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How video review could operate at the World Cup

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ZURICH (AP) Video review is going to help referees at the World Cup, bringing soccer’s biggest event into line with U.S. pro sports.

FIFA’s rule-making panel voted on Saturday to update the game’s 155-year-old laws and allow for video assistant referees (VAR).

It clears FIFA to adopt VAR for the World Cup in Russia at a meeting of its ruling council on March 16.

Trials in competitions worldwide, including top European leagues in Germany and Italy, have provoked controversies.

Reviews have been slower than promised – sometimes lasting minutes – and communication inside stadiums is often confusing.

Still, FIFA President Gianni Infantino believes soccer cannot ignore a chance to make more accurate decisions.

Here are some things to know about soccer’s embrace of high-tech help for referees:

WHEN CAN IT BE USED?

To correct “clear and obvious errors” and “serious missed incidents.”

This means incidents involving goals scored, the award of penalty kicks, red cards, and cases of referees showing cards to the wrong player.

FIFA focused on these four potential game-changing situations before live trials began in 2016.

The rules panel, known as IFAB, clarified the phrase “serious missed incidents” introduced on Saturday typically refers to violent off-the-ball clashes that were always open to review.

HOW DOES A REVIEW HAPPEN?

There is two-way communication between the referee on the field and the VAR, who is also a qualified referee and watches play in real-time and replays on a bank of television screens.

Referees can discreetly ask for an opinion, and a VAR can offer advice. Players, coaches and fans need not know an incident is being checked.

If an incident is formally reviewed, the referee should signal it on the field making the sign of a TV screen with his hands.

FIFA wants referees to let a phase of play continue before stopping the action for review.

If an offside is suspected, referee assistants are advised to delay raising their flag and let play unfold. A goal that stems from an offside position can be overruled, but a promising attack is lost if it was wrongly halted too soon.

The natural breaks in play after a goal is scored, a penalty kick is awarded, or a red card is shown, all allow VAR time to review the action.

WHO DECIDES?

FIFA and IFAB insist the referee on the field has ultimate authority which should not be compromised.

Therefore, the referee must have access to a TV screen near the touchline to personally review an incident.

This way, players will respect the referee for controlling his decision, FIFA refereeing chairman Pierluigi Collina said on Saturday.

MORE ACCURACY

FIFA says research from around 1,000 games in live trials shows that accuracy of decisions improved – from around 93 percent to 98.8 percent.

VAR has not entirely eliminated clear errors. However, FIFA-appointed researchers say they happen once in every 19 games instead of in every third game.

COMMUNICATING DECISIONS

Infantino acknowledged VAR “is not perfect” yet and a final protocol detailing how it should operate has not been published.

Communication between referees and teams, and to fans in stadiums, has been a problem in trials. Fans have often not known why reviews are called for, nor why they take so long.

Frustration has built because the flow of soccer also does not lend itself to review stoppages, nor can referees broadcast their decision.

FIFA knows it must give World Cup teams, fans and broadcasters more information.

However, it does not mean replaying incidents on stadium big screens during a review.

Instead, FIFA is working to publish messages quickly on the screens, technology innovations director Johannes Holzmueller said.

Only after the referee takes a final decision will a selected replay be broadcast in the stadium.

TECHNOLOGY SUPPLIERS

FIFA expects to sign contracts by mid-May with technology providers equipping the overall VAR system.

A control center for specialist VAR teams needs to be fitted out with hardware in Moscow, at the same base where international broadcasters will run their World Cup operations.

Holzmueller said a back-up room needs to be equipped at each of the 12 stadiums across Russia.

Around 15 companies have worked with FIFA in trials. A strong contender is the Hawk-Eye system from Britain widely used in tennis’ and soccer’s goal-line technology.

A separate contract will oversee communications directly linking referees to VARs. Software deals could focus on a specific detail such as on-screen graphics to calibrating the offside line.

AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

UEL Recap: Wolves earn huge road victory, and more

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Wolverhampton Wanderers has one proverbial foot back in a European competition, potentially breaking a 40-year drought for the club.

Wolves defeated Torino on the road, 3-2, in the first leg match between the two sides on Thursday at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino. Mexican international Raul Jimenez continued his red-hot form with another goal, while Diogo Jota scored as well for Wolves.

The Premier League side took the lead late in the first half thanks to an own goal, as Gleison Bremer headed in a Wolves free kick expertly into the side netting. Jota then added the second for Wolves in the 59th minute after an individual moment of brilliance from Adama Traore down the right side of the box, completely bamboozling his defender.

