This has been one of the craziest World Cups I’ve ever seen, and I was in Germany during their 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in 2014. That being said, this World Cup has had one glaring issue which is having an astronomical play in how these games end: that is officiating. We’ve seen it in the group stages, the Round of 16. and even now in the quarterfinals. I’m going to take a look at some of the most egregious missed calls, and how FIFA has an officiating problem on their hands.
Now here comes the fun part. I’m going to talk about the giant elephant in the room first, which is that Japan goal. For reasons unknown, per an ESPN report, the VAR decided to inexplicitly overrule the assistant official’s decision and determined the ball in the build-up play was inbounds. ESPN goes on to say that:
A photograph from a camera level with the goal-line appears to prove a small amount of the ball was overhanging the line. That would give the VAR the proof he needs to overturn the on-field decision and award a goal.
A visual representation of what it feels like to lose your parlay on the last leg pic.twitter.com/rcGfyYwxjF— br_betting (@br_betting) December 1, 2022
As you can see in the tweet above, there is simply zero way to determine that there was definitive proof to overrule the side-judge that the ball was not indeed out of bounds. Apart from goal-line technology and the tracking chip in the Adidas World Cup Balls, there is no active technology to help officials determine whether or not a ball has definitively crossed the line out of play. Whether or not this is that official photo remains to be seen, but it is credited to an AP reporter. So if this truly is the photo, that just creates more questions. Heck, even the Fox Sports group had top weigh in:
"Can't overturn it. Japan is in. It is what it is."@stuholden, @clint_dempsey, & @AlexiLalas discuss Japan's controversial goal ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/NcR8NpiCLC— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 1, 2022
While I get Dempsey saying “You cant overturn it,” that doesn't excuse the reality that it was inconclusive, yet overturned by the Assistant and knocked Germany out.
That’s the first major and utmost imperative problem to fix for FIFA regarding VAR: Overruling decisions without following their own rules. I know some will say this was in, and there are some (like myself) who believe it was out. The problem therein, lies in the fact that there are multiple analytical determinations on that photo and they all lack definitive and without a doubt proof. Yet, for reasons still unknown, the VAR official decided to overrule the assistant official. They then failed to report the image and the information until at least an hour after the event occurred. Therein lies the next VAR problem: Their lack of communication with fans.
When they made the ruling, they provided zero evidence to support their claim. It wasn't until at least an hour post-event that the photo started surfacing, in which VAR used to make their determination. I’m not sure about you, but that sounds like a major problem especially for the World Cup.
Let’s not forget about the absurd ruling during the Belgium-Croatia game as well. FIFA has a problem when they’re ruling players offside by body parts that they cannot even use to score a goal. I mean, seriously? This is the ruling to completely offside a penalty for Croatia?
The VAR view of the offside call ruled against Croatia ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/84KOA9CmxO— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 1, 2022
I’d like someone to in all seriousness explain how this is offside on Croatia. When watching the video of the play it becomes even worse. And once again, this ruling was made and dramatically impacted not only the game, but the tournament as well. Croatia had every right to be upset after being justifiably robbed of a penalty in the early stages of their clinching match.
Continuing on to the insane Argentina-Netherlands game in the Quarter Finals, the official for that match, Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz, had one of the singular worst officiating performances I have ever seen. There is so much to unpack in this game it might take a while, but I’m going to look at the two most clear missed calls which ultimately gave Argentina a 4-3 Penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands. The first one is simple: Lionel Messi should have been given a double yellow and should have been off the field even before extra-time. For reasons unknown, this was not given as a yellow card even though it is about as egregious of a hand-ball as I’ve seen all tournament:
No yellow card was given to Messi after this handball pic.twitter.com/6IMetwkqwY— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 9, 2022
Of course it’s not given because it’s Lionel Messi. The problem is, however, that the same referee already set the tone by giving a yellow card for an eerily similar handball on the Dutch earlier in the game. That’s also not to mention he gave out an absurd 15 yellow cards, the most ever in a World Cup game. His inability to serve double-yellows and red’s proved to be the ultimate decider in a game where Argentina was able to clearly benefit from. Another moment of pure incompetence from Antonio Lahouz is the moment where Leandro Paredes not only chopped down Nathan Aké, but also intentionally ripped the ball directly at the Dutch bench. Both of those events individually constituted a yellow card, yet somehow Paredes was inexplicably not sent off:
OH MY— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 9, 2022
Things are HEATED between Argentina and Netherlands pic.twitter.com/7NXz93ts8x
Argentina eventually won on penalties but it is a fair — and even legitimate — question to ask if Argentina would have made it to penalties after being down a man for the entirety of extra time; or even advance considering one of the penalties was from Messi, who should have been sent off prior. As a neutral, the World Cup and football in general is better when officials don’t dictate the game, but at this tournament, apparently these officials haven't gotten that memo. FIFA has a problem, and one that is lacking any clear solution.