VAR will still be the breakout star of the 2018 World Cup.
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Despite many lambasting its use during Portugal’s draw with Iran and Spain’s draw with Morocco on Monday, the simultaneous, rapid, VAR use proved why it has been a roaring success in this tournament.
The fact that so many decision were made via the video technology in such a short space of time, and getting the correct calls right on each occasion, proved how valuable it is.
Going into this tournament, we had the horrors of the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2017/18 FA Cup in our minds. From huge delays to decisions being reviewed and then incorrectly overturned, it threatened to be a nightmare this summer.
There have been no such problems so far. Touch wood.
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After the final two Group B games on Monday, 15 official decisions had been made by VAR during the 2018 World Cup. All 15 were correct.
The only problem that remains with VAR is when and where to use the technology. It is still down to the opinion of VAR officials in the booth as to whether or not there is a “clear and obvious” mistake with one of the on-field decisions. But there’s no doubt the technology is forcing defenders to change the way they try and block opponents, especially in the box.
A record 19 penalty kicks have now been awarded in the group stage of the tournament, and the likes of England and Serbia can even feel aggrieved that they haven’t been handed even more penalty kicks after their players were manhandled in the box.
Four years ago in Brazil just 13 penalty kicks were awarded in the entire tournament and, halfway through the 2018 tournament, it appears we will be heading towards at least 30-35 penalty kicks being awarded this time.
VAR’s arrival has led to extra scrutiny of the “dark arts” of defending and that is a great thing. There is, overall, more consistency with decisions and we have seen less glaring mistakes from officials in this competition. There’s no doubt about that and that, again, is a huge plus for this tournament compared to incidents like Frank Lampard‘s infamous disallowed goal in 2010 and many other instances which have marred tournaments.
The main thing which has been so pleasing about VAR at this World Cup is the speed with which it has been used.
Referees are having quick glances at replays before making their minds up and the tempo of games really hasn’t been impacted at all.
The only time where it has perhaps been dragged out a little too much was for the video analysis of Ronaldo’s elbow against Iran which was adjudged to only be worthy of a yellow card.
Nothing is perfect but VAR has proved it can be extremely useful with so much on the line.
It still needs to be tweaked. Players still need to stop calling for it at every opportunity. Fans must get use to waiting on a decision from the officials before properly losing the plot in celebration.
But, overall, there’s no doubting that VAR has worked better than anybody expected at this World Cup.
That is why it’s the breakout star.