Opinion: Has VAR been a success at the World Cup so far?

 

Football is full of controversy, that’s what makes it the sport that it is and without it, football wouldn’t be the same. But, controversy is okay as long as teams aren’t being negatively impacted to the point where they’re losing games that they should be winning or vice versa. Although it’s part of the game, it has to be fair and drawing the line is a near impossible task. The introduction of Goal Line Technology at the 2014 FIFA World Cup removed any debate about whether the ball had crossed the line or not and it was a huge success unsurprisingly. However, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is a bit different because although it allows referees to get our same view on decisive incidents, all referees have a different interpretation of the rules.

The introduction of VAR at the World Cup was always going to cause problems, no one is ever going to be content with a referee’s decision. VAR was designed to overrule or confirm clear and obvious decisions that had to be made and can be used in four different situations; goals, penalties, red cards, mistaken identity. However, it also poses a serious question because the referee is constantly in contact with the video assistant referees back in Moscow and he can also review VAR if the ball is in a neutral position or at a stoppage in play. So if a penalty claim isn’t awarded and the defending team run forward on a counter attack, the referee technically isn’t allowed to stop play and if the defending team then scores and VAR confirms it should have been a penalty, FIFA runs into a massive problem.

VAR has already been called into action multiple times so far during the tournament mainly in regards to penalty decisions and most of the time it has been successful but there have also been times where VAR wasn’t brought into play when many thought it should have been and even when VAR was brought into play, some found that the incorrect decision was still made. The point of VAR was to remove any controversy from the game but of course, fans will be disappointed if they get away with a penalty and then it gets called back or if they score a goal and it later gets ruled offside. So are fans actually worried that VAR will ruin the “flow of the game” and remove the “human factor” or do they only say that when VAR doesn’t go their way?

 

The first goal in FIFA World Cup history awarded by VAR was a Griezmann penalty against Australia that put France 1-0 up against their fellow Group C members. Australians were understandably outraged, as were other fanbases but the problem came about due to the circumstances. In multiple replays it was difficult to see whether or not Risdon had touched the ball before bringing Griezmann to ground and since the referee only watched the replay a few times on the pitchside monitor, it’s interesting that he changed his decision. His original decision was no penalty and thus to overturn that he must be absolutely certain which probably wasn’t the case. However, the decision was ultimately correct in the eyes of many neutrals.

 

After that, VAR got much better. It was successful when brought into play, including the following:

  • Diego Costa potential foul on Pepe for goal vs Portugal. Given as a goal, correct decision, no foul.
  • Christian Cueva fouled by Poulsen vs Denmark. Given as no penalty, overturned by VAR, correct decision.
  • Kim Min-Woo tackle on Viktor Claesson vs Sweden. Given as no penalty, overturned by VAR, correct decision.
  • Nacho foul on Cristiano Ronaldo vs Portugal. Given as a penalty, correct decision, obvious foul.
  • Aguero fouled by Magnusson vs Iceland. Given as a penalty, correct decision, obvious foul.
  • Samuel Umtiti handball vs Australia. Given as a penalty, correct decision, evident handball.

 

However, while there have been some positives, we have also been left wondering why VAR wasn’t brought into play on multiple occasions. For example;

  • Harry Kane brought down off corner vs Tunisia. Obvious foul, VAR not brought into play. Should’ve been a penalty.
  • Cristian Pavon brought down inside box vs Iceland. Obvious foul, VAR not brought into play. Should’ve been a penalty.
  • Steven Zuber goal vs Brazil. Push on Miranda, VAR not brought into play. Should’ve been a free kick for Brazil.
  • Pepe handball vs Morrocco. VAR not brought into play. Should’ve been a penalty.

 

So overall, VAR has been somewhat successful but for something that was designed to eliminate any errors of judgement on the referee’s part, it has failed. The Video Assistant Referees must be more active in communicating with the referee to bring back the play to check VAR. Additionally, the on-field referee must be more decisive, he needs to either stop play immediately to check or review at the next stoppage in play and if a team scores a counter-attack goals, it stands unless VAR says play should’ve been stopped earlier for a penalty/offside call. I think that VAR has to improve for the rest of the tournament because if it can’t be proven to work on the biggest stage there’s no reason for the FA to implement it into the Premier League. Personally, I think English referees are very poor and thus why none are at the World Cup and with the introduction of a successful VAR system in England, the league would be made a lot fairer.

What do you guys think of VAR so far? Is it ruining the flow of the game or does it add an element of excitement and angst? Are there any changes that should be made to the system in the future? Let us know your answer to any of these questions in the comments below or let us know on Twitter @AllOutFootball_ using the #AOF.