How could VAR have affected previous World Cups?

One of the most divisive topics in modern football is the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Some love it, some loathe it, many are somewhere between the two.

The arguments for and against the very existence of VAR and its implementation can be discussed until the cows come home, but the bottom line is that many goals or events would have been officiated differently with VAR.

Everyone can think of at least one time where their team was treated unfairly by the officials before VAR came into the game. Offside goals were a weekly occurrence and unfair/missed red cards were a constant debate.

Seeing your club treated unfairly is one thing, but for many, the worst thing is for an incorrect officiating decision to cost your country in a World Cup. It’s happened before, and there are times where VAR almost certainly would have stepped in for the better. For the record, calls that would have been changed with goal-line technology are also included as that came in as part of the same thought process as VAR.

We at 90min have picked out five World Cup moments that would have been different with VAR in play.

Manuel Neuer

Replays showed the ball was well over the line / Cameron Spencer/GettyImages

We had to start here, just to get it out of the system. England were facing Germany in the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, having just scraped through a group containing Slovenia, the USA and Algeria.

Starting poorly, England were 2-0 down pretty sharpish against the Germans. Matthew Upson then headed a goal back and soon after, Frank Lampard hit a half-volley from the edge of the box that smashed the underside of the bar and bounced over the line before being clawed out by Manuel Neuer.

Play continued with England stunned and replays showed the ball was well over the line. The Three Lions never recovered and were beaten by a good German side 4-1. With goal-line technology and/or VAR in place, England would have gotten back to 2-2 and the game may have progressed differently.

Byron Moreno, Christian Vieri, Paolo Maldini

The Italian players were left enraged by Byron Moreno / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

The Round of 16 match between joint 2002 hosts South Korea and tournament hopefuls Italy was full of controversy – and the Italians have definitely not forgotten.

Christian Vieri had made it 1-0 to the Azzurri but referee Byron Moreno was about to steal all of the headlines. He refused to punish South Korea for a constant run of fouls, and gave them a penalty that should never have been given, although Gianluigi Buffon did save it.

The great Francesco Totti was then booked for an identical incident to one that Vieri was not booked for. Later, Alessandro Del Piero was elbowed in the face deliberately in the box. With VAR, it was a penalty and a red card, but with Moreno, nothing.

After Paolo Maldini had been kicked in the head, which didn’t warrant a stop in play, Totti was shown a second yellow card for a dive in the box that would definitely have been worth a second look. To round things off, Damiano Tommasi had a golden goal ruled out for an offside that looked extremely tight and may well have gone the other way with VAR.

Incidentally, Moreno was suspended for match-fixing by the Ecuadorian FA later on in 2002. In 2010, he was caught smuggling six kilos of cocaine through JFK airport in his underwear. Make of that what you will.

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona always divided opinion / El Grafico/GettyImages

This is one of the most infamous moments in World Cup history and will remain as such for many, many decades. There is little to explain with this action from the late great Diego Maradona.

In the quarter-final of Mexico 86′, Maradona opened the scoring for Argentina as he got on the end of a cross with his hand just above his head, which guided the ball over Peter Shilton. Poor Peter never really got over it. Maradona claimed that the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

He (perhaps) evened things out as in the same game he scored after a wonderful solo run that only he could have produced and Argentina progressed to the semi-final. It barely needs to be mentioned that had VAR been in use, they may well have spotted a handball in the build-up.

Diego Armando Maradona, Edgardo Codesal

There were plenty of cards shown in Rome / Franco Origlia/GettyImages

The Italia ’90 final proved to be much less of a spectacle than the average fan may hope for from the culmination of a World Cup. When Argentina took on West Germany in Rome, there was very little to separate the two sides who were hardly entertaining the masses in the Stadio Olimpico.

With five minutes left to play though, Rudi Voller was felled in the box although it certainly looked like a dive. The protests from the Argentines led to two players being sent off.

Andreas Brehme stepped up and dispatched the penalty, leading West Germany to win the tournament. All Diego Maradona could do at full-time was cry.

Geoff Hurst

Geoff Hurst’s extra-time double clinched victory for England / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

If we’re going to start on Frank Lampard’s ghost goal, it is only fair to end on the 1966 final at the old Wembley.

The game was 2-2 in extra-time when Geoff Hurst unleashed a vicious shot that, just like Lampard’s, smashed the underside of the bar and hit the goal line. It was given as a goal and the England stars wheeled away in celebration before Hurst added another to make sure of the result late on.

Replays showed that it had in fact not gone over the line and had the technology been in place, England may not have the solitary gold star on the shirt.