6 World Cup Incidents That VAR Would Never Have Allowed to Happen

Would VAR have blown the whistle on these football controversies?
Monday 9 July 2018
Photo: Getty Images

The introduction of VAR has stirred up some pretty heated debate around refereeing and the surveillance of the sport. Some argue for its accuracy and some protest it on the grounds that it is interruptive and unnecessary. Does it belong in professional football? Does it help or hinder The Beautiful Game? Have a look at the six incidents below and we’ll let you decide for yourself.

1. 1986 Mexico – Argentina vs England
Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘hand of God’ goal, when the Argentina international punched the ball into the net. The diminutive cocaine addict then went on to score one of the best goals the World Cup has ever seen. He was sent home from the World Cup eight years later, for violating doping regulations. VAR, unless being operated by an official from Argentina, would have spotted this one.

2. 2010 South Africa – England vs Germany
Frank Lampard puts the ball a foot and a half over the goalline, but no one sees it apart from 40,000 people in the crowd and millions watching on television. Goal-line technology would have confirmed what everyone except the two Uruguayan referees knew; that it was a goal.

3. 2006 Germany – Italy vs Australia
Italy’s Fabio Grosso won a penalty against Australia with balletic precision. VAR would have stepped in to give him marks for artistic interpretation, and then reversed the decision.

4. 2002 South Korea and Japan – Italy vs South Korea
There were some distinctly dodgy decisions made by the referee in the game between Italy and co-hosts South Korea. Francesco Totti was red-carded, somewhat harshly, and Damiano Tommasi had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside – both very poor decisions by the referee, Byron Moreno – a chubby little chap who at times could scarcely keep up with play. It’s unlikely that either of these events would have taken place had VAR been given a match ticket.

5. 2006 Germany – Croatia vs Australia
Referee Graham Poll (billed at the time as a possible referee for the Final itself) booked Croatia’s Josip Simunic in the match against Australia three times before finally sending him off – when twice is usually enough. VAR would have flagged this up on the second booking; the result may have been different, and Graham Poll may have continued his career with his reputation intact. He didn’t.

6. 1982 Spain – West Germany vs Austria
The Disgrace of Gijón, when West Germany and Austria ‘battled’ it out to a 1-0 win for the Germans, with both sides knowing that the result would have secured both nations’ progression to the next round at the expense of Algeria. West Germany scored in the 10th minute, and there was precious little of note thereafter, as both teams strolled around the field pretending to be competitive. Both teams were accused of match fixing, but FIFA insisted that they did nothing that could directly be censured. It’s difficult to imagine what VAR would have done about that had it been in existence. Abandoned the game as a theatrical farce, perhaps, but that’s probably artificial intelligence in the making.

Additional text by June See.

Related: VAR: The Tech That Will Eliminate Human Error at the World Cup