Why have the matches in the 2022 World Cup been so long?
We are still in the early stages of the 2022 World Cup, but a theme has already emerged that has characterized several of the matches that have taken place in Qatar so far.
In all four matches to take place in the tournament on Sunday and Monday, extended periods of injury time were added at the end of both halves, to the point where each of these matches lasted more than 100 minutes in total, well over the regular 90.
Fans were quick to note the unusual amount of injury time awarded by officials, particularly during England’s opening Group B game against Iran, which saw a mammoth total of 27 minutes of added time over both halves.
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Qatar 0-2 Ecuador (100 minutes, 18 seconds)
There were clear hints that something strange was afoot in the first match of the 2022 World Cup when hosts Qatar took on Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium. The opener saw about five extra minutes added on at the end of both halves – mainly due to an early VAR check that disallowed a goal in the first half and a few minor stoppages in the second.
The referees decide injury time. pic.twitter.com/ZaKOzyNhgQ
— Jonny Sharples (@JonnyGabriel) 21 November 2022
England 6-2 Iran (117:16)
Things then escalated in the second game of the tournament after a nasty injury to Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand saw the player undergo an extended concussion test on the field before being substituted, leading to 14:08 of stoppage time being added to the first half.
Just to top it off, a further (but thankfully less serious) head injury suffered by Harry Maguire after the interval allied to a host of substitutions saw a further 13:08 of stoppage time added to the end of the second half.
The long delay also allowed Mehdi Taremi to score a series of late consolation goals for Iran, the second of which (at 102:30) was the last goal not scored in extra time in a World Cup since 1996. The final whistle was then. sounded immediately afterwards, bringing to a belated end the longest World Cup game since 1966 (as far back as reliable records are kept) not to go to extra time.
After a rather lackluster first half, the second half of the Netherlands’ opener against Senegal dragged out until 10:03 of normal time, just long enough for the Dutch to pull out the win with a pair of late goals.
While Cody Gakpo’s 84th-minute opener came in normal time, Davy Klaasen’s ridiculously late second (98:17) is now second only to Taremi’s penalty against England in the last World Cup goals not to be added time.
I think we can now be sure that FIFA’s plan to tackle time wasting and keep the ball in play for longer is just to add BLOODY LOTS OF INJURY TIME.
— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) 21 November 2022
While only four minutes of stoppage time were added to the first half, a full nine extra minutes were signaled by the referees at the end of a grueling second half. Still, the actual game was 10:34, making the period the third-longest half of football in the 2022 World Cup so far.
Gareth Bale was already flying the flag when he smashed home Wales’ equalizer from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute, but had to play on for almost 20 more minutes from that point until the final whistle.
Unsurprisingly, the LAFC star cut an annoyed figure after the final whistle after admitting that he and his compatriots had started to feel “a bit tired” towards the end of the protracted encounter.
“I can’t believe nine minutes were added, I don’t know where it came from,” Bale told ITV postmatch. “But we have to dig deep for our country, we always do and we will continue.”
you: they should increase the ball-in-play time, we are being robbed
FIFA: check out this cool injury timeout!
you: this is wrong, the number 100 does not belong in our game
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) 21 November 2022
So the first four games in Qatar have shared almost 65 minutes of extra time between them, due to a litany of different stoppages.
Of course, the longest delays seen during England’s win over Iran were mainly a consequence of concussions and suspected concussions suffered by Beiranvand and Maguire. Overall, however, the longer periods of extra time signaled by officials at the 2022 World Cup are part of a concerted effort by FIFA to minimize time-wasting during games.
The purpose is to monitor the amount of time a given match is stopped for more accurately, with the same “wasted” time then added back onto the clock at the end of each inning.
Speaking to ESPN’s The Gab and Juls Show, Pierluigi Collina, former World Cup referee and current chairman of FIFA’s Referees Committee, clarified both the rationale and in-game mechanics of the new anti-time-wasting regulations – regulations that were first formulated for the 2018 finals in Russia.
“When we talk about wasted time in a match, we should make a difference between the time that is wasted because of the game, and the time that is wasted intentionally by players. The biggest part is wasted time because of the match, Collina said.
“What we already did in Russia, you may remember, is to more accurately calculate the time compensated at the end of each round. We told everyone, don’t be surprised, because you will see the fourth official raise the electronic board with a big number on it: six, seven, eight minutes.”
The 62-year-old Italian explained that, on average, many minutes are “lost” just by players going through routine actions such as taking throw-ins and goal kicks. Then, in an attempt to make up for lost time, the required “active time” will be added at the end of each round.
“Think of a game where there are three goals in one half,” added Collina. “The celebration usually takes one, one and a half minutes. So with three goals to score, you basically lose five, six minutes.
“So what we really want to do is accurately calculate the time to be added at the end of each lap.”
He also confirmed that any further time lost during VAR checks would be calculated by the fourth official on duty and communicated to the referee during the match.
“The time lost to VAR is calculated by the video assistant referee in a very sharp, precise way. It will be the fourth official who usually suggests how much time should be added and the referee decides.”
So while the extra long matches early in the group stages may have surprised the viewing world, they are perhaps something we all have to get used to.