Use VAR at the World Cup?

This is the first World Cup where VAR will be used

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A view from a-VAR in the 2018 World Cup

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

How different the 2010 World Cup could have been for England, if video assistant referees (VAR) were around back then.

The Three Lions were facing Germany in the last 16, and they were trailing 2-1. And then Frank Lampard fired a shot that bounced off the crossbar and clearly crossed the line by at least a yard in the 39th minute. Jorge Larrionda chose not to award the goal, and after being denied the equaliser, England were defeated 4-1.

Despite denying him a potentially important goal eight years ago, Lampard is not a fan of the technology, claiming that football has "not got it nailed down yet". Whether or not football is ready for VAR, it will be used in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But what actually is VAR, and how is it used in the beautiful game?

Goal.com defines a video assistant referee as a team of three people - the video assistant referee, their assistant and a replay operator - who "work together to review certain decisions made by the main referee by watching video replays of the relevant incidents". The referee on the pitch can either ask to review the footage on a decision, or the VAR can recommend it; the referee can either choose to stick with their decision, review the footage or overturn the call on the VAR's advice.

VAR is currently used for four "match-changing incidents": the award of goals; penalty or no penalty; direct red cards (not for second yellow cards); and cases of mistaken identity.

The use of the technology, and officials overseeing it, has been slowly introduced into major football tournaments, including the Confederations Cup, the international competition held in Russia last year. The VAR system is used in domestic football leagues around the world, including Italy's Serie A, Germany's Bundesliga, and the MLS in the United States. It has also been used in English competitions such as the FA Cup and the League Cup.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has defended the use of VAR in the World Cup, say he is confident it will prove a positive addition to the tournament - despite some of the controversies around its impact on games.

He said: "Nothing is standing in the way of using VARs [at the World Cup], as far as I’m concerned. So far it has been successful. We are learning, we are improving, we are continuing the tests.

"Without the VARs, we would have had a different tournament. And a tournament which would have been a little less fair."

Infantino added: "We are going to have our first World Cup with video assisted refereeing. This has been adopted and approved and we are extremely happy with that decision.

"It's a decision based on the trials that were carried out in over a thousand matches in the last two years that provide us with guarantees and concrete facts that VAR definitely helps referees.

"It will help to have a more transparent and fairer sport which is what we want because the referee has his work cut out for him already and sometimes he can make mistakes - like any human being - and if we can help him to correct some of these mistakes, let's do so."

The 2018 World Cup kicks off on Thursday when hosts Russia face Saudi Arabia in Group A (K.O. 4pm). The opening game will be available to watch on ITV. You can find all of the World Cup fixtures here.

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