Football players must be constantly monitored in the VAR zone
Qatar 2022 matches will be played in the VAR zone. For the second time in a FIFA World Cup (following the 2018 Russia World Cup), the Video Assistant Referee technology will be used to track goals, assess penalties awarded, identify players who receive a yellow card and check serious fouls resulting in red cards. Twelve cameras placed under the stadium roof will be used every match, to record the movement of the match ball which has a sensor chip inside to relay data constantly.
Players will be under constant surveillance, not only by designated match officials, but the 12 cameras designed for VAR will focus on every footballer on the pitch, 28 points on his body. This new technology, which tracks all limbs of the player’s body, will be used in the semi-automatic offside decisions for the first time in World Cup action. There is no place to hide from the cunning players, who try to gain unfair advantage via fouls away from the referee’s view, with or without the ball.
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The World Cup matches of late have been characterized by vicious mistakes. Uruguay’s maverick striker Luis Suarez biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder during Brazil 2014 was one such low point. The referee did not spot the dastardly act, Suarez escaping without warning despite the Italian’s appeal. VAR would have nailed the player the moment his mouth made contact with the Italian’s shoulder as both went for the ball.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee later looked at match footage, and banned Suarez for nine international matches. He was also told to stay away from all football for four months, plus a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs. The Uruguayan’s action was a result of frustration at his struggle to make an impact on the World Cup stage, having returned to the squad following knee surgery. Uruguay won 1-0 to advance to the knockouts, Italy exited.
Suarez was left out of the next World Cup match and was sent home in shame. He moved from Liverpool FC to FC Barcelona then and trained alone, as access to football stadiums or pitches was blocked by FIFA. After six successful seasons with FCB (2014-2020), he moved to La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid in 2022 and is currently with Uruguayan club Nacional. He is back on the World Cup stage for Qatar 2022, a veteran of 35 trying to revive the old flair in the goal mouth.
The VAR technology that captures pitch action will create some freedom for ball players across teams to express themselves with incredible skills. Rivals in defensive positions will be wary of rushing into tackles or resorting to fouls against such particular footballers, for fear of being spotted by cameras. The pace of the football World Cup is so high that for the maestros, 12 cameras tracking all players can be an ally and savior against ruthless rivals.
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For a pure genius like the late Diego Maradona (three World Cup appearances in Spain 1982, Mexico 1986, Italy 1990), VAR in use then would have saved from being hacked down repeatedly. The defenders didn’t mind risking a warning from the referee or even a yellow card to subdue the burly Argentine, credited with the ‘Goal of the Century’ at Mexico’s Azteca stadium. He dribbled past five England players and goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score in a 2-1 victory, leaving his opponents in a daze.
The wonder goal was the culmination of 11 touches by the Argentine captain on the ball. Earlier in the same match, his first goal in the 51st minute against England would have been disallowed for handball if VAR cameras were in use then in favor of Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser to refer. Maradona sprang up as if to shape his head, his outstretched left arm guiding the ball past a stunned Shilton, the No.10 going on a celebratory run.
England players protested, Nasser stood by his decision and the ‘Hand of God’ goal stood. In another era, such a cunning move would have been caught by Var cameras zooming down onto the pitch from the stadium roof, the referee would have warned the Argentina goalscorer with a caution or yellow card for cheating. England would be awarded a free-kick from the spot where the horrific handshake occurred. Maradona came home with the trophy. The disputed goal decision stands.
The two goals in a 2-1 win for Argentina when the score should have been 1-1 in reality represent black and white shades of a 25-year-old maestro, cunning in goal and stylish with the ball at his feet. Undeterred by the outcry over a “Hand of God” goal as Maradona described it tongue in cheek, Argentina went from strength to strength, driven by a talismanic captain, to be crowned champions.
He was present in the VIP cabinet for Russia 2018, watching VAR in use for the first time at the World Cup. Maradona died aged 60 last year due to serious health issues, his larger-than-life presence will be missed at Qatar 2022 as Argentina take to the field for Group C matches against Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland. Lionel Messi is the driving force for the Argentinians this time around, playing in the VAR zone and hoping for the protection of referees to work his magic.
Messi played the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in Argentine blue and white colours, with Maradona as national coach in the dugout. Messi’s teammates at French club Paris Saint Germain (PSG), Neymar and Kylian Mbappe representing Brazil and France respectively in Qatar, are familiar faces who will be heavily marked in the rival half and will rely on a network of cameras focused on them for protection from ugly bugs.
France were the first recipients of VAR use in a World Cup final for the first time in the tournament’s history. Referee Nestor Pitana missed Croatia’s Ivan Perisic handling the ball in an attempt to clear after a dead-ball situation at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. In response to French players pointing out the handball, the referee checked the off-field screen and awarded France a penalty. Antoine Griezmann converted and France went on to win
title match 4-2. The French return to Qatar 2022 as defending champions.
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