World Cup VAR review: Hazard penalty, Neymar dive & all the major incidents at Russia 2018


VAR: Yes

Verdict: Correct decision

Eden Hazard collected the ball on the edge of the area and dribbled towards goal, before Syam Ben Youssef lunged in carelessly.

Hazard, of course, went down, and the referee pointed to the spot, despite Ben Youssef claiming that the contact was outside the box.

VAR subsequently looked at the decision, and decided that the contact did take place in the area. Hazard stepped up to score the penalty and give the Red Devils a deserved 1-0 lead.

VAR: Yes

Verdict: Correct decision

A fantastic double from Ahmed Musa saw Iceland trail Nigeria in their second game of the tournament.

Needing a miracle to keep them in the game, their prayers were seemingly answered by the almighty VAR when it intervened with less than 10 minutes left to award a penalty for Tyronne Ebuehi’s foul on Alfred Finnbogason.

Replays showed that the penalty was the right call as the striker, who netted the decisive equaliser against Argentina, had been clipped.

However, Iceland threw the chance away when Gylfi Sigurdsson sent it far off target, allowing Nigeria to move up to second in Group D.

VAR: Yes

Verdict: Correct decision

With time running out in Brazil’s clash with Costa Rica, Neymar fell over inside the penalty area and the referee initially pointed straight to the spot.

However, after a VAR review, the referee overturned his decision – much to the Paris Saint-Germain forward’s anger.

Brazil ultimately recovered from the decision to score in stoppage time via Philippe Coutinho and Neymar and triumph 2-0.

VAR: Yes

Verdict: Opinion split

Youssef Poulsen found himself at the centre of a second incident involving VAR in Denmark’s second game of the tournament, which resulted in the awarding of a penalty to Australia.

With the Danes leading the game 1-0 thanks to a Christian Eriksen volley, Poulsen was penalised for an apparent handball in the box.

While defending a set-piece, the ball hit off the RB Leipzig forward’s arm and opinion is divided as to whether he meant it or not. 

Either way, referee Antonio Mateu did not hesitate to use the video assistant and decided that it was indeed a handball worthy of punishment, giving a penalty.

Unfortunately for Denmark there was no repeat of the Peru incident, as Mile Jedinak dutifully stepped forward to accept the advantage and put the ball beyond Kasper Schmeichel’s reach, into the back of the net.

VAR: Yes

Verdict: Correct decision

There was bedlam in the Iran camp an hour into their clash with Spain, when Saeid Ezatolahi smashed past David de Gea in an apparent equaliser for the Middle-Eastern nation. The celebrations had already started, but as the scorer was mobbed by the entire Iran squad, VAR had already picked up on a marginal offside in the build-up and the goal was overruled. 

VAR: No

Verdict: Opinion split

England were leading 1-0 in their opening World Cup fixture against Tunisia before Kyle Walker seemingly brought down Fakhreddine Ben Youssef inside the box. 

The referee pointed straight to the spot without checking the VAR to make sure, and Ferjani Sassi converted to make it 1-1.

What has seemed to bring about controversy is the fact that Kane appeared to have been pulled down more aggressively than Ben Youssef in the Tunisia box moments later, with no VAR consultation or penalty given.

Even with VAR, England fans seem to think that the refereeing in the tournament has been inconsistent and that the referee should have checked it properly before giving the initial penalty – as well as failing to give the same decision for two similar courses of action.

Kane was brought down again in the second half the same manner in which Croatia got a penalty for against Nigeria, though once again VAR was not consulted.

VAR: Yes

Verdict: Correct decision

Sweden got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start against South Korea thanks to a VAR-assisted penalty and their Asian opponents can have little to complain about as it was the correct call.

When substitute Kim Min-woo appeared to scythe Viktor Claesson in the box shortly after the hour mark referee Joel Aguilar was not interested in Swedish appeals for a penalty, but the VAR cohort were soon in his ear about it. And, after reviewing the incident, he awarded the penalty.

It was the right decision and Sweden capitalised, with Andreas Granqvist converting the spot-kick to ensure three points.

VAR: No

Verdict: Correct decision

As Brazil chased victory in their opening game against Switzerland they had claims for a penalty denied and referee Cesar Ramos did not feel that there was sufficient doubt to warrant the consultation with VAR.

Gabriel Jesus went down after seeming to be impeded by Manuel Akanji in the box, but Ramos had no interest in the claims and waved play on. However, the decision was not too controversial in the end as, unlike some other incidents, replays appear to back up the official’s judgement.

