American referee Ismail Elfath will oversee Japan and Croatia’s World Cup 2022 last-16 tie on Monday – a clash whose winner faces a potential match-up with five-time champions Brazil in the quarter-finals.
Japan and Croatia go head to head at Al Janoub Stadium at 2pm ET, in their third meeting at a World Cup. The Croats beat the Samurai Blue 1-0 in the group phase in 1998, courtesy of a goal by tournament top scorer Davor Suker, before the sides drew 0-0 at the same stage in 2006.
Japan qualified for the knockout stages in Qatar by unexpectedly topping Group E, Hajime Moriyasu’s side beating both Germany and Spain in the process. Croatia, meanwhile, were runners-up in Group F behind Morocco.
Whoever comes out on top in Monday’s last-16 tie in Al Wakrah will take on the winner of Brazil vs South Korea, who meet later in the day.
Japan vs Croatia: who is referee Elfath?
Moroccan-born official Elfath will take charge of his third game so far at World Cup 2022. The 40-year-old, who has been a FIFA international referee since 2016, was the man in the middle for Portugal’s 3-2 win over Ghana on matchday one of the group stage, before also refereeing Cameroon’s surprise 1-0 victory over Brazil on matchday three.
In one of the most memorable moments of the tournament so far, Elfath showed Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar a second yellow card for removing his shirt as the forward celebrated his stoppage-time winner against the Brazilians – but the referee also congratulated the player on his strike, shaking his hand before sending him off.
Elfath, who moved to the US as an 18-year-old, has been a Major League Soccer official since 2012, and has twice been named MLS Referee of the Year. He oversaw Los Angeles FC’s MLS Cup final win over Philadelphia Union in November, and Portland Timbers’ victory over Orlando City in the final of 2020′s MLS is Back Tournament.
Elfath was appointed to the U-20 World Cup final in 2019, and has also refereed at the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup, the 2020 Olympics, and the 2019 and 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cups.
Who will Elfath’s assistants be at Al Janoub Stadium?
Elfath’s assistant referees for Japan vs Croatia will be fellow Americans Corey Parker and Kyle Atkins, while Algeria’s Mustapha Ghorbal will be the fourth official. The video assistant referee (VAR) will be Nicolás Gallo of Colombia, and the assistant VAR will be Chile’s Julio Bascuñán. The offside VAR will be the Argentinian Ezequiel Brailovsky, and the support VAR will be Italy’s Paolo Valeri.