World Cup coaches expressed a quiet confidence on Wednesday about Video Assistant Referee technology ahead of its likely adoption for this year’s showpiece event in Russia.
Representatives from the 32 teams to have qualified for the World Cup gathered in the Black Sea resort of Sochi for a briefing on how “modern life” was taking over the beautiful game.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology is expected to be given the green light by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), when the body that determines the laws of the game meets on Saturday.
VAR has been heavily promoted by world football’s governing body FIFA, despite its implementation this season in leading leagues such as the German Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A not convincing everyone.
Earlier this week, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said European football’s governing body would not introduce VAR in next season’s Champions League due to ongoing “confusion” surrounding its use.
But coaches emerging from the Sochi meeting said they were ready to ring in the changes — even if the system had not ironed out all the kinks.
“This is the new life. This is modern life,” said Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz.
“It is obvious that football cannot go on with its eyes closed to the modern world.”
– Referee mistakes –
VAR can only be used when there is doubt surrounding any of four key game-changing situations: after a goal, penalty decisions, after a straight red card or in cases of mistaken identity.
Two of the top complaints have involved VAR either being used too often and slowing down the game or — conversely — not being called on in decisive moments.
One case in England — where VAR has been trialled in the FA Cup — saw the referee given a different picture from the one shown to confused fans on television.
Some head coaches said Russia will be something of a test case about which it was premature to pass judgement.
“It’s something to improve football, we suppose,” said Uruguay’s assistant coach Celso Otero.
“I think VAR will be approved and then we will evaluate it.”
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr said FIFA’s refereeing department chief Massimo Busacca assured sceptics at Wednesday’s meeting that video replays produced fairer outcomes.
Busacca said “it was very important for the referee to make less mistakes to have the video assistant,” Rohr told AFP.
“VAR is coming to eliminate mistakes by the referee. It’s actually something that makes the game fair,” Saudi Arabia’s assistant coach Manuel Suarez agreed.
England in particular have had famous run-ins with disputed goals at the World Cup.
Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” saw Argentina through in 1986 while Germans are still smarting about a goal that helped England win their only World Cup in 1966.
Some coaches agreed that resorting to replays could result in match interruptions that break up a team’s rhythm and momentum.
“It might slow down a little bit the play,” said Egypt assistant coach Jose Fantaguzzi.
“But in general, the technology is very important for the time being.”
Yet Fantaguzzi also admitted that his squad was a little bit anxious about how it will all turn out.
“A little bit, but not that much,” Fantaguzzi said with a laugh. “We are just ready to follow the rules and prepare.”