Brazil’s football federation (CBF) have taken the issue up with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, though, questioning the conduct of the referee and his video assistants.

VAR: No

Verdict: Opinion split

Tournament favourites Brazil looked set for a familiar opening victory at the World Cup after Philippe Coutinho blasted them into the lead against Switzerland, but they were left reeling when the Swiss equalised in controversial fashion to claim a share of the spoils.

Defender Miranda claimed to have been shoved in the back by Switzerland’s goalscorer Steven Zuber in the build-up to the goal and the Brazilians were not shy about making their views known to referee Cesar Ramos, urging him to consult with his colleagues and the technology. However, the Mexican official was not interested in their pleas.

After the game, Brazil coach Tite was clearly irked by the non-decision, saying: “If they push the player, what can I say? There was a foul there.

“I spoke to Miranda and he said, ‘When he pushed me I should have fallen’ and I said: ‘No! Absolutely do not do that, otherwise it’s a simulation of the foul. Do not simulate anything.'”

VAR: Yes

Verdict: Correct decision

Serbia got their World Cup 2018 odyssey off to a winning start against Costa Rica thanks to Aleksandar Kolarov’s stunning free kick, but they could have finished the game with 10 men after the intervention of VAR.

Aleksandar Prijovic was barely on the pitch a few minutes when he found himself at the centre of a VAR review for striking Costa Rica’s Johnny Acosta, who threw himself to the ground in apparent pain.

Referee Malang Diedhiou asked to see the incident again and, having watched the footage briefly, returned to the pitch to sanction Prijovic with a yellow – instead of red – card.

VAR: Yes

Verdict: Correct decision

Denmark were on the receiving end of a VAR review that resulted in a penalty being awarded to Peru in their first match in Group C.

Yussuf Poulsen was the culprit as his leg touched Christian Cueva as the Peruvian was running into the box and referee Bakary Gassama barely hesitated in consulting VAR for a clearer look and awarded the spot kick.

However, things took a cruel twist for Peru as Cueva sent his penalty over the cross bar and Poulsen popped up with the winning goal to grant the Danes three points.

VAR: No

Verdict: Wrong call

Argentina got their World Cup campaign off to a disappointing start as they were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw against tournament newcomers Iceland in their opening match and there was a controversial penalty claim waved away without consulting VAR.

The Albiceleste took the lead through Sergio Aguero but were pegged back almost immediately by Alfred Finnbogason. They looked certain to move in front once more when Maxi Meza won a penalty in the second half, but Lionel Messi could not direct his spot-kick past Hannes Halldorsson.

With time running out, substitute Cristian Pavon appeared to be fouled inside the box by Birkir Saevarsson, but a second penalty was not awarded by the unmoved Szymon Marciniak, prompting disbelief among the Argentine players.

The absence of VAR in that particular incident was incorrect according to many commentators, with former England defender Gary Neville suggesting that the officials are not capable of viewing the footage quickly enough to ensure the correct call is made. 

“To me, there is a capability issue here over what we’re asking the referees in that VAR truck to do,” Neville told ITV.

“I don’t know what’s going on in those trucks, but that’s the thing they need to be transparent about and show us.

“I’m not sure they will be able to select the angles quickly enough to get the decision back to the referee before the game has been restarted.”

VAR: Yes

Verdict: Opinion split

The first-ever use of VAR at the World Cup occurred on the third day during the Group C encounter between France and Australia.

With nearly an hour played and the score locked at 0-0, Antoine Griezmann went to ground in the box following a tackle by Josh Risdon, but referee Andres Cunha wasn’t ready to award a penalty to Les Bleus until the VAR intervened to advise him that it was indeed a foul.

A number of minutes passed as Cunha reviewed the footage and overturned his initial decision before Griezmann stepped up to fire France into the lead. Soon after the penalty Australia were awarded a spot-kick themselves, which Aaron Mooy converted, but they left Kazan with nothing to show for their efforts thanks to a fortunate 80th-minute goal from Paul Pogba.

The decision to award the penalty divided opinion among players and pundits alike, with Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan suggesting that they had been “beaten by a better team and almost by technology a little bit.”

“On the replays I have seen it didn’t look conclusive,” Ryan said after the game. “You hear that technology was brought in to take out clear-cut errors and all this in the game but that’s the grey area.

“What’s a clear-cut error and what’s not? What’s conclusive and what’s not?”

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