Video reviews led to uncertainty and confusion but ultimately correct decisions as football came to grips with the technology being tested for the first time at a major international tournament.
Sunday’s two matches at the Confederations Cup produced four cases of the assistant video referee coming into play on incidents which led to goals.
Two goals were given and two disallowed for offside as a result of the video reviews.
There could be no argument with the decisions taken in the game between Portugal and Mexico in Kazan, and Cameroon and Chile in Moscow, and for that reason alone the video assistant review (VAR) could be ruled a first success.
However discussion on the merits of the system are likely to increase after the four incidents raised a number of questions and caused no little confusion.
Chief among them will concern the delay while the referee communicates with the VAR, the lack of clarity for fans in the stadium and watching on television on what exactly is being queried, and some confusion also for players, who in one case had finished their celebrations and returned to the centre circle.
The rule-making International Football Board (IFAB) had approved video assistance to be used “for clear errors in match-changing situations.” But Sunday’s offside goals were only seen as errors after close video examination, and were by no means clear for fans and players.
The delays while the VAR examined replays were a further negative aspect – the shortest for Portugal’s first disallowed goal was 56 seconds, while the longest – for Cedric’s allowed goal – 2 minutes 9 seconds.
In Moscow against Cameroon, Chile had already gone through a choreographed celebration routine and it all seemed a bit farcical as they left the pitch at half-time protesting to referee Damir Skomina after Eduardo Vargas’ goal was disallowed.
In Kazan against Mexico, Portugal had a goal disallowed for an offside position. Yet it was not related to the shot which led to the ball going into the net via Nani, but for a move before a previous shot by Cristiano Ronaldo which came back off the bar, when Pepe was adjudged offside.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos described the video review system as “a bit baffling,” and suggested it could also have been used for Mexico’s later equalizer.
The review system is being tested at the tournament after some trials elsewhere and if successful could be approved by IFAB in March in time for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Coaches and players at both games seemed willing to give the system the benefit of the doubt, but some also raised the emotional difficulties it can cause players.
“It is clear that technological aid will reflect greater justice. But today, as a negative point, I have to say that the emotional part of players with decisions being corrected, however fair, can affect the emotional aspect,” Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said.
Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal, who had led complaints on the pitch after his side’s disallowed first goal, said although the system had been explained in detail beforehand “it’s not easy to accept in the moment.”