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Of VAR and its controversies

  • Published at 07:01 pm June 28th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:08 pm June 30th, 2018
Neymar reacts during their World Cup Group E match against Costa Rica in Saint Petersburg in June

The Video Assistant Referee, commonly known as the VAR, is currently one of the hottest talking points in the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.

The system where the on-field referee takes help from video in order to overcome confusing calls and provide “minimum interference for maximum benefit” has had a major impact on the greatest show on earth.

With that said, a few decisions based on the system have sparked a lot of controversy in the group stage matches, scheduled to come to an end Thursday night.

The World Cup has already witnessed heated exchanges over debatable decisions made by the referee based on VAR and it is anticipated that the temperature is only going to increase in the knockout stage, starting Saturday.

With the last 16 stage beginning in a couple of days’ time, we take a look at some debates and controversies triggered by the VAR in the group stage matches.

In their highly-anticipated Group D clash, Nigeria had come back strong through a penalty after conceding a brilliant goal from talismanic Argentine captain Lionel Messi.

The game was evenly poised at 1-1 when Nigeria thought they would get their second penalty of the game when Argentina’s Manchester United left-back Marcos Rojo headed the ball onto his arm inside the d-box in the 77th minute.

Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo appealed for a spot-kick straightaway following which Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir went to take assistance from VAR.

The replays clearly showed that the ball had touched Rojo’s hand but the referee did not award a penalty and evidently believed Rojo’s handball was not intentional.

A few days ago, Portugal were facing Iran when a similar situation occurred. Portuguese right-back Cedric Soares was at his job when Iran attacked through a cross into the box.

Soares tried to clear the delivery with a header only for the ball to end up kissing his hand. Paraguayan referee Enrique Caceres took help from the VAR and subsequently awarded a penalty to Iran.

Iran scored to earn an unlikely draw against Portugal, even though many felt Soares was unlucky to be penalised.

Two separate games on different days – almost identical situations but totally different interepretations by the officials.

Nigerian captain John Obi-Mikel refused to let the issue die down after the full time whistle, telling reporters, “It was a clear penalty for me. The referee looked at the VAR. He said it hit the hand. I asked why he didn't give the penalty, but he said he didn't know."

Back to the Iran-Portugal tie, Real Madrid sensation Cristiano Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure after missing a penalty. While chasing a ball, Ronaldo flung his arm towards the head of Iran defender Morteza Pouraliganji, who was attempting to hold him back.

The Iranian fell to the ground and the VAR had deemed the offence to be worthy of a yellow card. However, many felt it was a red card offence and that Ronaldo got away easily.

Despite the controversies, the system has also had a positive spin on proceedings.

On Friday, five-time champion Brazil were facing Costa Rica in a vital Group E match.

The Selecao were struggling when their golden boy Neymar, well known for making a meal of a challenge, fell theatrically to the floor inside the Los Ticos d-box after a slight tug of his shirt.

The referee, who was only a few yards away, gave away to Neymar’s claims and pointed to the spot. But soon the Costa Ricans appealed for VAR, the referee duly obliged and the truth was revealed. The touch on Neymar was not even good enough to knock off a boy, let alone a grown-up.

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