Asian match officials handle key ties

Ravshan Irmatov was handed the refereeing responsibility for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group D tie between Argentina and Croatia at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Moscow on Thursday.

The highly decorated Uzbek, participating in his third World Cup, was assisted by compatriots Abdukhamidullo Rasulov and Jakongir Saidov with Tahitian Norbert Hauata the fourth official and Bertrand Brial from New Caledonia the fifth official.

Heralded as one of the best match officials in world refereeing, Irmatov is a five-time AFC Referee of the Year (2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008) and has won the Uzbekistan Referee of the Year 10 times in a row from 2006 to 2015.

In 2017, Irmatov took charge of the AFC Champions League final for the fifth time in his illustrious career after the 2015, 2013, 2011 and 2007 finals. Other notable highlights include his appointments at the 2017 and 2008 FIFA Club World Cups, the 2015 and 2011 editions of the AFC Asian Cup, and the 2012 Olympic Games Football Tournament.

At the age of 32, Irmatov was the youngest referee at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, a moment the Uzbek regards as one of the main highlights of his career. Proving his mettle among the world’s best in his maiden tournament, Irmatov tied the all-time record for most games refereed during a single World Cup with five games.

Four years later in Brazil 2014, he become the first referee to officiate in nine World Cup matches, bettering the previous record of eight set by Joël Quiniou of France, Benito Archundia of Mexico and Uruguay’s Jorge Larrionda.

Earlier, Mohammed Mohammed Abdulla officiated the Group C tie between France and Peru at the Ekaterinburg​ Arena​ in Moscow. France won 1-0.

The Emirati, who made his maiden World Cup Finals appearance following his outing in the 2018 qualifiers, was assisted by compatriots Mohamed Alhammadi and Hasan A​lmahri with Zambian fourth official Janny Sikazwe alongside Angola’s Jerson dos Santos, the fifth official.

Abdulla began his career in 2000, eventually earning his FIFA badge in 2010. His rise in the sport has seen him become a mainstay in the AFC Champions League.

The Emirati earned his first break in the 2011 AFC Cup between TSW Pegasus and Song Lam Nghe An and has not looked back since, emerging as one of the top referees in the region.

He took charge of the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup semi-final in Chile as well as the AFC Cup final in 2017. His most recent major FIFA duty was in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic.