It’s mentioned in every single game this World Cup.
Whether in the commentary, the punditry, or just generally in the pub or walking past a stranger in the street – people won’t shut up about it.
I’m fed up of how it dominates every post-match conversation. It’s here, it’s being tried, I get it.
But I think what frustrates me most, is that we go between instances of VAR being a huge success, to instances of it being ridiculous, to instances of subjectivity clouding everybody’s judgement.
So in each of today’s match analysis, let’s decide – is it VARy good, or VARy bad?
(I’m so sorry).
Brazil played Costa Rica in the early game today, knowing that they needed a result if they were not to end up in trouble. Costa Rica held them and withstood the pressure for ninety minutes.
Unfortunately for them, they didn’t withstand it for ninety-one, and Coutinho powered the ball into the net. The win was confirmed a few minutes later by a second from Neymar, a goal which left him in tears post-match.
VARy good – Why? Because the referee awarded a penalty to Neymar. On first look, honestly, it looked like a penalty. But replays showed that it probably wasn’t. This means the first look of the referee would have, understandably, led to the wrong decision – but with a review of VAR, the decision was reversed, and the penalty taken away. There was a question of whether Neymar dived, but he didn’t – it just wasn’t a penalty.
This is exactly what VAR was meant for. Perfect.
Based on their previous games – Nigeria being lacklustre and Iceland immensely defensive – this match didn’t promise much. As it was, the second half exploded with two Nigeria goals that showed that the African side did feel the passion that they, perhaps, didn’t show in their first game.
Iceland did all they could, even getting a penalty – but it wasn’t their day, as Sigurdson skied it over the bar. Nigeria needed this, even if my accumulator didn’t.
VARy good – At first, the penalty looked debatable. Upon review it was obvious. VAR worked well here to clear that up and ensure the right decision was made.
This was a cracker of a game. Serbia and Switzerland are not two counties you associate with rich World Cup history – but once you look at the team sheet, you can see it’s going to be a good one, especially with what either team acquiring 0, 1 or 3 points could do the group.
Mitrovic put Serbia ahead after four minutes, a player who helped Fulham on their way to the Premier League this season, and nearly half an hour through the Swiss keeper makes what looks like the save of the tournament. The Swiss equalise soon after half time with a cracker from Xhaka.
The Serbians are denied a penalty (come to this in a moment), leaving Shaqiri to score the winner for the Swiss in the 89th minute, picking up a stupid yellow card for removing his shirt.
VARy bad – absolutely bizarre, this. Two players literally have hold of Mitrovic in the box and drag him to the ground, then, somehow, the foul is given against Mitrovic. This is such a clear and obvious error, being such a blatant penalty, that I do not understand how the VAR referee did not fervently encourage the referee to look at this.
I mean, how on earth did the referee give this as a defensive free kick, and how on earth was this not flagged up?
Following this, the Swiss grab the winner, whereas Serbia could have had the winner should the penalty have been awarded. These are the fine margins qualification to the next round are resting upon.
Probably one of the most bizarre decisions of the World Cup so far.
So, at the end of the tournament, will we be having a VARty, or will we be running VAR away?
(Again, I’m so sorry.)