How VAR would have changed the World Cup

The Video Assistant Referee or VAR as it is known, is becoming an increasingly prominent fixture in football and will be used at a World Cup for the first time this year, with the tournament being hosted by Russia. The system can only be used in the cases of allowing or disallowing goals, red cards, penalties or mistaken identities.

The latest World Cup betting odds have both 2014 hosts Brazil and defending champions Germany as the joint favourites to win this year’s tournament, at a price of 9/2. They will both be hoping that VAR is effective, as in some domestic competitions it has proven to be ineffective at helping the referee to make a decision.

The World Cup has seen some appalling refereeing decisions over the years, some which have had very little impact to the overall result, whilst others have seen a team progress that should have been knocked out.


Italy vs Uruguay 2014

In what was arguably the ‘Group of Death’ at the tournament in 2014, England, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy were all battling it out for a place in the second round. It was Costa Rica and Uruguay who ultimately progressed, however in the final round of the group, VAR could have seen Italy through at the expense of Uruguay.

There were two incidents where Italy believed the referee was mistaken, although in hindsight only one would VAR have had an impact. The first was the sending off of Claudio Marchisio, which after seeing replays, was completely justified as the midfielder needlessly had his studs up against Egidio Arevalo.

The second incident saw Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini come together before both fell to the ground apparently in pain. Although not initially obvious, what had actually happened was that Suarez had bitten Chiellini in an off the ball incident. Suarez received no punishment for the incident and just over a minute later, Uruguay scored from a corner and went on to win the match. Had the match ended in a draw, Italy would have progressed on goal difference.

Suarez received a ban for the incident which lasted for nine international matches, suggesting that he should have received a red card during the match. A red card for Suarez would have levelled the playing field and could have changed the outcome of the match.

South Korea World Cup 2002

It was at the World Cup in 2002, hosted by South Korea and Japan, to date the only time there has been more than one host of the tournament that saw a number of controversial refereeing decisions that the use of VAR would have eradicated.

South Korea benefitted the most from these decisions, which helped them see off Italy in the second round and Spain in the quarter-final. In the game against Italy, Francesco Totti was wrongly given a second booking for supposedly diving, despite replays clearly showing contact being made between the striker and South Korean defender Song Chong-gug. Totti was one of Italy’s best players and to lose him shortly before half time in extra time was a blow to the Italians. Ahn Jung-Hwan would go on to score the golden goal in the 117th minute. The game was littered with fouls from the Koreans which went unpunished despite  several being potential red card offences.

South Korea’s game against Spain was arguably even worse, with Spain denied two legitimate goals. The first was a Ruben Baraja header that was ruled out by Egyptian referee Gamal Al-Ghandour for alleged shirt pulling and pushing, despite the Spanish player seemingly being innocent of such conduct. The second came in extra time, as Fernando Morientes scored with a header from a Joaquin cross, only for the linesman to rule the goal out, believing that the ball had crossed the line for a goal kick before Joaquin put the cross in. Replays showed that this was not the case and that the goal should have stood, which would have won Spain the match via the golden goal. Instead South Korea knocked Spain out on penalties and became the first Asian team to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.


West Germany vs France 1982

The 1982 World Cup semi-final saw West Germany take on France for the chance to play Italy in the final. Both sides had some incredible players in their team, with Germany’s squad containing European Footballer of the Year Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and France with Michel Platini, who would go on to win three Ballon d’Ors.

The most controversial moment of the match came in the 60th minute, when French defender Patrick Battiston, who was only subbed on in the 50th minute, was chasing a through ball from Platini. The West German goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher came racing out of his goal in order to prevent Battiston from getting to the ball first, however, instead of getting to the ball, he clattered into the Frenchman, knocking out his two front teeth and leaving him unconscious.

The collision occurred just inside the box, meaning France should have been awarded a penalty as well as seeing their opponents reduced to ten men. At the end of 90 minutes, the score was 1-1: had France had been given a penalty for that incident and be playing against ten men, they would have more than likely progressed to the final and could have won their very first World Cup, something that they later achieved when they hosted the tournament in 1998.


Germany vs England 2010

The second round of the 2010 World Cup saw old rivals England and Germany play each other in the tournament for the first time since the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup. Germany took a 2-0 lead after the 32nd minute of the match before England’s Matthew Upson got a goal back five minutes later. However, it was two minutes after England got their goal that controversy struck, as Frank Lampard took a shot outside of the area, the ball hit the crossbar and clearly crossed the line before bouncing out again.

The referee ruled that the ball had not crossed the line meaning England were denied the legitimate equaliser. Germany would go on to thrash England 4-1 and who knows, if England had been allowed the goal, things may have been very different and England would have potentially become the favourites in World Cup betting tips for the remainder of the tournament.


England vs West Germany 1966

When Lampard’s goal was disallowed, it was seen by many in Germany as justice following the controversy in the 1966 World Cup final. England were the hosts and had beaten Argentina and Portugal on their way to the final. West Germany had beaten Uruguay and the Soviet Union to book their place at the old Wembley Stadium.

England were going for their first World Cup win, while West Germany, who had previously won the tournament in 1954, were looking for their second. West Germany took the lead after 12 minutes, before Geoff Hurst equalised for England six minutes later. England’s Martin Peters scored their second goal just over ten minutes later before Wolfgang Weber got a last minute equaliser to take the match into extra time.

It was in extra time that the controversial moment took place, as England’s Geoff Hurst took a shot at goal which hit the cross bar and bounced back out, however, it’s almost impossible to tell whether it went in or not. Azerbaijani linesman Tofiq Bahramov gave the goal and Geoff Hurst would add another goal to complete his hat-trick and in turn guide England to a 4-2 victory. It’s probably the only controversial moment mentioned here in which even VAR would struggle. Given how close it looks in replays, it was likely not a goal, and therefore England would not have taken the lead and Germany may well have gone on to win the game.

Argentina vs England 1986

One of the most infamous goals in World Cup history was scored in the quarter-final match between Argentina and England before being followed up just minutes later by one of the best goals ever scored.

After a first half which contained no goals, it took just six minutes after the restart for a goal to be scored, although it was to be the most controversial goal in World Cup history. Argentina legend Diego Maradona played the ball to Jorge Valdano, however the ball actually went to England’s Steve Hodge, who miscued his clearance and the ball flew back in the air towards the England goal. Maradona chased the ball while England’s goalkeeper Peter Shilton charged towards the ball in an effort to punch it clear. Maradona, who was seven inches shorter than Shilton, managed to reach the ball first, however he actually used his hand in order to score the goal.

This goal would forever be known as ‘The Hand of God’ goal, after Maradona’s post-match press conference in which he said the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. Five minutes after the ‘Hand of God’, came the ‘Goal of the Century’ in which Maradona collected the ball inside his own half before running towards the English goal, beating four English players and finding the back of the net. If VAR had existed, the ‘Hand of God’ goal would have been ruled out, Maradona may have been sent off, which would have denied the ‘Goal of the Century’ and against ten men England may have progressed through to the semi-final and potentially even win it.

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