(ANSA) - Rome, July 14 - Referee Nicola Rizzoli salvaged some pride for Italian soccer when he officiated Germany's 1-0 win over Argentina with personality and skill on Sunday.
The performance of Rizzoli and his assistants, Renato Faverani and Andrea Stefani, gave Italy a scrap of consolation after the national team's disappointing group stage exit, which prompted coach Cesare Prandelli to quit along with the head of the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC), Giancarlo Abete. Two other sides led by Italian coaches, Fabio Capello's Russia and Alberto Zaccheroni's Japan, also failed to progress from their groups.
So it is a little ironic that one of Italy's referees, who are frequently lambasted by the media and fans at home, turned out to the nation's World Cup hero.
The front page of Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday said Rizzoli had done a "perfect" job.
That is not quite true, as the 42-year-old did make some mistakes.
These included his decision not to give Sergio Aguero a yellow card for hitting Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger in the face and for not booking another Argentine, Rodrigo Palacio, for another challenge in injury time.
He also came under fire from the Argentines for not awarding a penalty against German keeper Manuel Neuer for handling outside the box when racing against Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain to get the ball.
Rizzoli was probably right in evaluating that Neuer punched the ball away just inside his area.
But he was wrong to award a free kick to Germany, as Higuain did not foul the keeper. Otherwise though, things went smoothly.
Rizzoli's assistants got all the main offside calls right, including the key one that led him to disallow a Higuain goal on the half-hour mark.
The Italian referee also keep a good grip on the game, which at times risked boiling over when the will to win led to some dangerous challenges. "It was a great emotion and I feel great satisfaction, a reason for Italy and Italian soccer to be proud," said Rizzoli.
"It was a difficult match, but I was helped a great deal by the players and, above all, by my assistants".