Italian official Rizzoli to ref World Cup final


AP Sports Writer

Nicola Rizzoli of Italy will referee the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina.

With a European and South American team playing, many had expected FIFA to appoint an Asian referee for Sunday's game. But Rizzoli got the call to work his third Argentina match at this year's World Cup.

"It is unbelievable for me," Rizzoli said in a video interview released Friday by FIFA. "I represent Italy in this moment. I want to be one of the best for sure, and I will."

He is the second Italian to referee the final in the past four World Cups. Pierluigi Collina refereed when Germany lost to Brazil 2-0 in the 2002 final in Yokohama, Japan.

Now head of UEFA refereeing, Collina has been a strong supporter of his compatriot's career.

Rizzoli was the referee for the all-German Champions League final in 2013, when Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in London.

FIFA refereeing committee chairman Jim Boyce said earlier Friday that Rizzoli would get the duty.

"We choose the best referees for the best matches, and the Italian will referee the final," Boyce said.

Rizzoli has already worked three matches at this year's World Cup, including Argentina's quarterfinal victory over Belgium and a group win over Nigeria. He also handled the high-profile match between the Netherlands and Spain on the second day of the tournament.

FIFA head of refereeing Massimo Busacca also said that match officials have improved the football at this year's World Cup.

Busacca said their understanding of the game helped increase the number of goals scored and playing time per match from four years ago in South Africa.

Meanwhile, referees have awarded fewer fouls and yellow cards in Brazil than in 2010.

"Football won in this competition," said Busacca, a former World Cup referee.

FIFA also said the 95 injuries at this World Cup, seven classed as severe, were a reduction of 40 percent.

"When we compare all the matches we can be really satisfied," Busacca said.

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