10 major World Cup injustices that VAR would have changed

Sol Campbell, Argentina 1998

From the yellow card of God to straight red cards, Amit Katwala on how World Cup history would be different if VAR had been available in the past

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In January 2018, FIFA announced that it will be using video assistant replays during this summer’s World Cup in Russia. The history of the tournament would be very different if VAR had always been an option – maybe England would have even won it a few more times. Or perhaps not...

The yellow card of God

Argentina vs England, 1986

Diego Maradona’s little punch past Peter Shilton to put Argentina ahead in the 1986 quarter-finals is a prime example of the kind of injustice that VAR is designed to stop. As England players harangue the referee, a match official in the bowels of the Azteca stadium signals to the man in the middle that a review is worthy. The goal is ruled out, El Diego gets booked and maybe – just maybe – England’s defenders have their heads in a better place to stop that slaloming, swaying run four minutes later.

Fifty-two years of hurt

England vs West Germany, 1966

In 1996, after 30 years of hurt, football scientists at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London calculated that England’s third goal in the 1966 World Cup final did not cross the line.

England had been applying the pressure in extra time after Germany’s late equaliser, with Bobby Charlton hitting the post five minutes into the added period. But if Geoff Hurst’s controversial strike had been ruled, the whole momentum of the match in extra time may have shifted. But that’s a ridiculous argument.

Home bias

Italy/Spain vs South Korea, 2002

Fans expecting VAR to fix every single decision are going to be disappointed. But it might help mitigate some of the pressure referees feel when they’re in a stadium where pretty much everyone wants the home side to win.

That’s one explanation for a series of baffling decisions that helped South Korea reach the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, when they co-hosted the tournament and knocked out Italy and then Spain in dubious circumstances. The referee of the Italy game, Ecuadorian Byron Moreno, was later given two domestic bans for crooked refereeing – so maybe VAR won’t solve everything.

Nige gets the chop

Holland vs Spain, 2010

The usually flawless Howard Webb cites not sending off Nigel de Jong for his karate kick on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final as his biggest regret. Getting extra angles on the incident would have certainly livened up what was a painfully dull showpiece occasion (is the VAR allowed to add comic book-style sound effects)?

Of course, Spain won in the end anyway, so a red card for the Dutchman probably wouldn’t have affected the result too much – although it would have saved us all a lot of time.

Sol scores the winner

Argentina vs England, 1998

That mad night in Saint-Etienne had enough VAR-worthy incidents to fill its own list feature. Perhaps David Beckham’s petulant flick at Diego Simeone would have been deemed a yellow rather than a red on a repeat viewing. Then there’s Sol Campbell’s disallowed goal – when what should have been a late winner was chalked off for reasons that remain clear only to Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen.