Monday, October 19, 2020

Another view on VAR

 I recently watched Everton-Liverpool in the Premier League. In the dying seconds of the match, with the score 2-2, Liverpool scored a goal that would give them the victory in a well-played match. After celebrations and comments, the referee cancelled the goal, based on a VAR decision that Sadio Mane (who made the pass for the goal by Jordan Henderson) was in an off-side position.

In the reviews they showed on TV it was incredibly difficult to see that Sadio Mane was anything but in line with the defenders, and it appears impossible to refute or agree that one part of his body was a few millimeters ahead any of the defenders. In real life it will have been impossible for a referee or linesman to see, and I doubt any Everton players would have complained for a goal given; nobody would have reviewed the goal!

Maybe it was off side. But that is in my view not the point of the VAR. It is to review when the referee "has made a clear and obvious error". When the VAR referees sit in their little room and want to review errors that are not "clear and obvious", they are not adding value to the quality or justice of the game, but rather contributing just another layer to controversial decisions. 

I am not against VAR. But it should be used with a caution that the people who make decisions do not seem to understand. The point is not to make football error-proof, because it never will be, but rather to reduce the worst and most controversial decisions: a clear off-side goal; a player's dive; a hand-goal; doubt on crossing the line. Besides this, there is a problem in who decides: the entire decision process of the VAR should be entirely in the hands of the referee that is no the pitch. He or she should alone decide whether to ask for a VAR review and should be alone making a decision based on VAR for those situation that he or she considers difficult, and in off-side situation it should happen in consultutation with the linesman. The VAR referees should not be able to decide after the fact.

I know this will return pressure on the referee; the same pressure that there was before the the advent of VAR. But VAR should be a tool for the referee; just like his or her cards, the whistle or the linesmen, but if it is not a tool, it becomes just another layer of football bureaucracy to the detriment of what is best for the game.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

England-Denmark 0-1

To defeat England at Wembley will always be special, so of course Denmark's 0-1 victory for Kasper Hjulmand's team must be qualified as a great result. That said, it was lucky. When England was putting the most pressure on the Danes two events changed the match: Harry Maguire was shown his second yellow card after only 31 minutes, and Christian Eriksen's penalty goal after 35 minutes. While both yellow cards for Maguire were correct after dangerous late tackles, the penalty call by the Spanish referee remains more controversial; a duel between Kyle Walker and Thomas Delaney did not appear as much more than a soft scuffle, and was in my view a penalty at all.

These two situations changed the gameplan, and the English side never really recovered despite the fact that they created some good chances in the second half (worth mentioning is a spectacular save by Kasper Schmeichel) and the Danes seemed under too much pressure by the ten England players. But in the end the Danes carried through their victory; a lucky victory, but a victory nevertheless.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The lack of VAR controversy

 When Denmark defeated Iceland in last night's Nations League match, there was no VAR. Denmark's first goal would have needed it: After a corner kick goalkeeper Hannes Halldorson saved a header into Runar Mar Sigurjonsson, rebounding the ball into the net as Halldorson desperately pushed it out. But the referee decided that the ball had crossed the line and Denmark was in the lead.

In the TV pictures it is not easy to get a final answer, and this is one of the situations that will pass on to the pantheon of controversial decisions in the absence of VAR. Although I an unashamedly biased towards Denmark, I have serious doubts that the ball crossed the line in its totality, why the otherwise deserved Danish victory is slightly tarnished by the lack of VAR!

Danish renewal

Last night I watched Denmark defeat Iceland 0-3 in Iceland in the UEFA Nations League. This is the first competitive match victory since taking over as Danish manager in July 2020 in replacement of Åge Hareide. Hjulmand's opening match was a National League match against Belgium, losing 0-2 at home, in what was Denmark's first defeat for two years. This did not matter much though, as Belgium is by far the better side. Denmark then tied England 0-0, before last night's victory.

The victory puts Denmark firmly in third place behind England and Belgium, while Iceland appears set for relegation. But Hjulmand, who is an manager who gives chances to young and interesting players, will still be tested in two competitive matches against England and Belgium respectively, and which will be the real tests for the Danish team.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Luis Suarez circus

Luis Suarez has always, no matter what you think about him, been a great footballer. And he has also been prone to scandals. As FC Barcelona is renewing under Ronald Koeman, the Uruguayan striker was not to be found in the plans, so in first instance it was reported that Suarez was signing for Juventus, which was surely to be an interesting pairing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. But in what was a truly bizarre turn of events, Luis Suarez did not sign for the Italian side: as he needed a European nationality he applied for Italian citizenship, and in what appears a truly odd turn of events, Suarez has been accused of cheating in order to speed up the paperwork application. If it is true, Suarez would really appear as an entitled rich footballer who can bypass what so many others struggle to achieve, although one has to wonder about Juventus (who appeared to backtrack on the signing) and University of Peruggia, where the exam was administered.

So after this entire circus, Luis Suarez has joined a new circus: namely Diego Simeone's Atlético Madrid side, a team where Suarez experience, skills and passion will fit in well. In his debut against Granada, Suarez came on for Diego Costa 20 minutes before the end, and scored twice, showing that it might be another interest season ahead for the traveling entertainment that is Luis Suarez.