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FIFA moves toward goal of video review at 2018 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) The goal of helping referees with video review to make decisions at the 2018 World Cup has been facing key tests at FIFA headquarters.

Two systems among the 11 in talks to win the World Cup contract were undergoing trials this week during training sessions with Europe’s candidates to referee in Russia.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams “Einsteins” ]

An idea met with a skeptical response when then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter presented it in 2014 has support from his successor, Gianni Infantino – even if Blatter’s idea of NFL-style challenges by coaches looks unlikely to survive.

It is not certain that video assistance referees, or VARs, will be approved in time for the World Cup.

Still, history was made on Wednesday with a first significant intervention by video review at a Dutch Cup match. Willem II player Anouar Kali was sent off for fouling an Ajax opponent one minute after the referee initially showed a yellow card.

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Here is how FIFA is moving to give top-level referees the kind of help that is standard in American sports leagues:

THE REQUIREMENTS

FIFA wants video review only for potential “clear errors” in four situations: goals being scored, penalties being awarded, players being sent off and cases of mistaken identity.

It needs a technology system to help VARs and the referee communicate quickly without spoiling the game’s flow.

Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s director of refereeing, believes it should take “not take more than five, six seconds” to review an incident.

“If we need one (camera) angle more, of course it can take two seconds more,” Busacca told The Associated Press.

In most situations, play has naturally stopped and review time will not disrupt the flow.

All involved agree that calling back play to impose a decision not initially taken is the biggest challenge for FIFA and its rule-making panel, known as IFAB, which must give final approval.

THE TECHNOLOGY SYSTEM

The DreamCatcher system developed by Evertz Microsystems of Burlington, Ontario is among FIFA’s options. It has already been proven in NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL games.

This week at FIFA, two DreamCatcher operators worked in a windowless portable cabin next to the hedges lining the soccer body’s compound.

Two banks of screens – each to be monitored by one of two VARs, helped by a technician – take feeds from cameras around the artificial turf pitch that flanks FIFA’s offices.

The largest wide-screen TV above the desk shows a live game feed. Two smaller screens at desk level show several angles of the action at a slight delay, allowing the VARs to take a quick glance at an incident. The VAR can ask to zoom in anywhere on the split-screen images. Each World Cup match has at least 30 cameras, but too many angles can slow a decision.

Though the NBA and MLB centralize review operations in one location, FIFA would likely want each VAR team in a truck or booth at each of the 12 stadiums in Russia.

FIFA had set a two-year timetable and wants a decision by IFAB by March 2018.

“This has been the most thorough review of the leagues we have worked with,” DreamCatcher project manager Nima Malekmanesh said.

THE REFEREES’ BOSS

Six seconds. In that time, Busacca wants his officials to know if they must change a clear mistake.

That will require expert analysis and communication skills from the VAR, who Busacca believes should also be a FIFA-list official.

“Absolutely. If he is not the same level, how can he change the decision of the referee?” said Busacca, who suggests video review could be a rarity at World Cups with only the best referees taken from each continent.

“If you have a top referee, one situation every four or five games,” he said.

Busacca insists video review cannot compromise the “personality and football understanding” of his officials, and he is no fan of letting coaches challenge decisions.

“Never lose the authority of referees, never take it out,” he said.

THE REFEREE

Bjorn Kuipers supports video review within clear limits.

“You need a VAR which you can trust,” said the referee from the Netherlands. “If you don’t have a VAR on the same level, it will be difficult.”

He foresees the two video reviewers joining a referee’s two assistants and fourth official as part of a regular match team from the same country, speaking their native language.

“The communication has to be very clear, very short,” said Kuipers, who worked the 2014 Champions League final before going to the World Cup in Brazil. “We have 10 seconds or 12 seconds if we want but it’s not good for the game.”

Kuipers was granted 10 seconds earlier this month when Italy hosted France in Bari, and he made a key video-assisted decision to show France defender Djibril Sidibe only a yellow card for fouling Daniele De Rossi. The Italy midfielder’s teammates wanted a red card.

“Players like it when they got confirmation,” Kuipers said, referring to that outcome.

THE FIFA MANAGER

As FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation, Johannes Holzmueller oversaw the process of approving goal-line technology and picking the GoalRef system for the 2014 World Cup.

