Wilmar Roldan will take charge of England’s first match at the 2018 World Cup against Tunisia, Fifa has confirmed.
The Colombian referee will handle his first game of the tournament, on day five, in the Three Lions’ Group G opener at the newly-built Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on Monday 18 June.
He will be assisted by fellow countrymen Alexander Guzman and Cristian De La Cruz, while the fourth official will be Ricardo Montero of Costa Rica.
Brazil’s Sandro Ricci, who refereed Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria on Saturday, will be the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). His assistants will be Gary Vargas (Bolivia), Emerson De Carvalho (Brazil) and Tiago Lopes Martins (Portugal).
The game will kick off at 19:00 BST and will be screened live on BBC One in the UK.
WHO IS WILMAR ROLDAN?
The 38-year-old from Remedios has been refereeing in Liga Aguila, Colombia’s top flight, since 2003 and officiating international games for a decade, after becoming a Fifa-listed referee in 2008.
Roldan already has a wealth of experience, with the finals in Russia already his fifth major international tournament.
In 2011, he went to his first Copa America and oversaw three games – two in the group phase and the third-place match between Venezuela and Peru.
After officiating at the 2012 Olympic Games men’s football tournament, the Antioquia-born whistler went to his first World Cup in 2014, handling two matches in Brazil.
He was in the middle for the tournament’s second game, Mexico’s 1-0 win over Cameroon, as well as Algeria’s 4-2 win over South Korea in the group stage.
Last year, Roldan was also in Russia as one of nine referees selected for the Confederations Cup, where he handled the opening match as the host nation beat New Zealand 2-0.
He was also at the helm for eventual winners Germany’s 3-1 victory over Cameroon in Sochi during the group phase.
Roldan’s only involvement at this World Cup so far was as the fourth official for Argentina’s 1-1 draw with Iceland at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on Sunday.
Confident and outspoken even at a young age, he earnt the nickname ‘The Castrilli’ for his likeness to famous Argentine whistler Javier Castrilli.
Roldan, who started refereeing at the age of just 14, has emerged as one of the finest in the world and was ranked the seventh best in 2015.
ROLDAN’S VAR CONTROVERSIES
The experienced South American referee has been involved in two VAR controversies in the past year.
The most high-profile incident was in the Confederations Cup last June when he wrongly booked Cameroon’s Sebastien Siani for a recklessly high challenge on Liverpool’s Emre Can in the game against Germany.
Roldan reviewed the incident using VAR but instead of booking the correct player – Ernest Mabouka – he changed Siani’s yellow card to red.
After fierce Cameroon protests, he reviewed the incident a second time pitchside and showed red to the correct culprit Mabouka.
Roldan was also involved in another row over the use of VAR in October last year, with Argentinian outfit River Plate complaining he was to blame for their elimination in the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores against Lanus after a missed handball.
THE REFEREES FOR ENGLAND’S LAST FIVE WORLD CUP OPENERS
The men in charge of the Three Lions’ last five first games of World Cup tournaments have come from a range of continents…
2014: England 1 Italy 2
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)
2010: England 0 Algeria 0
Referee: Carlos Simon (Brazil)
2006: England 1 Paraguay 0
Referee: Marco Rodriguez (Mexico)
2002: England 1 Sweden 1
Referee: Carlos Simon (Brazil)
1998: England 2 Tunisia 0
Referee: Masayoshi Okada (Japan)
THREE LIONS HOPING FOR GOOD START
After waiting until the fifth day of the tournament to take to the pitch, England will be itching to make a positive first impression in Russia and, most importantly, make a winning start.
Having beaten Nigeria 2-1 at Wembley and Costa Rica 2-0 at Elland Road in warm-up games, Gareth Southgate’s side are unbeaten in 12 matches and didn’t taste defeat in qualifying, winning eight and drawing two of their 10 matches as they topped the group.
They also opened the 1998 World Cup against Tunisia, who they have met twice previously, and ran out 2-0 winners in France, thanks to goals from Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes.
After facing the North Africans, England take on Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on 24 June before facing one of the pre-tournament favourites Belgium in Kaliningrad four days later.
In Monday’s other game in Group G, Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe will take charge of Belgium’s opener against Panama at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi (kick-off 16:00 BST).
The 39-year-old teacher, who has been a Fifa-listed official since 2007, will be assisted by Jerson Dos Santos (Angola) and Zakhele Siwela (South Africa). The fourth official will be Ryuji Sato of Japan, who fulfilled the same role for Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain in Sochi on Friday.