Since its first appearance on the football field, VAR has been often criticized for many reasons. They include creating additional confusion, ousting a human factor, and numerous technical difficulties. Thanks to it, referees have made many wrong moves, so let’s refresh in mind the most controversial VAR decisions.
VAR (or video assistant referee) is a video repeat system that uses video footage to allow referees to clarify controversial moments of the football game. It was first introduced in a friendly match between PSV and Eindhoven in 2016 with the first official usage in 2018. This and several other live trials of the system showed it as a useful assistant that aims to avoid biased refereeing and mistakes caused by a referee’s human factor. However, despite the FIFA support and a series of successful usage in World Cup 2018, VAR is not perfect.
The VAR system is often criticized for many reasons. The most popular of them are creations of unnecessary confusion that often result in unfair decisions. Also, many football fans do not like VAR due to failures to consider the human factor among players; that’s why human judgment is still necessary. Finally, it can be useless in case of technical difficulties: e.g. once a fan’s flag obscured the VAR camera and made the reviewing impossible. All this leads to VAR controversies, so let’s list the 5 biggest among them.
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Most controversial VAR decisions: Argentina v Brazil 2019
One of the latest and most headline-making issues with VAR touched upon the Copa America match between Argentina and Brazil. Their semi-final game in 2019 became a matter of discussion thanks primarily to Lionel Messi’s harsh criticism. Football fans knew Messi as one of the most humble players, so seeing him furious meant that something has been wrong there.
During the last 20 minutes of the match, the two most controversial VAR decisions took place. The first one was about a penalty that should have taken place after Sergio Aguero ran onto a Messi pass before tumbling over Dani Alves in the penalty zone. According to Leo, there should have been a penalty, but there was none. As a result, Roberto Firmino scored the 2nd goal. The second issue touched upon Arthur, who shouldered Nicolas Otamendi but was given no card.
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The VAR system failed in the Portugal v Iran match in 2018
The other picks among the most controversial VAR decisions took place during the World Cup in 2018. Before we mention them, check Bet365 Sportsbook to bet on upcoming 2020/21 football competitions as betting is already available. So, FIFA’s World Cup was one of the first cases of VAR usage in non-friendly matches and one of its biggest matters of discussion. Like the Copa America match between Argentina and Brazil, this case also had two quite controversial VAR moments.
The first one involved Cristiano Ronaldo and Morteza Pouraliganji’s clash. The Iranian player accidentally hit Ronaldo and made him go down, but the referee didn’t initially give a penalty. Another case included Iran awarded a penalty after a handball against Cedric Soares. As a result, the match ended with a 1-1 total score.
3 UCL matches are among the most controversial VAR decisions
Following online gambling sites in the UK, at once three most controversial VAR decisions took place during the 2018/19 UCL. It is not surprising as it was the first season with the VAR system usage, so everyone had to get accustomed to it. So, what are the three Champions League matches with quite debatable results?
Man City v Tottenham
Two VAR moments influenced the outcome of the Man City v Tottenham match in the 2019 UCL. One of them touched upon Fernando Llorente’s goal that made it 4-3 for Tottenham. The player seemingly touched the ball with his hand before scoring, but the referee and his assistant allowed the goal.
Another moment affected the final result. Raheem Sterling scored his hat-trick and made it 4-4, but the video repeat showed he was offside. Many fans still think that the outcome of that match should have been different.
Real Madrid v Ajax
During the 2018/19 Champions League, Ajax managed to kick Real Madrid out of the competition winning 5-3 in two matches. However, one of the goals of the Dutch was at risk of cancellation as the referee suspected that the goal might have gone out of play. This made fans furious as many wanted to see 13-time champions out of the UCL.
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Man Utd v PSG
One of the most controversial VAR decisions of the 2019 Champions League touched upon a Man Utd penalty. During the last minutes of the game, Diogo Dalot kicked the ball right onto Presnel Kimpembe’s hand. The referee’s decision after watching the video repeat was clear: a penalty. This made PSG fans and players furious with Neymar raging the most. He called the referees “guys who know nothing about football” and insisted that the PSG player was standing with his back to the ball and could do nothing with it.
Read our best football referees ranking to learn who did their job at the highest level without using the VAR system.