first half and continue to perform in the tough game that it was.

If you look through the tournament so far, England’s discipline has been excellent, which is down to Gareth Southgate and the way he handles and deals with these players. If you look at Rice’s caution for that late challenge on Leon Goretzka with him bearing down on goal inside the first 10 minutes, any one of us would have done exactly the same in that situation, it’s football. So, you wouldn’t be disappointed with that part of his game in that situation. He took one for the team, as England were in big trouble.

The discipline has been very good, but on Saturday with the Ukraine game, the tempo will go up again, the quarter-finals are here and anybody could lose their discipline so let’s hope that England continue with the way they’re going as their discipline is absolutely first class at present.

England’s players on a booking have got to be careful against Ukraine, you can’t go diving in when you’re pressing and closing players down. You’ve got to hold and not make that reckless challenge. Referees have let a lot of physical challenges go in Euro 2020 but when players overstep that mark, they come in and deal with it. England have got to carry on how they are, but if players do lose their discipline then you’ve got leaders in the team who will have a word with them. I don’t think the bookings will affect Gareth Southgate’s decision-making for Ukraine. You’ve got to play your best team and credit has to go to Gareth for the way he’s put teams out.

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Two out of three last 16 red cards correct

We’ve seen three red cards in the round of 16 and I think two out of three were the right decision. I didn’t think Harry Wilson’s for Wales against Denmark was the correct decision, it was just a reckless challenge denying a promising attack. The red card for Matthijs de Ligt in the Netherlands v Czech Republic game was a clear red card though. It annoys me when pundits go on about the last man – it’s got nothing to do with it here… Did the Dutch defender deny a goal or obvious goal-scoring opportunity by handling the ball the way he did? Yes, he did. As a referee in those situations you blow your whistle and then everything within a second changes around you. Sergei Karasev issues the yellow card, thinks he’s denied a promising attack but then VAR did very well to look at the incident quickly, get him across and once he looked at it, it’s obvious that it’s a clear denial. That’s why he was sent off, a clear denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, not for being the last man.

For Sweden’s red card against Ukraine, it was difficult for the referee in real time. He’s behind the play, I don’t think he’s got the right viewing angle to see that challenge. You can argue Marcus Danielson was unlucky but it’s the follow-through and once VAR recommends a review to the referee you know what’s going to happen. There’s no way he’s not going to send him off for that challenge. Did that challenge endanger the safety of the opponent or use excessive force or brutality? If that’s the opinion of the referee and the VAR then by law he has to punish that challenge with a red card due to serious foul play. Looking it at in slow motion does make a challenge seem worse than it is, but Danielson can’t have any complaints with the red card in that situation.

But overall, there’s been fewer fouls in the tournament as referees are making a conscious decision to let the game flow. It’s been a breath of fresh air watching the elite European referees. They’ve all refereed very well including our own two referees. If you look at any referee so far, I don’t think you can criticise them for a poor decision. Yes, we’ve had performances where you could argue the referee has perhaps been a little inconsistent. But overall, you can’t argue with the standard being produced. We’ve seen some absolutely wonderful games, especially in the last 16, and the referees played their part in that.

Bjorn Kuipers my pick for the final

In terms of which referee I’d like to see officiate the final, there’s just so many experienced referees to choose from. You’ve got Felix Brych as Germany are out, Bjorn Kuipers and Danny Makkelie as Netherlands are out, Cüneyt Çakır as Turkey are out… Antonio Mateu Lahoz but Spain are still in. Lahoz would be one of my favourites if Spain get knocked out.

But one of my favourite referees in Europe at the moment is Bjorn Kuipers so I’d like to see him get the final. He’s been consistent over many years, is well respected by everybody around the world, in Europe and by UEFA. But it could be any one of those guys. If England go out, it would be too early for Anthony Taylor and Michael Oliver to be given the final, but there time could come further down the line.

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