VAR used in Portugal vs. Mexico, and it worked

Getty Images
3 Comments

I’m stunned. Absolutely shocked.

20 minutes into the Confederations Cup match between Mexico and Portugal, with either side yet to break through, Portugal appeared to score the game’s first goal with Pepe blasting home a half-volley. After a moment or two of confusion, the referees took a second look, and 53 seconds after the ball hit the back of the net, the goal had been wiped off, with replays showing as many as four Portuguese players offside on the initial delivery into the box.

And the internet, for some reason, hated it. Don’t believe me? Look:

That’s just a tiny snapshot. The amount of people who chimed in on social media to denounce Video Assistant Refereeing utterly blew me away. I respect the opinions of something new and scary and different, but I vehemently disagree.

Getting as many calls on the field right as possible is paramount. I completely understand those who are afraid that VAR will destroy the pace of play, but when applied correctly – as it was in the Portugal/Mexico game – it can only improve the game.

Let’s review the scenario:

  1. Portugal scored
  2. Portugal celebrated
  3. Some people were confused for 30 seconds
  4. The call was reversed and play continued

So what was truly lost here? Portugal had their celebration cut short, and 30 seconds or so came off the board. In return, we got the call correct. What is the problem? This seems to be a best-case-scenario result, and yet it sparked a vicious debate.

For those who believe that the loss of bad refereeing somehow makes the game worse, that’s an opinion that would disqualify such an individual from complaining about bad refereeing ever again. If the human element results in bad refereeing decisions – which it has for decades and will continue to do so because referees aren’t perfect – why not make use of available technology at our fingertips? And if you deny such a luxury, how can that same person then go and whine when a referee errs in the future? Fans can either take bad refereeing or replay, trying for a perfect world without both is a pipe dream. Given the low standard of refereeing of late and the higher degree of scrutiny, turning down the chance to correct the truly poor decisions would set the game back years.

If VAR significantly slows down the game, I can understand the vitriol. Soccer is a game where flow and continuity is paramount, that is not up for discussion. Video replay in Major League Baseball and the National Football League have taken years to streamline, and MLB review is still brutally slow (On that note, I admit the late review of Portugal’s second goal was tiresome and useless, and the “every goal needs to be checked” part needs to go). But if VAR is used as displayed in the Portugal/Mexico game I’m all for it, because at the end of the day, getting the call right is what this is all about, and it will make the game of soccer better from top to bottom.