ENGLISH referees Mark Clattenburg and Martin Atkinson have been chosen to oversee last-16 ties at Euro 2016 on Saturday.
Clattenburg will handle the first knockout game when Switzerland face Poland at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne (KO 14:00 BST, live on BBC One).
Atkinson has been selected to keep the peace as British rivals Wales and Northern Ireland lock horns at the Parc des Princes in Paris (KO 17:00 BST, live on BBC One).
Both officials will take charge of their third games of the tournament and the appointments are another illustration of how highly English officials are regarded in Europe.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s final knockout game between Croatia and Portugal will be officiated by Spain’s Carlos Velasco Carballo.
BRITAIN LEADS THE WAY
Of the 18 referees taken to Euro 2016, three were British – with England the only nation to have two representatives in the shape of experienced duo Clattenburg and Atkinson.
The pair have performed to a high level on a regular basis in the pressure cooker of the intensely competitive Premier League for over a decade.
And, after making do with a backseat role at the European Championship four years ago as additional assistants in Howard Webb’s team of officials, they are certainly taking their opportunity to shine in their first refereeing appearance at a major international tournament.
Seen as a personal favourite of Pierluigi Collina, the head of Uefa’s Referees Committee, Clattenburg is highly rated and respected on the continental stage.
The Newcastle-based whistler, 40, handled the finals of the FA Cup and Champions League last month – with other honours including the 2012 Olympic men’s football showpiece at Wembley and 2014 Uefa Super Cup in Cardiff.
Clattenburg – a trained electrician by trade – put in one of the best refereeing displays of the group phase in Italy’s opening 2-0 win over Belgium, in what was a tough contest to officiate.
He also dealt with a difficult situation in the Czech Republic’s 2-2 draw with Croatia when flares were thrown onto the pitch during the second period.
The County Durham-born official, known for his informal communication with players on the pitch, has often caused controversy with his decision making and generally divides opinion among football fans.
Clattenburg – who has never met either Switzerland or Poland in an international fixture before – has overseen nine Champions League and six Europa League knockout games since 2011.
He dished out 97 yellow cards, sent off six players and awarded four penalties in 30 Premier League games last season.
Atkinson, meanwhile, has never officiated a Wales international before but only encountered Northern Ireland in their 3-0 friendly win over Belarus in Belfast on May 27.
He has previously controlled a game between two home nations, one of which was Northern Ireland – their 1-0 friendly defeat to Scotland at Hampden Park in March 2015.
The West Yorkshire whistler caught the eye in Germany’s 2-0 win over Ukraine and Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Hungary during the group stages, impressing with his usual authoratitive yet methodical approach.
The 45-year-old, from Bradford, described the emotions he felt when being called up for the tournament as “pride, delight and relief”.
His biggest European honour to date was handling the 2015 Uefa Europa League Final between Sevilla and Dnipro in Warsaw.
Atkinson brandished 100 yellows, one red card and gave two spotkicks in 29 Premier League matches in 2015-16.
The sides’ warm-up in Cardiff in March was also handled by a referee from the British Isles – Scotland’s Steven McLean, who awarded Wales a late penalty which Simon Church converted to salvage a 1-1 draw.
It will be the second so-called ‘Battle of Britain’ of the tournament after England scraped a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Wales in Lens on June 16 – a game refereed by Germany’s Felix Brych.
Chris Coleman’s Wales defied the odds to top Group B with six points, while Northern Ireland qualified from Group C as one of the four best third-placed teams.
In the final standings, Michael O’Neill’s team were behind Poland, who finished runners-up to world champions Germany, while Switzerland came second in Group A with hosts France ahead of them.
Scotland’s Willie Collum was the other British refereeing representative selected but the 35-year-old and his colleagues north of the border were one of eight teams of officials sent home at the end of the group phase.
SPAIN’S NUMBER ONE STAYS ON
Carballo has been appointed to oversee the intriguing evening clash as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal seek their first Euro 2016 win against the impressive Croatians.
The 45-year-old will be the man in the middle at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens (KO 20:00 BST, live on ITV).
He will be ably assisted by fellow countrymen Roberto Alonso Fernandez and Juan Carlos Yuste Jiminez, and additional assistants Jesus Gil Manzano and Carlos del Cerro Grande.
Hungary’s Viktor Kassai will be the fourth official, with Gyorgy Ring acting as the reserve official.
Carballo, renowned as being a strict disciplinarian, has now been Spain’s refereeing representative at the last three major international tournaments but will retire from active duty when returning to his home city Madrid.
The industrial engineer was in the middle for the opening match of Euro 2012 when co-hosts Poland drew with Greece, as well as Germany’s 2-1 win over Denmark in the group phase.
At the 2014 World Cup, Carballo handled England’s 2-1 defeat by Uruguay and Bosnia’s 3-1 win over Iran in the group stages before he was criticised for a controversial display in hosts Brazil’s quarter-final win over Colombia.
He issued the first red card of Euro 2016 to Albania captain Lorik Cana in their 1-0 defeat by Switzerland on the second day of the tournament before impressing in England’s goalless draw with Slovakia during the group stages.
Carballo has so far dished out eight bookings but he brandished 74 yellow cards and six red cards during a 12-game spell last season before overseeing two of Liverpool’s Europa League knockout games – against Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund respectively.
He issued a red card, six yellows and awarded a penalty in Croatia’s eventful 5-1 win over Norway during qualification for the tournament, but has never previously encountered Portugal.
Although he is considered above his Spanish counterparts on the European stage, Carballo has often been overlooked for high-profile games in recent seasons in La Liga.