The man in the middle for England-USA

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Wayne Rooney? Landon Donovan? Frank Lampard? Tim Howard?

No, we Brazilians believe the most likely man to decide the England vs United States World Cup clash could be referee Carlos Eugênio Simon.

Sad, but true.

Poor refereeing happens all around the world. However, there is no one around as prone to changing the result of a game as the 44-year old Brazilian international referee.

Had he worked in Europe, Simon (pronounced see-mon) would probably have had his career cut at the nascent – and on Saturday he would be a fine economist or hot-dog vendor in his home state of Rio Grande do Sul.

But he’s Brazilian. And not only do the CBF let him continue with his pedestrian refereeing, but it also rewards him with nominations for the World Cup.

South Africa 2010 is his third, and it’s not a coincidence that in the previous ones FIFA never let him go further than the round of 16.

But what amazed and revolted Brazilian football fans is that Simon received the go-ahead to attend another World Cup in a season that saw him reach rock bottom of his regrettable career.

Early in 2009, Simon became the butt of all jokes when he awarded this penalty in the Ceara State championship. Pundits dubbed it “The Phantom Penalty,” for obvious reasons – the forward was three meters away from the defender when he mysteriously collapsed.

In the second semester, it turned nasty. After Simon incredibly ruled out this goal against Fluminense, Palmeiras president Luiz Gonzaga Beluzzo lost his temper. The Big Green boss said that he would slap the referee if by some chance they met on the street, and accused Simon of being corrupt.

With so many absurd calls in one single season, the CBF decided to suspend Simon from the National Championship. In an official statement, the Brazilian football authority justified that he was being pulled out of the tournament because the “repetition of mistakes.”

Fans cheered. If even the CBF acknowledged his poor skills, it seemed that Simon’s bad deeds would have come to an end. Better late than never.

But early this year, the shock: as inexplicably as the Phantom Penalty, the same CBF who had put Simon on the “fridge” - as we say in Brazil - nominated him for World Cup duty again.

On behalf of Brazilian fans, I’m apologising to the world in advance for that choice.

That said, I really hope that Simon has a perfect evening in the England vs USA clash and that the saint patron of referees, if there is one, prevents him from making any of his trademark random calls.

Good luck to you, Simon.

And to us all.

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