VAR’d for Life

In the summer of 2018 all of football’s global stars were on show as the World Cup took to the stadia of Russia. For the first time Video Assistant Refereeing was being operated on the global stage. For every fixture of the tournament a team of four referees would be positioned in a video operation room. They would have access to every significant broadcast camera capturing the game. This was planned with the aim to assist the match officials on the pitch when making key judgements, such as penalty claims, red card decisions and offside calls. A pitch side monitor was also provided for the actual referee, for them to call attention to and make the final verdict. The fact that this was going to effect key decisions that could change the direction of a game completely, meant that VAR was brought straight to the foreground and assessed by every person watching on. With it being the first time a major trophy has utilised the VAR, here is the top 3 controversial incidents from the 2018 World cup involving the technology.

3. Not raining not pouring but Neymar is falling

In at number 3 it’s Brazillian star Neymar. Known for his great trickery and outstanding ability to beat a player, Neymar is recognised as one of the greatest players in the game right now, however he also carries with him a big reputation for over exaggerating his pain when tackled i.e. diving and rolling around on the floor. Fooling referees into thinking that the tackle made on him was much worse than it actually was. However, it’s things like these that are what VAR was made for, and at this World Cup the footballing superstar was exposed for his gamesmanship.

It was the second round of fixtures for Group E, in which the Brazil took on Costa Rica at the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg. The the game being tied 0-0 until late on, the Brazilians were doing everything they could to try and break the deadlock in a game that they were expected to win. Victory looked in sight when in the 78th minute the referee awarded a penalty to Brazil as the golden boy Neymar seemed to have been tugged down by a Costa Rican defender. But, the final verdict was yet to be confirmed as Costa Rica called upon the referee to use his VAR monitor to review the decision. Images of the moment show how desperate Neymar was to gain the penalty kick, throwing his arms out in appeal to the ref.

After using the technology to analyse the situation, the decision was overturned, which was a key point in the tournament as it showed how even the greatest, most respected players in the game could not cheat the new technology implemented into football. Brazil went on to win the game 2-0, scoring two goals in stoppage time and Neymar getting one of them, rescuing his country from upset, and saving his embarrassments from the earlier events.

2. Aspas to the rescue

In as the runner up is the Spanish super sub Iago Aspas. After a successful season domestically with Celta Vigo, the striker merited his call up to the Spanish squad in 2018, looking to jump at any chance he was given. It was the final matchday in Group B in which Aspas’ presence would prove to be vital. The Spanish were 2-1 down to Morocco in Kaliningrad as the game went into stoppage time, needing only a draw to finish top of the group.

The game look set to finish as it was until Aspas flicked in a late winner from Dani Carvajal’s low cross. However initially the linesman raised his flag causing the goal to be disallowed. With everyones heart in their mouths it seemed it would be VAR that would make the final call, as to whether Spain would progress through the group as winners. Here is the moment itself.

1. The Champs crash out

Ladies and gentleman we have a winner, and it came on the final matchday for Group F, in a must win fixture for World Cup holders Germany, up against a well drilled South Korea side. With the game tied at 0-0 for the whole 90 minutes, it appeared as tho the game would finish goalless however, in the third minute of additional time, the stadium was chaotic as South Korea’s Kim Young-Gwon scored what looked to be a late winner.

Kim ran off ecstatically as he thought he’d one the game for his country, but his celebrations were cut short after the linesman flagged for offside. However after reviewing the events through VAR technology, it was clear that the ball played through to Kim was by German midfielder Toni Kroos. Here is how the events unfolded.

The goal was resultantly given, the reigning World Cup champions were heading home in the group stage for the first time in World Cup history. And to put the cherry on the cake South Korea added a second goal in the final minute of added time, through Tottenham attacker Son Heung-Min.

VAR caused great entertainment for the neutral throughout the whole FIFA World Cup tournament, making many significant calls. However with it yet to be introduced to domestic club football, it will be interesting to see whether the technology system is used on the global stage in the future.

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