Conger makes cut for final World Cup phase

Matt Conger is on the short list to referee the World Cup final (Photosport)

While many of the biggest teams and players on the planet have already been sent home from the FIFA World Cup in Russia, one New Zealander could be going all the way to the final. Matt Conger has been included on a list of just 12 referees for the final phase of the tournament, meaning he could be at the heart of the action as France, Belgium, England and Croatia fight it out to lift one of sport’s most prestigious trophies.

The dozen referees have been joined in making the cut for the final phase by 26 assistant referees and 10 Video Assistant Referees (VARs) – a significantly reduced number from the 99 that started the tournament.

Andres Cunha from Uruguay has been selected for the semi-final meeting between France and Belgium while Cuneyt Cakir of Turkey will control the other final-four clash between England and Croatia – leaving the door open for Conger to be handed the whistle for the biggest game in world football.

Alternatively, he could be involved in the play-off for third, which is also yet to have a set of match officials assigned to it.

Gaining such an appointment would complete a memorable tournament for Conger, who has already taken charge of the Group D clash between Iceland and Nigeria in pool play, as well as acting as fourth official in England’s dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Colombia in the round of 16.

It would also be a resounding endorsement for the quality of New Zealand Football’s referee development programme, which has regularly produced referees capable of performing at the highest level in recent times.

Conger travelled to the World Cup in Russia with a fellow Kiwi, assistant referee Simon Lount, while referee Anna-Marie Keighley was joined by assistant referee Sarah Walker in controlling the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final between Japan and England.

Keighley, regarded as one of the top female referees in the world, is on track to take part in the FIFA Women’s World Cup again next year and will appear at the U-20 equivalent in France next month.

“These huge opportunities for our referees reflect the tremendous work being done by each individual in their physical fitness, technical skills and tactical development, in conjunction with their support from the federations,” says Ken Wallace, New Zealand Football Referee Development Manager.

“For any referee, taking part in a FIFA World Cup is the ultimate. We know that Matt and Anna-Marie are well-regarded internationally and are fully-deserving of their chance to represent OFC and New Zealand Football at the biggest sporting events in the world,” he adds.

“It is also an exciting year for a huge number of our other referees who have continued to build their experience and skills in Oceania and further abroad throughout 2018. This experience is invaluable for our game because they bring this knowledge home and continue to develop our referees here in New Zealand.”

Match officials are not able to speak to the media during FIFA tournaments but, prior to leaving for Russia, Conger paid tribute to the strength of New Zealand Football’s referee development.

“New Zealand Football bats above its weight when it comes to refereeing and we’ve shown that we can be involved with the best in the world,” said the Palmerston North-based 39-year-old.

“If you look back, I’m now the third consecutive men’s referee to have refereed at the World Cup and the men probably live in the shadow of Anna-Marie Keighley, who has refereed a semi-final at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

For information on how to GET IN to refereeing, please contact the Referee Development Manager in your federation or New Zealand Football Referee Development Manager Ken Wallace at 

Article added: Tuesday 10 July 2018

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