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World Cup Final Referees: Full List of Refs From Every Tournament

World Cup Final Referees: Full List of Refs From Every Tournament

Being appointed as the referee for the World Cup final is a huge achievement. For most officials who find themselves in this position, they'll look back on the game as the pinnacle of their career, a testament to the fact that they got to the top of their profession, just like the illustrious athletes that surround them (and typically grab all the headlines). Getting the call up doesn't just show that they've officiated well throughout the rest of that tournament; it's also a much wider reflection of their abilities as an official.

In this article, we'll be explaining how soccer referees get to the point of being chosen for a FIFA World Cup Final, arguably the most high-profile match in global football. We'll briefly explain the process of getting to the World Cup Finals as a referee and look at what World Cup referee assignments typically entail, before taking you through a list of all the refs who have plied their trade in this prestigious soccer match over the years.

How Many World Cup Referees Are There For Each Tournament? 

The FIFA World Cup takes place every four years in a different host nation, which means that opportunities for referees to demonstrate their skills on the biggest stage are pretty rare. However, in recent years, the number of referees flown out to officiate at each World Cup has increased; for Qatar 2022, there were a total of 36 referees chosen for the competition. This was the same number of refs used at France 2018, but before then the number of referees was lower (in 2010 and 2014, 25 referees were used instead of 36).

On top of these lead officials are a number of assistants; for Qatar, 69 assistant referees and 24 video assistant referees were also appointed, creating the largest team of officials ever seen at a top global soccer tournament. But how exactly does FIFA (football's world governing body) choose which officials will make it to the final tournament? 

How Are FIFA World Cup Referees Appointed?

Just like the lengthy qualification period that each national team has to go through to make it to the World Cup, the process for choosing referees is also exhaustive.

Typically it starts 2-3 years before a tournament, when national football associations and federations nominate their top referees for FIFA consideration.

To ensure balance and representation, FIFA then bases its choices on regional quotas, selecting a certain number of referees from each continent who have consistently performed well in domestic and European competitions. A shortlist will be created, before a 16-person committee (aided by medical experts) will select the final list of refs for the tournament.

The journey isn't over here, though; a number of fitness tests, technical assessments and performance reviews will continue to take place in the build-up to the tournament to ensure that every referee enters the World Cup Finals at the top of their game. 

World Cup Final Referee 2022: Who Was The Most Recent WC Final Official?

Qatar 2022 was a tournament shrouded in controversy at times, but the football itself was staggeringly good. The final between Argentina and France — which ended 3-3 before being clinched by Argentina on penalties — was labelled by many as the greatest World Cup final in history.

The man in black for that particular game was Polish referee Szymon Marciniak, the first ever Polishman to preside over a World Cup final. Over the years, officials from a total of 33 different nations have been selected to handle the World Cup final in some capacity (including assistant referees). Below, you'll find a list of every single lead ref to have been selected.

World Cup Final Referees: The Full List

Being chosen as the referee for World Cup Finals matches at any stage of the tournament is a huge achievement, but to be selected to take charge of the deciding match of the competition is rightly seen as a huge honour by officials across the world. Below, we'll take you through a list of each World Cup final referee since the tournament was first established back in 1930.

Szymon Marciniak (2022)

Marciniak was the latest in a long line of distinguished officials to have presided over the most prestigious game in the whole of world football. His pedigree is undeniable; as well as reffing the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final, the UEFA Super Cup Final, and the 2023 Champions League Final, Marciniak has also been named 'The World's Best Referee' by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) for the last two years. 

Nestor Pistana (2018)

The 2018 World Cup was a huge disappointment for Argentina, whose hopes of victory were dashed in the quarter finals by Kylian Mbappe's rampant France side. However, the Argentines were at least represented in some capacity in the final, with well-regarded referee Nestor Pistana presiding over the game between France and Croatia, aided by his two Argentine assistant referees Hernan Maidana and Juan Pablo Belatti.

Nicola Rizzoli (2014)

The 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina — won by a single Mario Gotze goal in extra time — was refereed by Italian official Nicola Rizzoli, a Serie A stalwart who worked in the top flight of Italian football from 2002 to 2017, winning a remarkable seven consecutive Serie A Referee of the Year Awards before his retirement.

