The Roar
The Roar


Most of my World Cup wishes came true, especially VAR's success

England's Harry Kane celebrates a goal. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
9th July, 2018

With just four matches remaining, the World Cup in Russia is drawing to a dramatic conclusion.

France and Belgium lock horns early Wednesday morning Australian time and Croatia and England meet in Moscow at the same time on Thursday.

As mind-bogglingly strange as that last sentence might be to read, the unpredictability of the tournament has been refreshing. I had four wishes prior to the event.

The first was to see one more Leo Messi masterclass; something fitting and deserved for the best of the modern generation. Let’s just say that wish was far from forthcoming.

Two other wishes were granted in the most part. I had hoped, firstly, for the Lion to roar and secondly, for an emergence of some new contenders to reflect the ever decreasing distance between the traditional powers and the next tier.

Having Belgium, Croatia and England in the semi-finals, even if the French do prove their class and claim the title in a weeks’ time, was precisely for what I had hoped.

World football needs a strong England and not just as a source of motivation for every other nation on the planet. There is something special and sometimes even a little bit scary when the English fans are up and about, yet it is a positive for the game when the men in white are a threat.

England fans celebrating in the stands at the World Cup.

(Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire)

The tournament has shaken up world football and the reviews that will be undertaken in Germany, Argentina, Brazil, as well as those already underway in the Netherlands, Italy and Chile after failed qualifying campaigns, say a lot about the changing of the guard, even if it is only temporary.


The VAR loomed as a potential disaster when the decision was made to implement it in Russia. I hoped and prayed its use would not be the lasting memory of the tournament.

Goal-line technology was used in Brazil 2014, yet the step to adopt such an all-encompassing system was considerable and not met with universal approval in the wider football community.

The A-League experience provided more than enough cause for concern yet after trials in the German and Italian domestic leagues, as well as the FA and Carabao Cups, the International Football Association Board gave the tick of approval in Zurich during March.

Despite much of the early concerns, the VAR has been a success and far less obtrusive than many had feared.

The level of due diligence required to successfully implement something as potentially controversial and divisive as the VAR is enormous. Football has done as well as could be expected in that area.

Clear delineation of its powers and the scope of its application were impressively laid out. The fundamental role of the technology was to overrule any clear and obvious errors in four key areas: goals, red cards, penalties and cases of mistaken identity.

The clarity of that mandate is vital and when applied diligently, avoids unnecessary interference and intervention.

The speed at which decisions have been made has also been important in fans beginning to accept and, dare I say, believe in the VAR process. There has been little delay in most of the decisions I have seen. Mostly, the game continues as the review takes place and decisions have then been applied briskly and purposefully.


There was obviously a clear directive to the VAR officials to make decisions without excessive delay. Based on the immediate vision available, they have applied instinct and experience to the task and generally, been spot on with their decisions.

Of course there have been moments of controversy and conjecture. France escaped with three points after VAR intervened and awarded a penalty against the unlucky Socceroos early in the tournament.

Cristiano Ronaldo remained on the pitch despite many feeling the VAR missed a clear and obvious refereeing error by not dismissing him for an elbow to the face of Iranian, Morteza Pouraliganji and Brazil tabled an official document to FIFA requesting clarification of two moments from their 1-1 draw with Switzerland.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo scores his side's fourth goal during the World Cup Group B qualifying soccer match between Portugal and Faroe Islands at the Bessa Stadium in Porto, Portugal.

(AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)

Overall, the incidents have been isolated, with Group B the most significantly affected, yet any system still depending on the interpretation of a human being will never eliminate all doubt.

The A-League could learn a lot from the manner in which FIFA has overseen the system in Russia. Perhaps the quality of the officials themselves is key. The referees in the booth, obviously instructed to be clear, brisk and confident in their view, have in turn had their decisions forcefully conveyed by the on-field officials.

There has been almost an arrogance in the process and despite some players’ obvious distaste for it, the referees have appeared in control and supportive of each other’s decisions.

Domestically, A-League referees appear frantic and panicked while reviewing a moment on the sideline, no doubt intimidated by the noise emanating from the stands just metres away.


When the VAR requires a referee to undertake that process, the system appears less structured. Firm definitive decisions from the heavens work better.

Without the VAR there would have been even more discussion and conjecture on decisions made during the World Cup. Goals scored by offside players, acts of simulation rewarded with penalties and undeserved reds attributed to unlucky players and sometimes even innocent bystanders, would have provided the usual debate.

Russia 2018 has seen little of this and the debate around some of the more controversial moments proves that there is often no clear-cut or definitive truth behind it. That, I guess, is the nature of football and always will be.

It has been pleasing that most of the talk has been around the Russian fairy tale, the upsets, the English rebirth and the Croatian and Belgian dreams, rather than VAR technology.

And that is just the way it should be.