Gary Neville labelled Wilton Sampaio ‘a joke of a referee’ after a number of key decisions went against England in their 2-1 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France on Saturday.
The Three Lions were eliminated from the tournament thanks to goals from Aurelien Tchouameni and Olivier Giroud, but there was plenty of attention on the performance of referee Sampaio rather than the game itself.
The Brazilian official failed to award Bukayo Saka a free-kick in the lead up to Tchouameni’s opening goal for France – despite replays suggesting that Dayot Upamecano had caught him and not won the ball cleanly – before he later deemed the contact made by the Bayern Munich defender on Harry Kane to not be worthy of a penalty.
VAR agreed and did not instruct Sampaio to review the decision, though replays again suggested that the England captain had been clumsily bundled to the ground.
Saka was then awarded a penalty after a clear foul by Tchouameni nine minutes into the second half before Mason Mount was thundered to the floor by Theo Hernandez as the game headed into the final stages.
Incredibly, Sampaio didn’t see the shove in Mount’s back as a foul and decided there was no further action to be taken – VAR disagreed on this occasion and Sampaio overturned his decision after a swift look at the pitchside monitor.
Those decisions, and others, led to a scathing assessment from Neville on Sampaio’s performance on ITV‘s coverage of the game: “He had an absolute nightmare. A joke of a referee,” he vented.
“I’m not saying it was all down to England’s defeat – people will say it is excuses – but he’s just a bad referee, rank bad.
“It’s a simple decision. He kicks his leg away – I’m not sure why that isn’t a foul,” Neville added for the potential foul on Saka that eventually led to France’s first goal.
“He’s nibbled and he’s kicked him. It should be a free-kick. Upamecano has tried to win the ball on three or four occasions where can’t win the ball, on Saka, on Kane.”
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England duo Harry Maguire and Jude Bellingham were also less than impressed with Sampaio’s performance, with both players criticising his display during their post-match media interviews.
“The referee’s decision-making tonight was really poor,” Maguire said. “It would be nice to see if he comes out to say if he’s had a good game or not.
“We were the better team in the game. I think anybody who watched as a neutral would say we dominated the game for large period. Big decisions went against us – a lot of decisions, I should say.”
Bellingham told ITV: “Not great if I’m being honest, not great. Anyone can have a bad game, players and referees. I think he wasn’t where he should have been today in terms of the level for a game like this.
“But there are more factors as to why we lost, this definitely isn’t me putting it all on him, we were the ones who played the game, but yeah I don’t think he was at the level tonight. I think there were a few [fouls] around the box in the first half, we are deadly at set pieces, and I think any one of those can make the difference.”