FIFA have finally confirmed the use of VAR technology at this year’s World Cup, while Russia have lost a key player for the World Cup.
FIFA GREEN-LIGHTS VAR FOR WORLD CUP
Video assistant referee technology (VAR) will make its debut at the World Cup in Russia this summer despite lingering opposition from within and outside football, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Friday.
“We are going to have in 2018, for the first time, a World Cup with VAR,” said Infantino after a meeting of the FIFA Council which, as expected, rubber-stamped the go-ahead given by the rule-making International Football Association Board (IFAB) in Zurich two weeks ago.
“This has been approved and we are really very happy with this decision.” The World Cup, which takes place from June 14-July 15, will see VAR used to judge whether or not a goal has been scored, analyse whether a penalty should be awarded, decide on red cards and rectify if a player has been mistakenly sanctioned.
“What we want is to help and to give the referee the possibility to have extra help when he has to make important decisions, and in a World Cup we make very important decisions,” added Infantino.
“It cannot be possible that in 2018 everybody, in the stadium or at home, knows in a few seconds if the referee has made a mistake but not the referee himself — not because he doesn’t want to know about it but because we forbid him to know.
“The VAR is helping the referee and we are going to have a more transparent and fairer game, and that’s what we want.” VAR has been trialled since 2016 by 20 federations, including the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A, with around 1,000 matches involved.
But it has not been universally welcomed with even UEFA, the European governing body, still to be convinced.
“Nobody knows exactly how VAR will work. There is already a lot of confusion,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who insists that VAR will not be used in next season’s Champions League.
“I am not at all against it but we must better explain when it will be used. We will see at the World Cup.” One of the problems that dogs VAR, say its critics, is not the accuracy of its decisions but the time it takes to arrive at them.
It’s a drawback which has left many fans and purists frustrated that the flow of a game is interrupted.
“The intervention of VAR takes one minute on average in each game. If we lose a minute to correct mistakes, I think we have done something good,” said Infantino earlier this week on a visit to Lima.
However, Colombia coach Luis Fernando Suarez added in an interview with AFP: “It seems hurried to me. I think we should do other trials in other tournaments, analyse them well, and then put it in place.” Suarez, who led Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and Honduras in 2014 in Brazil, remains a fan in general of the use of technology in football, which he has witnessed close up.
That came in the 2014 tournament when his Honduras team played France in Porto Alegre when the first goal decided through GLT (goal-line technology) was awarded to France.
“It’s good and necessary that there are changes but it’s essential that we don’t lose the essence of football,” added Suarez.
30-YEAR IRAQ BAN LIFTED
Meanwhile, FIFA said it was lifting the three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football with the cities of Arbil, Basra and Karbala given the go-ahead to stage official matches.
“We are allowing international matches to be staged in the cities of Arbil, Basra and Karbala,” said Infantino However, FIFA added that they cannot “yet” agree to a request from the Iraqi authorities to organise matches in the capital of Baghdad.
Iraq has not played full internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The ban, covering all but domestic matches, stayed in place after the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
It was briefly lifted in 2012, but a power outage during an Iraq-Jordan match in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil led FIFA to promptly reinstate it.
The FIFA Council also decided that Peru will host the 2019 Under-17 World Cup with Poland staging the Under-20 tournament
RUSSIA LOSE KOKORIN
Russia striker Alexander Kokorin is expected to miss the World Cup in his home country because of a serious knee injury.
Kokorin’s club team, Zenit St. Petersburg, said he tore the cruciate ligaments in his right knee in the opening minutes of a Europa League last-16 game against Leipzig on Thursday. He was carried off on a motorized cart in the eighth minute. The game finished 1-1 and Zenit lost 3-2 on aggregate. Kokorin will fly to Rome for further medical treatment, including likely surgery, Zenit said.
It’s the third serious knee injury this year for a Russian national team player after defenders Viktor Vasin and Georgy Dzhikiya both suffered injuries likely to rule them out of the World Cup.
“Every month this year we get unpleasant news about serious injuries to key players,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said. “Our job is to do our best to compensate these losses and prepare well for the World Cup.” The 26-year-old Kokorin has played 48 games for Russia, scoring 12 goals, and his absence leaves FC Krasnodar’s Fyodor Smolov as Russia’s likely top striker for the tournament. Kokorin is the joint second highest-scoring player in the Russian Premier League season with 10 goals for Roberto Mancini’s Zenit, behind only Smolov with 12.
Russia plays Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay in the group stage of the tournament, which starts June 14.
Kokorin briefly fell out of favor with the Russian national team when he and midfielder Pavel Mamaev were filmed partying with champagne in Monaco shortly after Russia’s group-stage exit from the 2016 European Championships. Mamaev has not played for Russia since, and Kokorin was not picked for the Confederations Cup last summer, which he said came as a wake-up call that he needed to work harder.
Kokorin was also reported to have an uneasy relationship with Cherchesov after he and fellow forward Artyom Dzyuba posted a picture online showing him holding a hand over his top lip in apparent imitation of the Russia coach’s moustache.