World Cup VAR Review: Why Iran Received A Penalty But Maguire Didn’t

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.

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 dislike 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’s the difference for the VAR? An important consideration is 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 as a penalty could still be awarded for the save, but the VAR will put a lot of emphasis on it.

Maguire also had his arm around Cheshmi, which the VAR also sees as a holding offense for both players.

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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ESPN FC’s Rob Dawson watches England win big against Iran in World Cup opener.

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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