Spoiling the World Cup with replays – New York Daily News – New York Daily News

The world’s most watched sporting event is highlighting how technology is draining the human spirit. It was not long ago that we watched the World Cup to celebrate glorious moments as they happened. There was a flow and a finality to critical plays. We took this simpler time for granted as Video-Assisted-Replay (VAR) has led us to express joy or agony over the determinations of unseen officials.
Until recently, offside calls were the domain of the line judge, who made on-spot decisions as best they could. They could not be expected to see minute violations and the game was better through having a call made and moving on. Now, we often see magnificent efforts leading to goals only to learn the official has been sent a signal for offside, often painfully into the celebration for a wondrous score (and well into Andrés Cantor’s signature gooooaaaallll call).
France’s Antoine Griezmann, top, and England’s Jude Bellingham battle for the ball during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between England and France, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (Abbie Parr/AP)
Still, these reviews are quicker than the true scourge of VAR — using it to gift penalties for borderline violations that rightly went uncalled. Despite purportedly having to show a non-call was “clear and obvious error,” some referees choose to make history-altering decisions for technical violations that could go either way.
In this World Cup, Uruguay missed the knockout round due to losing a tie-breaker to South Korea. They would have advanced but for letting in a single goal attributable to a controversial VAR review near the end of Uruguay’s first game against Portugal and La Celeste likely would have given Brazil a better game in the Round of 16. Lionel Messi was also awarded an awful VAR penalty against Poland for flopping after the goalie’s hand brushed his face after Messi missed a header.
Most importantly, VAR led to the greatest of injustices in the finals of the last World Cup four years ago. The hero for France was referee Néstor Pitana, who, upon review, faulted Ivan Perišić for a handball after a corner kick harmlessly brushed his arm when the midfielder’s arm was not far off his body. FIFA rules permitted the ref discretion to find Perišić‘s arms were in a natural position for a jumping player and cheap penalties are never the way to win a World Cup.
For generations the nature of soccer was 45 minutes of near-uninterrupted action per half. Now, there are unnatural breaks with players meandering around while a VAR crew accesses video and then a referee runs over to a monitor. It has gotten so pronounced that refs are commonly awarding around 10 minutes of extra time per half.
Additionally, as athletes continue to play on after incidents that could generate review, as happened multiple times when England fell to France, the game devolves into a soccer “no-man’s land” where half the players are yelling for review and fans have no idea if they are watching action that counts. The game has become intolerably confusing. That many English fans are now lamenting how VAR should have rescued them on multiple occasions (instead of the fact they couldn’t generate a single goal from beyond the spot) informs how the game is losing the purity of true sport.
Losing the moment should not be undervalued. For example, instead of celebrating the moment Eric Choupo-Moting brought Cameroon from two goals back to tie Serbia, which normally would have unleashed a fury both on and beyond the pitch, the Cameroonian players’ response was muted until the goal was confirmed. Admittedly, VAR did restore Cameroon’s second goal, a beautiful lob by Vincent Aboubakar, but for what it gets right — too much is lost.
The best play of the Cup thus far has been when Japan’s Kaoru Mitoma saved a ball by the skin of its teeth from going over the end line with a breathtaking slide that led to a goal which sent Germany home. Unfortunately, the greatest tension of the match was created by the review, not the anticipation or enjoyment of any actual play. Instead of focusing on o jogo bonito, we now find ourselves praying video review goes our team’s way.
Outside the penalty box, the game continues much as it once was. There is a natural flow and a trust that referee errors even out over the course of play. And critical errors continue to be made with respect to who gets a throw-in, which team gets a corner or goal kick, and on foul calls, where players remain prone to embellish minor contact like they were wounded on the battlefield. Overall, it is better to acknowledge errors are a natural part of everyday life rather than impose a VAR system with a tendency to “discover” discretionary penalties.
Strockyj, who despite his complaints, will never miss a minute of the World Cup.
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News


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