World Cup VAR Review: Every decision in Qatar analyzed

We analyze every VAR decision made across all 64 games at the 2022 World Cup.

After each game we take a look at the key incidents to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.

Schedule, Result & Bracket: Daily World Cup schedule

total rollovers: 6
Rejected rollovers: 1

Lead to goals: 2
Lead to invalid destinations: 3
Penalties imposed: 3 (1 missed)
~ to hold: 2
Goals excluded for offside: 3


VAR correction: Havertz goal disallowed for offside

What happened: Kai Havertz thought he had scored a second goal for Germany against Japan in first-half injury time when he tapped a Serge Gnabry shot from a few yards.

VAR decision: Offside, goal disallowed.

VAR Review: Havertz was well ahead of the last defender, but would have been on the side if he had been behind the ball.

Unfortunately for Germany, the Chelsea striker leaned in front of the ball and the goal was correctly disallowed by offside VAR, US official Kathryn Nesbitt.


VAR rollover: Penalty for a foul by Moreno on Lewandowski

What happened: The game came in the 54th minute when Robert Lewandowski went down in the box while struggling with Mexican defender Hector Moreno for a through ball. Australian referee Christopher Beath dismissed calls for a penalty.

VAR decision: Penalty missed by Lewandowski.

VAR Review: Certainly a clearer penalty for VAR, Shaun Evans, than others we’ve seen at this World Cup so far, as Moreno had grabbed the Polish striker’s jersey and also fouled him trying to put his left foot over the opposition.

Moreno only received a yellow card as there shouldn’t be a red card to prevent an obvious scoring opportunity when the player misses a penalty but tries to play the ball. If the penalty had only been awarded for the stripping of a shirt, it would have been a case of a red card. However, some would argue that Moreno barely had a chance to play the ball.

The penalty was saved by Guillermo Ochoa, the VAR checked that the Mexican goalkeeper had one foot on the line when Lewandowski took the ball away. Grzegorz Krychowiak followed and didn’t intervene, so the goal would have stood if he hadn’t botched his shot.


VAR overthrow denied: handball by Meriah

What happened: In the 93rd minute, Denmark won a corner and the ball hit Yassine Meriah before clearing from the box. The VAR has initiated a review for handball.

VAR decision: No penalty, review denied for another foul in progress.

VAR Review: Full marks for Mexicans Referee Cesar Ramos, who dismissed VAR Fernando Guerrero’s advice to award a penalty for handball when he saw Denmark’s Mathias Jensen had knocked down Taha Yassine Khenissi as the corner came.

All options are open to the referee on the monitor and if he sees an attacking offense prior to the incident reported by the VAR, he has the right to penalize the first offense.

The game had lasted a minute and Denmark had a corner when the referee was sent on the monitor; The game restarted with a free kick for Tunisia after Jensen’s foul. In a quirk of VAR protocol, had Denmark scored in the minute before the VAR review, the goal would have been favorably considered played; Jensen’s foul would never have been picked up on or counted as a foul before a goal was scored.

On the handball itself, although the ball bounced off Meriah’s body first before hitting the defender’s hand, a penalty kick can still be awarded. Distraction from the body does not automatically nullify a possible handball offense. If the arm is away from the body, it can still be penalized with a deviation. But in this case, the referee decided to award the foul against Jensen, which came before the handball.


play

2:30

Dale Johnson explains some of the refereeing decisions in Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia at the World Cup.

VAR Overturn: Penalty for Abdulhamid’s foul on Paredes

What happened: A corner was played into the box after just six minutes, easily claimed by Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais, but there was a VAR penalty check.

VAR decision: Penalty scored by Lionel Messi.

VAR Review: FIFA said ahead of the tournament that jostling in the penalty area would be punished more regularly, but the decision to give Argentina a penalty because Saud Abdulhamid held off Leandro Paredes appeared to be another soft decision. It doesn’t really fit the mantra that VAR should be “minimal intervention for maximum benefit”.

Which brings us back to the other incident in the England v Iran game when Harry Maguire failed to score a penalty. The crucial difference was that the England defender also had his arm around Roozbeh Cheshmi, which is why the VAR didn’t interfere. In the case of Saudi Arabia, the only involvement came from Abdulhamid.