Howard Webb (2010)

In the summer of 2010, Webb had his work cut out in one of the most dramatic — and certainly the  most aggressive — World Cup finals in modern history. The South Africa final saw Spain's celebrated tiki-taka side (flooded with talents like Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets) sucked into a physical battle with the Netherlands that saw Webb hand out 14 yellow cards (which doubled the previous record of six yellow cards for this fixture, set in 1986). The fact that Dutch legend Johan Cruyff described his team's style as 'anti-football' tells you everything you need to know about this game.

Horacio Elizondo (2006)

World Cup referee assignments are not easy to come by, particularly in the tournament final, but Argentina have produced multiple officials capable of taking on this role. The 2006 final in Germany was presided over by Horacio Elizondo, a decorated ref who retired soon after the game, having achieved all his sporting goals. 

Pierluigi Collina (2002)

Regarded by many as the greatest referee in the history of the game, Collina was a striking, at times fearsome figure who collected IFFHS' Referee of the Year Award on a record six consecutive occasions between 1998 and 2003. Thus, he was a shoo-in for the 2002 World Cup Final between Germany and Brazil.

Said Belqola (1998)

The first ever African official to be selected for a World Cup Final (and the only to date), Said Belqola was a Moroccan ref who worked at multiple international tournaments before being chosen for the now-iconic 1998 Final between France and Brazil (a Zidane-inspired France ran out 3-0 winners).

Sandor Phul (1994)

Hungarian ref Sandor Phul was regularly selected for UEFA Champions League matches during the 1990s (taking charge of the 1997 UCL final between Borussia Dortmund and Juventus). But the peak of his career came in 1994, when he was selected for the World Cup final, hosted in the USA.

Edgardo Codesal Mendez (1990)

The 1990 World Cup in Italy has a special place in the hearts of many English fans, who were inspired by the performances of Paul Gasgoine and co.; but it was West Germany and Argentina who reached the final and experienced the disciplinary skills of Mexican ref Edgardo Codesal Mendez.

Romualdo Arrpi Filho (1986)

The Brazilian ref only took charge of three matches at the 1986 World Cup, but one of them was the World Cup final between Argentina and West Germany, which saw Diego Maradona lead his side to victory.

Arnaldo Cezar Coelho (1982)

Another Brazilian official was in the thick of it for the 1982 WC final between Italy and West Germany. Arnaldo Cezar Coelho made history this year, becoming the first non-European to referee a World Cup final.

Sergio Gonella (1978)

The first Italian referee to take charge of a World Cup final (in 1978), Gonella is one of only two people to have ruled over the final of both the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship.

Jack Taylor (1974)

In 1974, the famous Netherlands side led by Johan Cruyff and his 'Total Football' philosophy were beaten dramatically in the World Cup final by West Germany. The man in charge of the match was Jack Taylor, regarded by many as the greatest English referee of all time.

Rudi Glockner (1970)

German ref Rudi Glöckner took charge of the 1970 World Cup final, where Brazil legend Pele made history by winning his third World Cup as a player, triumphing over Italy on the day.

Gottfried Dienst (1966)

Source: Graham Smith on Flickr

1966 is the year England won their only ever major trophy to date, a continuing source of anguish in football's country of origin. The referee in charge of that famous final against West Germany was Swiss official Gottfried Dienst.

Nikolay Latyshev (1962)

Hailing from the Soveit Union, Nikolay Latyshev took charge of the 1962 WC Final between Brazil and Czechoslovakia.

Maurice Guige (1958)

The final of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden (known as the tournament where Pele burst onto the scene) was ruled over by Frenchman Maurice Guigue.

William Ling (1954)

The first Englishman to referee a World Cup final, Ling officiated the 1954 final, which saw the famed Hungary side of Ferenc Puskas beaten controversially by West Germany.

George Capdeville (1938)

Capdeville was a Frenchman who refereed the 1938 final between Italy and Hungary. The match took place in Paris, making him the only person to referee a WC Final in his home country.

Ivan Eklind (1934)

Aged just 28, Swedish ref Ivan Eklind took charge of the 1934 final between Italy and Czechoslovakia in Rome — he remains the youngest ever World Cup final referee.