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VAR problems causing major headache for Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) Accusations of manipulation and incompetence have dogged the Bundesliga’s trial of the video assistant referee this season, forcing the German soccer federation to act quickly to pacify angry team officials.

The DFB dismissed Hellmut Krug as head of its VAR project this week after tabloid claims he influenced two key decisions in a game between Schalke, his hometown club, and visiting Wolfsburg on Oct. 28.

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Lutz Michael Froehlich, the head of the federation’s refereeing department, will take over.

Krug and Marco Fritz, the video assistant operating in Cologne that day last month, denied the allegations, and the DFB said it was impossible for supervisors to intervene during games. But the federation evidently felt a fresh start was needed after weeks of controversy since VAR started this season.

“The pilot phase of the video assistant has relentlessly exposed problems that have long existed in some areas and must now be finally resolved,” league president Reinhard Rauball said on Tuesday.

VAR was supposed to help referees avoid mistakes and ensure fairness in games, but even at the start there were technical problems that hindered video assistants’ ability to make the right calls in Cologne, where they sit for games.

Video assistants were forced to make offside decisions without the aid of computer-generated lines because of a flaw in the technology.

Not all video-assisted decisions have been clear-cut and there have been other controversies, too. Cologne felt particularly aggrieved over a goal scored by Borussia Dortmund in their game in September, awarded after video consultation despite referee Felix Brych blowing his whistle before the ball crossed the line – signaling a break in play.

Not using VAR has also led to anger and frustration. Stuttgart was the victim last Saturday, when Dzenis Burnic was sent off early in its 3-1 loss in Hamburg with his second yellow card. Referee Guido Winkmann acknowledged after the game that it was unjust decision.

[ MORE: Revs to hire Friedel ]

“It’s a game-deciding decision after 12 minutes that’s totally false,” said Stuttgart coach Hannes Wolf, who blasted the video assistant’s inability to get involved. “The person in Cologne can’t say anything. I find that ridiculous, that there’s someone there professionally who’s not allowed say anything. It doesn’t make any sense.”

At the start of the season, the DFB said the technology was only to be used “when the referee on the pitch has made a clear wrong decision or missed a decisive incident” around goals scored, penalties or free kicks, or during substitutions.

Kicker magazine, however, reported that the federation wrote on Oct. 25 to the clubs saying VAR had also been used in other instances since the fifth round of games, a so-called “corrective course” over which the clubs had not been informed.

“The whole communication from the DFB is catastrophic at the moment,” Borussia Moenchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl said. “If you have a test phase and want to change the whole system, then that’s fair enough. But everyone should also know about it.”

Fans are also upset, frustrated by the breaks in games while referees consult monitors on the sidelines, then by goals reversed after celebrations, or other decisions going against their teams – even when the decisions are technically correct.

The DFB has had other problems with its referees, too. Manuel Graefe was reprimanded last week for making allegations of nepotism and a lack of transparency against Krug and Herbert Fandel, the chairman of the referees committee, when it came to selection for games.

“The two of them threw together the referee list how they wanted it,” Graefe told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper in August.

Graefe stuck to his position last month, saying in a personal statement that he wanted more “justice and transparency” and that “the influence of Herbert Fandel and Hellmut Krug unfortunately still means the opposite.”

Now that Krug has been removed, the DFB hopes the attention will return to the soccer, though it will need to sort out the problems affecting VAR before that happens.

“Every product is only as good as how it is processed and communicated,” former referee Markus Merk said.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 11 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

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Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.

Durmaz condemns Sweden fans’ racist abuse after World Cup loss

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KRASNODAR, Russia (AP) — Sweden midfielder Jimmy Durmaz says the racist abuse aimed at him over social media following the 2-1 loss to Germany at the World Cup has been “completely unacceptable.”

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

After coming on as a substitute, Durmaz gave away the free kick that led to Toni Kroos curling in an injury-time winner in Saturday’s group game. Durmaz has since been subjected to online abuse, including threats to his family.

Before a training session on Sunday, Durmaz — standing in front of the rest of the Sweden squad and beside coach Janne Andersson — read out a statement to the media from a mobile phone.

“When you threaten me, when you call me ‘Arab devil,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘Taliban,’ then you have gone far beyond the limit,” Durmaz said in the statement, which was published on the Swedish Football Association’s website.

“And even worse, when you go after my family, my children, threaten them. Who does such a thing? It is completely unacceptable.”

Durmaz was born in Sweden to Assyrian parents who emigrated from Turkey.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I am Swedish and I am proud to play in the Swedish national team. That’s the biggest thing you can do as a football player,” he said in the statement. “I will never let any racists destroy that pride. We must all stand against all forms of racism.”

The Swedish FA has reported the abuse toward Durmaz to police.

“We do not tolerate a player being exposed to threats and violations,” said Hakan Sjostrand, secretary general of the Swedish FA. “It is unpleasant and very upsetting to see the treatment that Jimmy Durmaz has suffered. Completely unacceptable.”

The loss to Germany left Sweden tied on three points with its opponent. Both countries are three points behind Mexico with one game left. Sweden plays Mexico in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday, with Germany taking on South Korea at the same time.