It is difficult for fans to understand how these incidents can be treated differently when there is no explanation or VAR audio to provide clarity. But if that’s the base level, there will be a lot of VAR penalties at this World Cup.

VAR Overturn: Offside against Martinez

What happened: Lautaro Martinez scored a second goal for Argentina in the 27th minute, or so he thought.

VAR decision: No goal, offside.

VAR Review: With FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology making faster and more accurate decisions, it didn’t take long for Martinez’s goal to be disallowed. The Argentine striker leaned in front of the last defender who went unnoticed by the assistant referee.

It was tight but the players can play the ball and score with their upper arm, so not allowing the goal was right.

There were two more Argentine goals in the first half disallowed for offside, another against Martinez and one for Messi, correctly marked by the assistant.


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1:29

Dale Johnson explains VAR’s decision to award Iran a penalty while England were previously denied a penalty over a similar incident.

VAR Overturn: Penalty for Stones foul on Pouraliganji

What happened: In the 10th minute of added time, Iran were awarded a free kick, which was swung into the penalty area but fizzled out. But the VAR, Uruguayan referee Leodan Gonzalez, considered a possible penalty.

VAR decision: Penalty scored by Mehdi Taremi.

VAR Review: It’s the kind of decision that fans really don’t like at VAR, as it stems from a seemingly inconsequential incident – especially when a more obvious event early in the game didn’t result in VAR’s intervention.

When the free-kick was played into the penalty area, Morteza Pouraliganji tried to challenge the ball but his shirt was pulled by John Stones. It was a small move and it is questionable whether it affected the Iranian defender.

But in the first half, Harry Maguire appeared to be wrestled to the ground by Roozbeh Cheshmi.

So what is the difference for the VAR? Most importantly, Maguire also had his arm around Cheshmi, which is also factored in by the VAR as both players holding offense. That was the key.

Another consideration may be whether an attacking player will be prevented from struggling for the ball; ergo, without the challenge, would he have had a chance to play the ball? It’s not the only factor and FIFA seems to give less importance to this aspect, but the VAR could take that into account.

In the case of Maguire, it was assumed that the ball was not within close range of play despite Cheshmi’s holding offense. Therefore, the Englishman was not prevented from competing from the ball.

At Pouraliganji, the ball was crossed in close proximity to him, meaning Stones’ shirt pull prevented the opponent from struggling for the ball.

Referee Raphael Claus watched the incident on the monitor for a long time and decided to take VAR’s advice. No one will want such minor infractions to be penalized throughout the tournament. Is it really clear and obvious?


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1:25

Dale Johnson explains why Ecuador were ruled out in confusing circumstances in their World Cup opener against Qatar.

VAR correction: Valencia goal ruled out for offside

What happened: In the third minute, Ecuador thought they were ahead against hosts Qatar through Enner Valencia, but there was an extended offside control.

VAR decision: Gate not allowed.

VAR Review: That was the right decision, although it was not at all clear to the fans and it took some time before the 3D visualization was shown.

As the free-kick was played into the box, Ecuador defender Felix Torres challenged Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb. The ball fell to Michael Estrada, who headed it back to Torres for Valencia’s goal.

However, when Torres touched the ball (the direction it flies, forward or backward is irrelevant), Estrada had one foot ahead of the penultimate defender, who was Abdelkarim Hassan.

The check took longer than a normal offside check because offside VAR Tomasz Listkiewicz needed to be sure the ball came from Torres. Without that, Estrada would not have been sidelined.

Al-Sheeb’s touch before the ball came off Torres’ head is irrelevant to the decision for offside – the phase for any other player’s offside position is determined by Torres’ touch. It is also immaterial whether an attacking player wants to play the ball the way he did.

The added confusion comes from Estrada being covered by Torres and Al-Sheeb and another defender closer to goal. Of course, fans are looking for the last defender, which can be misleading when the goalkeeper is further up. Two opposing players must stand between the attacker and the goal, usually the goalkeeper and a defender. In this situation there was only one defender in front of Estrada; Al-Sheeb wasn’t even the penultimate defender in this instance, but Hassan (who was also locked out of sight by Torres and Al-Sheeb).

It was actually a very easy and clear decision for offside after Torres’ touch was confirmed, with Estrada clearly ahead of Hassan, but there was ambiguity about it for too long. Even with FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology, the time to educate fans needs to be improved.

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