Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1398, (21 - 27 June 2018)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1398, (21 - 27 June 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The VAR — good or bad?

Griezmann earned a penalty thanks to VAR
Al-Ahram Weekly

VIDEO Assistant Referee, or VAR, at the World Cup has been causing the very sort of controversy and frustration it was supposed to iron out on the first week of the world’s most prestigious sports event.

Though VAR was used at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, which was also in Russia, as a trial, it did not cause the kinds of problems as in the World Cup. And, it is still early. If teams and fans are becoming upset by the decisions of the referees and the VAR in the group stage, what will happen in the final stages of the knockout system when each ball counts and the results of matches will be final and no chance for compensation?

Voices of criticism are growing louder in the media who are now questioning the level of efficiency of VAR, which is also being accused of denying football lovers the excitement and heated debates of the game. Officials, players, media, experts and fans also believe the system is wasting more time while reviewing controversial situations that occur during matches.

VAR has raised several questions, including whether it should be used in future World Cups, and if it truly benefits the sport or ruining the future of the beautiful game.

There have been some debatable incidents this week, especially in three matches.

The Costa Rica versus Serbia match saw substitute Aleksandar Prijovic accidentally striking a Costa Rican defender with a stray arm. The referee had to wait for play to stop so that he could review the incident using the VAR system. The red-card review saw Prijovic booked for the stray elbow, but not red-carded. Serbia won the match 1-0. However, in stopping the match and reviewing the incident, this raised issues over the amount of time that VAR wastes during games, with added time continuing to grow.

Not only did the Prijovic incident send fans into meltdown, but the inconsistencies of VAR came to light when spectators noticed that a Costa Rican player had lashed out at Luka Milivojevic. The incident occurred during the ruckus that followed Nemanja Matic’s coming together with an opposition coach.


In another incident, a VAR-awarded penalty gave Sweden a narrow but deserved victory in their opening Group F match against South Korea in Nizhny Novgorod on Monday.

Veteran Swedish skipper Andreas Granqvist scored the only goal of the game from the spot after Viktor Claesson was up-ended by South Korean substitute Kim Min-woo Kim in the 62nd minute.

Despite furious appeals, referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador initially waved away Swedish penalty claims. But after consulting the video, he pointed to the spot.

It was the third VAR penalty awarded at this competition after France and Peru also benefited from video referrals. For the French, it was in their opening match against Australia as VAR was used to give a penalty for the first time in the history of the tournament. Antoine Griezmann was running through on goal before he was seemingly caught on the heel as he entered the penalty area by Josh Risdon’s outstretched leg. In the beginning, the referee Andres Cunha allowed play to continue before he suddenly stopped the game after receiving an alert in his earpiece that he should look at the replays on the pitch-side monitor.

After watching the replay three or four times Cunha decided to make history by using VAR to award a penalty for the first time ever. Griezmann stepped up and struck a penalty into the corner of the net.

It was the second time VAR was used in two days after it was first employed to check Diego Costa’s opener against Portugal on Friday night. That decision was upheld, and the goal given, but Griezmann’s was the first time the technology has been used to actually overturn a decision. For some, the replay looked like it was the correct call, one small victory for VAR at this tournament.

Almost three weeks to go before the end of the World Cup. Those three incidents surely won’t be the only ones. There are still many matches to be played, and with them more controversy as the newly introduced VAR system continues doing its work and assisting referees in taking decisions. It’s only when, by the end of this edition of the World Cup on 14 July that a clearer picture of the effectiveness of the VAR system will emerge and its future decided.

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