Torino’s Lorenzo di Silvestre answered just two minutes later off a late run into the box and a powerful header, but Jimenez then gave Wolves another two-goal advantage, as well as another crucial away goal. Jimenez ran with the ball from midfield and with Nicolas N’Koulou retreating, Jimenez took the space and scored.

Torino striker Andrea Belotti gave the Italians some late hope with a penalty kick goal in the 89th minute, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. Anything but a defeat by more than two goals for Wolves will be enough for the club to make it to the Europa League group stage.

Here’s more results from around the Europa League on Thursday afternoon:


Celtic top AIK at home

The Scottish champions appear to have brushed off the disappointment of exiting the UEFA Champions League with a solid 2-0 win at Celtic Park against AIK Solna on Thursday evening.

James Forrest scored the opener for Celtic, taking advantage of a ricochet on the edge of the box to unleash a strike that AIK goalkeeper Oscar Linner couldn’t parry away. Odsonne Edouard then put the icing on the cake with a tremendous free kick from 30-yards out to give Celtic it’s 2-0 lead.

Neil Lennon’s side then held off AIK late to secure the shutout.

Thursday’s Europa League Playoff Round first leg qualifying matches:


Astana 3-0 BATE
Ararat Armenia 2-1 F91 Dudelange
Malmo FF 3-0 Bnei Yehudah Tel Aviv
Suduva 0-0 Ferencvaros
Feyenoord 3-0 Hapoel Be’er Sheva
Ludogorets 0-0 Maribor
FC Copenhagen 2-1 Riga
AEK Athens 1-3 Trabzonspor
Legia Warsaw 0-0 Rangers

Crossroads: What if Arsenal hadn’t gone unbeaten?

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The 2003-2004 Premier League season will forever be remembered for Arsenal’s Invincibles, the first team in history to go an entire 38-game season undefeated.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

But what if they hadn’t?

On the latest episode of NBC Sports’ new series Crossroads, host Aaron West dives into the Invincible season for Arsenal, and what would have happened if Arsenal lost along the way. Of course, we know that didn’t happen, and it wasn’t until the next season against Manchester United that Arsenal’s unbeaten run of 49 games was ended.

Watch the latest episode of Crossroads above, and check out previous episodes on Manchester City and Liverpool on NBC Sports‘ Youtube Page.

 

Oxlade-Chamberlain signs contract extension at Liverpool

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While Liverpool hasn’t been busy in the transfer market, it continues to be busy upgrading its first team contracts.

The club announced on Thursday that it had signed midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to a new, undisclosed long-term contract. The BBC reported that the new contract tied Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool through 2023, after his last deal was set to expire in 2022.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League Picks]

“I’m really, really excited – it’s been in the pipeline for a little while, so it’s nice to finally get it done and just extend my time here, which I am really looking forward to,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told Liverpool’s website in a statement. “I feel like I missed out on a year, which I obviously did, so it’s really exciting for me to be able to sign. It’s something that I feel is an opportunity to give that year back and make up for lost time – and hopefully put in some good performances to make amends for not being around last year.

“You’ve got to count your blessings every time you get an opportunity like this, you don’t get the chance to play for Liverpool Football Club every day. I am really excited to be able to extend my time here.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain is finally healthy after a long, long recovery from a horrific knee injury suffered in April 2018. The England international missed out on the World Cup as well as the Champions League final, though he was able to make the field off the bench towards the end of last season, eventually making the bench for Liverpool’s Champions League victory in June.

With some injuries and fatigue to other players, Oxlade-Chamberlain made his first Premier League start in more than a year last Saturday against his former club Southampton, playing 89 minutes in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory. He also started and played the first half in Liverpool’s UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea on penalty kicks.

This deal is ultimately a good-will gesture from both sides, making up for the year lost that Oxlade-Chamberlain endured after the knee injury in the Champions League semifinal. It could take him more time, but Liverpool is certainly hoping that he can make a full recovery and come good for the Reds as it looks to win its first Premier League title, and first top league title in England since 1990.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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There are only two teams with perfect records through the opening two weeks of the new Premier League season, as there continues to be plenty of surprises.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Bournemouth 1-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Man United 3-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Tottenham 3-0 Newcastle – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM] 

Brighton 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Watford 1-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Sheffield United 1-2 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

 

Norwich City 2-2 Chelsea – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 2-1 Everton – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-2 Burnley – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM