Every VAR Review at the FIFA World Cup 2018

The FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia has drawn to a close.  The tournament was seen to be a resounding success and featured 13 result-changing goals in the 90+ minutes, the fewest red cards shown since 1978 as well as 43% of goals scored from dead-ball situations.  France ran out the eventual winners with a helping hand from the Video Assistant Referee.

VAR made it’s debut in this years tournament, before many leagues around the world, including the Premier League.  In total there were 21 VAR reviews across 64 games.  An average of 0.33 per game or 1 every 3 games.  FIFA have also released that there were 455 incidents checked, 7.1 per game.  

Of the reviews there were:

2 reviews in the knockout stages and 19 in the group stages.

8 penalties were awarded after the on-field referee had not given them originally. 

3 other penalty incidents were referred to the on-field referee but they declined not to award them.

1 penalty was overturned due to the player being in an offside position when he received the ball before the foul.

2 penalty were overturned by the on-field referee after an on-field review.

1 penalty was changed to a free-kick and 1 free-kick changed to a penalty due to the position of the offence.

2 goals were awarded after being disallowed incorrectly for offside.

2 potential red card offences caused on-field reviews, both were only deemed by the referee to warrant a yellow card.

1 yellow card was awarded to the wrong player and changed following instruction from the VAR.

Here we document every VAR Review taken by the match officials this tournament:

Saturday, June 16: France vs. Australia
History was made during France’s opening match with Australia, after the first two days went without a review.  Antoine Griezmann was through on goal when he went down under a challenge from Joshua Risdon which Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha determined not to be a penalty.  The VAR on the day, Mauro Vigliano of Argentina, saw significant evidence from the different angles of footage to come to the conclusion that there was a clear and obvious error and instructed Cunha to make an on-field review.  The first ever on-field review at a World Cup match led to a penalty being awarded to France and a caution administered to Risdon.

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Saturday, June 16: Peru vs. Denmark

On the same day Denmark were also awarded a penalty when Yussuf Poulsen was challenged by Christian Cueva. Referee Bakary Gassama didn’t initially spot the infringement but did after German VAR Felix Zwayer instructed him to look at the incident again.

Sunday, June 17: Costa Rica vs. Serbia

This game featured the first on-field review for a potential red card incident.  Serbia's Aleksandar Prijovic raised his hand and made light contact with opponent's face. French VAR Clément Turpin alerted Senegalese referee, Malang Diedhiou, to take a look at the incident.  Diedhiou decided that he didn’t believe the incident constituted violent conduct, but deemed the contact was enough to warrant a caution.  

Monday, June 18:  Sweden vs. South Korea

El Salvadorian referee, Joel Aguilar, was informed to stop play so sure was the VAR Mauro Vigliano that Aguilar had missed a clear and obvious penalty.  The incident was overturned in a matter of seconds and Sweden were awarded a penalty for a foul on Viktor Claesson.  

Tuesday, June 19: Russia vs. Egypt

The first VAR input that didn’t need an on-field review.  Enrique Caceres correctly identified that Mohamed Salah was brought down gave a free kick on the edge of the box. The VAR correctly identified that the foul continued in to the area and therefore a penalty should be awarded.  As this incident was factual rather than subjective no on-field review was necessary.

Thursday, June 21: Denmark v Australia

After initially waving away questions of a handball in the box by Denmark’s Yussuf Poulsen, Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz to take a second look once the ball went out of play after being instructed by VAR. After watching the replays he decided there was an offence and awarded a penalty to Australia.

Thursday, June 21: France vs. Peru

One of the four areas that VAR can intervene is for mistaken identity, when the wrong player is given a caution or dismissal by the on-field referee.  In this match, referee Mohammed Mohammed Abdulla initially booked Peru's Edison Flores but subsequently changed the caution to Pedro Aquino after VAR told the referee that he was the player who had fouled Nabil Fekir.

Friday, June 22: Brazil vs. Costa Rica

Many’s pre-tournament favourite for the World Cup final, Bjorn Kuipers was in charge of the Brazil vs Costa Rica match.  The Dutch referee awarded Brazil a penalty in the second half after he deemed that striker Neymar’s shirt was pulled by Giancarlo Gonzalez impeding the strikers momentum. Fellow Dutchman, Danny Makkelie was the VAR and alerted his countryman that the incident should be reviewed.  Kuipers overturned his decision, the first ever overturning of a penalty at a World Cup final due to VAR. 

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Friday, June 22: Nigeria vs. Iceland

New Zealand referee, Matthew Conger, awarded Iceland a penalty after a VAR review.  Tyronne Ebuehi challenged Alfred Finnbogason in the box and Conger initially didn’t deem the challenge to warrant a penalty.  Gylfi Sigurdsson was then guilty of missing the target leaving his side no room to get back in to the game, going down 2-0 to the Flying Eagles.

