World Cup final official Szymon Marciniak was a “crazy player” who once told a referee that he was the worst he had ever seen after being sent off.
The man entrusted with overseeing Argentina and France’s colossal clash in Qatar has admitted that he made life “very difficult” for referees during his time as a central midfielder in his native Poland, but his temper has been eased by tactics including playing music in his dressing room before games during his second career in the sport.
The 41-year-old once joked about refereeing the World Cup final. His experiences, which he has recounted with commendable honesty, should stand him in good stead once the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Julian Alvarez and Antoine Griezmann hear the first whistle on Sunday.
Here, we take a closer look at the man in the middle for the World Cup final.
Who is World Cup final referee Szymon Marciniak?
Twelve days after taking charge of his second match at the finals, rising refereeing star Marciniak has been named as the man in the middle for the most prestigious match in football.
When he oversaw Argentina’s win over Australia, there were three fellow Poles in Marciniak’s officiating team: assistant referees Pawel Sokolnicki and Tomasz Listkiewicz, as well as video assistant referee Tomasz Kwiatkowski. They will join him again as part of the team for the final.
Argentina may see it as a good omen that both of the yellow cards Marciniak awarded during their 2-1 Round of 16 victory went to their opponents.
Marciniak’s first game at the finals was France’s 2-1 win over Denmark in the group stage, when he booked Bleus defender Jules Kounde and two opposition players during the 90 minutes.
The only red card Marciniak has shown during 2022 came during a predictably fiery Champions League match between Porto and Atletico Madrid in September, when he awarded a second yellow card to the Portuguese side’s Mehdi Taremi for diving.
Szymon Marciniak World Cup 2022 record
|Date||Stage||Match||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Dec. 3||Round of 16||Argentina 2 Australia 1||2||0|
|Nov. 26||Group Stage||France 2 Denmark 1||3||0|
Szymon Marciniak’s refereeing style
Marciniak’s World Cup appearances have produced a lower rate of yellow and red cards than his games in other competitions, although the small sample size makes it hard to draw conclusions and there is evidence that he will take tough decisions when necessary.
At his previous World Cup, in 2018, Marciniak did not award any cards in the first of the two games he refereed, when Argentina drew 1-1 with Iceland.
In his subsequent game, Germany’s 2-1 win over Sweden, Marciniak gave Jerome Boateng his marching orders for a second yellow card following a late challenge in the 82nd minute.
— The Red Devils (@reddevils_press) June 23, 2018
Marciniak averages around four yellow cards a game in the Champions League and Europa League, increasing to around five in World Cup qualifiers and UEFA Nations League matches.
He awarded nine yellow cards in a Nations League game between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro in September and was at the center of a controversial moment during the epic second leg of Real Madrid’s Champions League tie with Chelsea in April.
Then-Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso’s goal was ruled out because the Spain international was adjudged to have handled the ball, causing many fans to join Blues fullback Ben Chilwell and former manager Thomas Tuchel in questioning the decision.
❌ Marcos Alonso’s goal ruled out after a VAR check
— Unibet (@unibet) April 12, 2022
Had Marciniak taken another look and allowed the goal, Chelsea would have gone ahead on aggregate and Real Madrid might not have had the chance to complete their subsequent triumph in the 2021-22 competition.
Szymon Marciniak career, background
Born in the city of Plock, Marciniak began refereeing in the Polish top flight in 2009 and became a FIFA-listed official in 2013.
His previous finals have included the U21 EURO in 2015 and the Super Cup between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in 2018, which featured potential World Cup final participants Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann and Angel Correa, who was one of eight players booked by Marciniak.
Speaking about his playing career with Polish top-flight side Wisla Plock, Marciniak revealed that he was a serial complainer who had reached his decision to become a decision-maker after one flashpoint with an official.
“In one match, the referee sent me off,” Marciniak told UEFA.com. “I didn’t agree with his decision, of course, and I let him know exactly what I thought.
“After the game, I told him that he was one of the worst referees that I had ever seen. He replied: ‘If you think it’s so easy, you try and do it.’ So I did.
“We used to joke about how I was as a player and, when I became an international referee, he accompanied me as a fourth official at an Under-21 qualifying match. And I always told him that he had taken the right decision when he sent me off! It’s a lovely story.
“It helps being a former player, for sure. I was a leader, playing in central midfield, and was a crazy player, to be honest. If you’d asked me many years ago if I’d like to become a referee, I’d have replied: ‘Absolutely not’.
“I was a difficult player to referee. This makes it much easier for me now to have good relationships with troublemakers on the pitch, because I was the same.
“It helps me know what I should say or do in some situations – sometimes I just do nothing because I know a player’s frustration can be so high, it is better not to say anything and then after a short while make a joke or say something funny.”
Marciniak described his Champions League debut, when Juventus played Malmo in 2014, as “brilliant” and “a game I will always remember”.
“When I said many years ago that I would referee a World Cup final, a lot of referees laughed at me,” he added the following year.
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) December 15, 2022
Marciniak gave an insight into his pre-match preparations when he was asked how he would build up to the Super Cup.
“We’ll have some music in the dressing-room – it especially helps to keep me calm – and we’ll be ready, focused and concentrated,” he said.
“We’ll also prepare for the match by studying the teams’ tactics, as well as the players and their characteristics – it’s become so important to know has much as you can about teams before you go out on the field.”