The World Cup in Russia introduced the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to global audiences, as it was being used at football’s biggest tournament for the first time.
The use of the VAR system was approved in March by the rule-making body IFAB, despite controversy in some of the competitions in which it has been trialled over the time taken to make decisions and lack of information for spectators.
VAR was one of the biggest talking points in the early stages of the World Cup in Russia, with up to 335 incidents checked using VAR in the group stages.
We have always said that VAR doesn’t mean perfection – there could still be the wrong interpretation or a mistake – but I think you would agree that 99.3% is very close to perfection.
During the media referee conference after the group stage, the system was credited with improving the accuracy of match changing decisions by referees from 95% to 99.3%.
“We have always said that VAR doesn’t mean perfection – there could still be the wrong interpretation or a mistake – but I think you would agree that 99.3% is very close to perfection,” said Chairman of the FIFA Referees’ Committee Pierluigi Collina.
Reuters put together a factbox detailing five times a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) made an impact at the World Cup.
France 2-1 Australia (Group C)
France’s first game against Australia was the first time VAR was used to award a penalty at the World Cup. Antoine Griezmann was through on goal and inside the penalty area before he went down under contact from Josh Risdon.
Referee Andres Cunha allowed play to continue, but stopped the game after being alerted by the VAR. The referee checked replays on a pitch-side monitor and awarded a penalty from which Griezmann opened France’s account.
Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica (Group E)
The game was scoreless with 12 minutes remaining and Brazil were pushing for an equaliser when Neymar went to ground under a touch from Giancarlo Gonzalez, leading referee Bjorn Kuipers to award a penalty.
The VAR intervened, and the referee watched the replays and reversed his decision, marking the first time a VAR review had cancelled the award of a penalty at the World Cup.
Iran 1-1 Portugal (Group B)
Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo was fouled in the box and the referee awarded a record 19th penalty at the World Cup before the knockout rounds. Ronaldo missed his spot kick, but the decision eclipsed the previous record tally of 18 penalties awarded at the 2002 World Cup hosted by Japan and South Korea.
VAR was used on two more occasions of note in the same match – when Ronaldo was shown a yellow card for an elbow and to award Iran a penalty for handball in extra time that allowed the Asian team to level the score.
Spain 2-2 Morocco (Group B)
At nearly the same time as Iran was scoring their penalty to level with Portugal, Iago Aspas had scored a late goal to draw Spain level with Morocco, but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag for offside.
Referee Ravshan Irmatov was alerted by the VAR to check the replays and overturned the linesman’s decision and awarded the goal, sending Spain through to the knockout stages as group winners ahead of Portugal.
Sweden 1-0 Switzerland (Round of 16)
Sweden were 1-0 up and under pressure from Switzerland late in the game when they broke through the Swiss cordon and launched a quick counter-attack.
Martin Olsson was bearing down on the Swiss goal when he was fouled by Michael Lang and the referee awarded a penalty and showed Lang a red card. After consulting the VAR, the referee realised the foul had taken place outside the area and changed his decision, giving the Swedes a free kick instead.