Monday, June 25: Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt

Colombian referee Wilman Roldan was the first to reject the feedback from VAR in relation to a penalty decision.  Saudi Arabia’s Ali Gabr was adjudged to have pushed Fahad Al-Muwallad over inside the area and Roldan pointed to the spot.  After an on-field review, Roldan decided to stick with his original decision.

Monday, June 25: Spain vs. Morocco

Spain qualified as top of their group thanks to a last minute equaliser from Iago Aspas.  However, this was the first goal given after an offside was incorrectly given by the assistant.  VAR looked at the incident and determined the goal should be awarded.  As per protocol the incident didn’t need an on-field review and the goal was awarded.

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Monday, June 25: Iran vs. Portugal

This match featured 3 on-field reviews, the most of any match at the tournament and definitely an anomaly when it comes to the tournament as a whole.

The first was to award a penalty to Portugal as Paraguayan referee, Enrique Caceres, originally determined that the challenge by Iran’s Saeid Ezatholahi on Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t worthy of a penalty. 

Later in that match, a potential red-card incident occurred where Cristiano Ronaldo was seen to catch Morteza Pouraliganji in the face with an arm.  Similarly to Senegalese referee, Malang Diedhiou, in the Costa Rica vs Serbia match, Caceres decided the contact wasn’t enough to equate to Violent Conduct and issues Ronaldo a yellow card.

At the same time as Iago Aspas turned in the ball against Morocco, Iran equalised from the penalty spot after a VAR review.  This meant Spain and Portugal swapped positions, with the Portuguese going through to the second round in second place.  Cedric Soares was adjudged to handle the ball in the box following a header from an Iranian attacker.  The penalty was only given after an on-field review.

Tuesday, June 26: Nigeria vs. Argentina

Another pre-tournament favourite for the final was Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir.  During this match, Marcos Rojo headed the ball in his own area straight on to his own arm.  Nigerian striker, Odion Ighalo’s protests fell on deaf ears.  However the VAR agreed with him and decided to offer Cakir the chance to review his decision.  After consulting the replays, Cakir decided there was not enough evidence to award a penalty and decided to stick with his original decision.

Wednesday, June 27: South Korea vs. Germany

This was the one game where the VAR protocol wasn’t exactly followed, but for the importance of the decision and the timing of it, the on-field review seemed to help to sell the decision.

The game was deadlocked at 0-0 and just entering into stoppage time in the second half.  Germany were heading out of the tournament when Kim Young-Gwon pocked home a close range effort.  After the ball had nestled in the net, the assistant referee raised his flag for offside. 

Although this incident was related to offside, the player was definitely in an offside position, the key decision here was who had played the ball.  Was it the German, Kroos, or a South Korean teammate.  VAR had determine it was Kroos but offered the opportunity for USA referee, Geiger, to review.  The goal was given and the game finished 2-0 to South Korea, eliminating the World Cup holders.

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Wednesday, June 27: Mexico v Sweden

The eventual World Cup final referee, Nestor Pitana was another referee to be asked by the VAR to review a penalty incident before sticking with his existing decision.  Javier Hernandez appear to handle the ball in the box which could have lead to a penalty for Sweden.  The Argentinian however decided not to overturn his original decision.

Wednesday, June 27: Switzerland vs. Costa Rica

French referee Clement Turpin awarded a penalty to Costa Rica after Ricardo Rodriguez tangled with Bryan Ruiz.  On review it became clear that Bryan Ruiz was in an offside position when he received the ball.  The penalty was overturned due to the offside, not needing an on-field review.

Thursday, June 28: Senegal vs. Colombia

This decision is one of the reasons VAR exist.  From the angle Milorad Mazic had on the challenge between Colombia’s Davison Sanchez and Senegal’s Said Mane, it looked like a clear penalty.  On review however, with different angles, it was clear to see the Colombian played the ball.  The penalty was overturned after an on-field review.

Tuesday, July 3: Sweden vs. Switzerland

With Sweden leading 1-0 in their second round match with Switzerland, Martin Olsson was clean through on goal deep into stoppage time.  As he was about to shoot, Michael Lang bowled him over.  Referee Damir Skomina correctly sent Michael Lang off for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity and proceeded to point to the spot.  As customary with all of these decisions VAR checked, and determined that the challenge occurred outside the box.  Skomina promptly awarded a free kick after performing an on-field review, the red card correctly still stood.

Sunday, July 15: France vs. Croatia

After only one review in the knockout rounds it was almost inevitable that VAR would play a part in it’s debut World Cup Final.

After a French corner, which Blaise Matuidi got a slight touch on, Ivan Perisic made contact with the ball with his hand, sparking protestations from the French players.  Within a few seconds Argenine referee, Nestor Pitana, was instructed to conduct an on-field review.  Pitana decided there was enough reason to award a penalty and Griezmann promptly put the ball in the back of the net to take a 2-1 lead in to the break.  The rest as they say is history.

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