Holzmueller visited the U.S. in February to hear from pro leagues about their experiences with video review.

The 11 contenders in talks with FIFA also include American firm XOS Digital and Hawk-Eye, the British system used in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

The technology works, and FIFA must find “a clear protocol” for feeding information to referees, Holzmueller said.

Coaches’ challenges could lead to stoppages to tactical reasons, and requiring referees to check images on a tablet computer also appears to be slow.

“We have to look at, `Does it improve the game and not just refereeing?”‘ Holzmueller said.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Crystal Palace

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Leicester City host Crystal Palace on Saturday at the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams in fine form recently.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Claude Puel has led Leicester to four consecutive wins and the Foxes have surged up the standings since he took charge in October with Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy in fine form.

Palace are unbeaten in six games, winning twice, as Roy Hodgson has turned them into an incredibly tough team to beat.

In team news Leicester bring in Demarai Gray for Shinji Okazaki despite the Japanese international scoring twice in the win over Southampton in midweek.

Palace bring in Martin Kelly and James McArthur for Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Luka Milivojevic.


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Luan, Gremio looks to dethrone Real Madrid at Club World Cup

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“He’s a wonderful person. He’s got lots of titles, so maybe he can just leave this one to us.”

That’s Gremio youngster Luan after being told Real Madrid star and countryman Marcelo said he has a huge future in the game.

Luan and his teammates could make a lot more noise with a win in Saturday’s Club World Cup final against Real.

[ MORE: Galaxy to acquire Bingham? ]

Gremio edged Pachuca in extra time of its semifinal after Real came back to beat Al Jazira, and now hopes to become just the second non-European club to win the Club World Cup since 2007.

Brazilian clubs won the first three CWCs between 2000-06, but Corinthians claimed the lone Brazilian title since when it beat Chelsea in 2012.

Spanish clubs have won the last three finals, with Real sandwiching two around Barca’s 2015 win over River Plate.

The 24-year-old Luan won Olympic gold with Brazil in 2016, and has two caps with the national team.

Still waiting for these Premier League summer transfers to hit

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They seemed like hits at the time, but some significant summer transfer buys are are struggling in the Premier League.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

Whereas Mohamed Salah, Nemanja Matic, and Alvaro Morata have been solid pickups, and even lesser moves like Kurt Zouma to Stoke and Grzegorz Krychowiak to West Brom have hit the spot, some purchases just have not panned out at their new clubs.

Some aren’t getting playing time, while others aren’t hitting their stride, but here are some moves which just haven’t paid off (yet).

Andre Gray, Watford — The striker has two goals and two assists, but has had problems keeping hold of the ball and has the same amount of goals as defender Daryl Janmaat and midfielder Will Hughes despite playing about 300 percent of their minutes.

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham — The ex-Stoke player was a menace in a midweek draw against Arsenal, but Arnautovic has managed just one goal for the Irons this season. That’s equal to his amount of red cards.

Renato Sanches and Roque Mesa, Swansea City — Sanches hasn’t been able to get into the squad despite being one of the more talked about loans of the summer; Mesa may be coming around in recent weeks, but was an unused sub or not in the squad in 10 of Swans’ first 13.

Jese, Stoke City – The Real Madrid attacker was almost certain to take time to adjust to the Premier League, but his match-winner against Arsenal on Opening Day remains his lone marker.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool — His deadline day move to join Liverpool, supposedly to play centrally, seemed a head-scratcher. He’s only recently seen consistent minutes in a more central role despite Liverpool having loads of problems there. Maybe that’s on Jurgen Klopp, but we’re still scratching our heads.

Report: Galaxy close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper

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The LA Galaxy may be turning to its Cali Clasico rival for a new goalkeeper.

Reportedly denied in its pursuit of longtime Vancouver backstop David Ousted, the Galaxy are said to be close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper David Bingham from San Jose, according to ESPN.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

The deal would reportedly cost LA between $200,000 and $250,000 in TAM.

Bingham, 28, lost his starting gig to Clemson product Andrew Tarbell this season, and the latter looks intent on keeping the position.

The Galaxy have not had a long-term answer in goal since Jaime Penedo left the club in 2015 (though 24-year-old Jon Kempin showed some very good things last season). Bingham would be a fine addition for a Galaxy team that hemorrhaged the second-most goals in MLS.