CARD KING Gavin Murphy (GamePlanGavin) believes he's found an edge in the World Cup Final Referee market.
Who will referee the World Cup final?
The start of the 2018 World Cup is imminent and the plethora of speciality bets continues. Indeed, I am optimistic that I have spotted some huge value in the World Cup Final Referee market.
At this point, it is important to point out that a referee cannot officiate a final that involves their own country. So, for example, if Germany get to the last match, that would rule out Felix Brych. Naturally, this has shortened the prices of some candidates and lengthened the odds of others.
BetVictor have Dutchman Bjorn Kuipers as the 21/10 favourite. Kuipers was appointed to officiate in the 2018 Europa League final between Marseille and Atletico Madrid in Lyon.
This was his second Europa League final assignment. He has also refereed a Champions League final so has decent pedigree. Perhaps BetVictor know something that we don't but I cannot be having him at such a woeful price.
Only two countries have ever been represented in the World Cup final by a referee more than twice. That is England (4) and Italy (3).
If we consider the more recent history of referees to officiate the final, then European guys have had the upper hand. In fact, three of the last four finals were covered by Europeans, namely Italy's Pierluigi Collina (2002), Howard Webb (2010) and Italy's Nicola Rizzoli (2014). The exception in that period was Argentine middle-man Horacio Elizondo (2006).
I have assessed the ages of these men at the time of their respective finals: Webb was 38 but the other three were all 42 or 43. Kuipers is aged 45 so perhaps his ship has sailed?
With the exception of Uzbekistan's Ravshan Irmatov (12/1) – who deserves respect – I think we can draw a line through the other referees from Asia, Oceania, CONMEBOL and Africa.
Massimo Busacca, a Swiss former referee, is head of FIFA Refereeing. However, I believe that Collina will have a strong voice in the ultimate decision. Only yesterday, the Italian described Argentina's Nestor Pitana as “a rock”.
Pitana, for me, is worthy of close consideration. He is aged 42 and so meets the normal age for a World Cup final referee. Argentina are unlikely to get to the final, so that is another tick in his box. He referred in the 2014 World Cup and is a firm favourite of the decision makers. He is a big runner.
His compatriot, Horacio Elizondo, became the first referee to officiate the opening game and World Cup final in the same tournament in 2006. Could history repeat itself this year? At 25/1 (BetVictor) I am prepared to think that it might.
I think it is the turn of a non-European so my second selection is also South American. Brazil haven't had an official cover the final since Romualdo Arppi Filho in 1986.
The major negative here is that Brazil are expected to go well in the tournament and should they reach the final that would eliminate their representative, Sandro Ricci (25/1 BetVictor).
However, if the Selecao do not make the final then Ricci would come right into the picture. He is aged 43, again covered the 2014 World Cup in his homeland and would be a popular choice.
In summary, I believe that the Europeans are way too short in this market and I am very happy to support Nestor Pitana and Sandro Ricci at 25/1 with BetVictor.