GERMAN referee Felix Brych has been appointed to oversee England’s crunch Euro 2016 contest against British rivals Wales on Thursday.
The 40-year-old will take charge of the heavyweight showdown in Group B as both nations seek a positive result in their second game to boost their hopes of reaching the knockout phase.
He will be ably assisted at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens by Mark Borsch, Stefan Lupp and additional assistants Bastian Dankert and Marco Fritz.
Slovenia’s Matej Jug will be the fourth official, with compatriot Robert Vukan in reserve to complete the team of experienced officials.
Brych has officiated in a number of domestic and European finals and been involved at previous tournaments in recent years, having stepped up as Germany’s number one representative since the retirement of Wolfgang Stark.
He refereed two games apiece at the 2012 Olympic Games men’s football tournament, 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup.
The Munich-based whistler, who belongs to the Bavarian Football Association, was fourth official for both the Confederations Cup Final and Europa League Final in 2013.
Brych first came to the attention of most English football fans after an impressive showing in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Barcelona in a Champions League semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge in 2012.
He has, however, been clouded in controversy in quarter-final ties in the last two years – firstly for dismissing Atletico Madrid’s Arda Turan in their 1-0 second-leg defeat to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in 2015.
The financial lawyer was also criticised for an indifferent performance last term in Barcelona’s ill-tempered 2-1 win over Atletico, who had Fernando Torres sent off for two harsh yellows in six minutes but he failed to give two-goal Luis Suarez a red card for kicking out at Juanfran.
It was one of six Champions League games he handled last season – three involving British sides: Celtic’s 3-2 win over Malmo in the play-off stage, Manchester City’s 1-0 defeat at Juventus in the group phase and Chelsea’s 2-1 home defeat by PSG in the last 16.
A Fifa official since 2007, Brych began refereeing in 1999 and has been a Bundesliga regular since 2004.
He is an established name among Europe’s elite officials and regularly considered for high-profile occasions, with his strict but level headed approach often suiting competitive encounters – as Thursday’s game is expected to be.
Brych has previously handled a game between England and fellow British rivals in a 3-2 friendly win over Scotland at Wembley in August 2013 which celebrated the English FA’s 150th anniversary.
He last encountered Wales in their momentous 1-0 success over Belgium, which was influential in their qualification to a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup – booking only two players at the Cardiff City Stadium.
It was one of seven qualifiers for Brych, including the Republic of Ireland’s 1-1 first leg draw in Bosnia in the play-off round.
He will take charge of his fifth England international, with the most recent being their 1-1 draw against Italy in a friendly at the Juventus Stadium in March 2015.
Brych has only given one penalty in his last 30 matches but has issued three red cards in his last seven games.
He handled 34 games across all competitions in 2015-16 – brandishing 146 yellow cards, sending off seven players and awarding four penalties in total.
Among his other career highlights are refereeing the 2012 Cypriot Cup Final and 2015 German Cup Final when Wolfsburg surprised Borussia Dortmund with a 3-1 win in Berlin.
The Three Lions are under pressure to take three points after conceding a 92nd minute equaliser to draw 1-1 with Russia in their opener, while Chris Coleman’s Wales beat Slovakia 2-1 in Bordeaux on Saturday.
Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers will oversee his first game of Euro 2016 when Germany meet Poland on Thursday.
The 43-year-old will be in the middle for the Group A clash as both nations go in search of the win which would cement their passage to the last 16.
He will be ably assisted in Saint-Denis by his trusty sidekicks Sander van Roekel and Erwin Zeinstra, with Richard Liesveld and Pol van Boekel the additional assistants.
Daniele Orsato – who replaced Luca Banti in the Italian officiating team – is the fourth official, with fellow countryman Elenito Di Liberatore acting as the reserve assistant.
Kuipers returns to the Stade de France, where he was the fourth official to Hungary’s Viktor Kassai for the tournament opener on June 10 as hosts France beat Romania 2-1.
The supermarket owner is no stranger to major finals having controlled the finals of the Uefa Super Cup in 2011, Europa League and Confederations Cup in 2013, and the Champions League in 2014.
He was sent home following the group stages at Euro 2012 after handling Republic of Ireland’s opening 3-1 defeat by Croatia and France’s 2-0 win over co-hosts Ukraine, during which he had to suspend the game because of a torrential electrical storm.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Kuipers oversaw England’s opening 2-1 defeat against Italy and France’s 5-2 win over Switzerland in the group stages before Colombia’s 2-0 success over Uruguay in the last 16.
The Oldenzaal-born whistler refereed six Euro 2016 qualifiers – including Germany’s 3-2 win over Scotland at Hampden Park and the Republic of Ireland’s 2-0 second-leg victory over Bosnia in the play-off round.
His last encounter with Poland was their 1-1 draw against Montenegro in a World Cup qualifier in September 2013 – in which he booked six players.
With Holland not participating in the tournament, he is a likely contender to oversee the final on July 10 at the Stade de France.
Kuipers is the last of the 18 referees to take to the field on matchday seven and will need to have his wits about him for what is expected to be a fiercely-contested match after both sides won their opening games.
Pavel Kralovec will be the man in the middle for Northern Ireland’s second Euro 2016 match against Ukraine.
The 39-year-old, from the Czech Republic, will take charge of a must-win Group C game for Michael O’Neill’s men and the Ukrainians in Lyon on Thursday, June 16 (KO 17:00 BST).
He will be assisted at the Olympique Lyonnais by fellow countrymen Roman Slyško and Tomáš Mokrusch, while Petr Ardeleanu and Michal Paták are the additional assistants.
Greece’s Anastasios Sidiropoulos is the fourth official, with compatriot Damianos Efthymiadis is the reserve assistant.
Kralovec was a fourth official for three games at Euro 2012 and was on the prospective list of 52 referees for the 2014 World Cup but didn’t make the final 25.
The Czechoslovakia-born whistler has been officiating in the Synot league in his home country since 2004 and became a Fifa official a year later.
He has previously officiated at the 2011 Under-17 World Cup in Mexico and the 2012 Olympic Games men’s football tournament, where he oversaw three games including Brazil’s 3-0 semi-final win over Korea Republic.
The engineer is a regular in both European competitions, officiating six games in 2015-16 – including Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Dynamo Kiev and Manchester United’s goalless draw with PSV in the Champions League group stages.
Kralovec has received some high-profile appointments in the knockout stages in Europe since the start of 2011-12, many involving British sides, but has impressed observers for his steady handling of games.
Northern Ireland lost 1-0 to Poland in their first-ever European Championship game, while Mykhaylo Fomenko’s Ukraine went down 2-0 to World Cup holders Germany.