FIFA Hails VAR Success at Russia World Cup

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(WFI) FIFA says stats from 48 games point to success of the Video Assistant Referee system debuting at the World Cup.
Pierluigi Collina and Director of FIFA Refereeing Massimo Busacca address media (FIFA)

At a briefing in Moscow on Friday, FIFA Referees' Committee chairman Pierluigi Collina underscored the importance of VAR in guiding refereeing decisions at the Russia World Cup; it’s the first time the technology has been used at the quadrennial tournament.

A total of 335 incidents have been checked in the 48 group stage games completed over the last 15 days – 99.3 percent were correct with the aid of VAR; 14 decisions were changed after reviews.

All 122 goals scored to date have been checked. There were 17 VAR reviews – 14 conducted on the pitch by the referee going to view incidents on monitors and three by video assistant referees on factual decisions.

Arguably the most controversial VAR decision was when Iran were awarded a penalty against Portugal after Cedric Soares was adjudged to have handled the ball after a video review. Most pundits and fans believed it was a harsh decision. Iran scored the injury-time spot-kick and drew 1-1, costing Portugal top spot and pitching them against Uruguay in the round of 16.

At a separate briefing Friday at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, Russia 2018 CEO Alexey Sorokin and FIFA’s chief competitions and events officer Colin Smith reported on operational aspects of World Cup.

Russia 2018 CEO Alexey Sorokin (FIFA)
FIFA said 2,700 doping tests had been carried out from January to June with no violations so far. World football’s governing body was unable to give any figures about the number of doping tests conducted during the World Cup but said all 736 players had been tested at least once before or during the group phase, with four players tested per match.

FIFA said 2.2 million fans had attended matches so far. Officials remarked on the 1.6 million Fan IDs issued. A total of 874,000, the largest proportion, were sent to Russian citizens. Chinese nationals got 61,000, US citizens 50,000, with Mexico fans getting 43,000, reported news agency TASS. More than 700,000 foreign football fans visited Russia.

FIFA said 130 million fans have visited and the official app during the World Cup. A total of 5 million people have enjoyed FIFA Fan Fests around the 11 Russian host cities.

“We have showed to the world that we welcome any fans from any country,” Sorokin told reporters.

“The atmosphere has been truly hospitable. There are many stories from real life that show that Russians have really been helping this to be a fantastic show. This hospitality is something we have in our blood. You cannot organise this in an artificial way, you cannot impose this on people,” he said.

Russia are the lowest ranked team in the tournament and have surprised fans and the media alike after finishing runners-up in Group A behind Uruguay. They will play Spain in the round of 16 on Sunday.

“We are happy that Russia made the knockout phase, but we are not that surprised because they have been preparing for that for many months,” Sorokin added.

FIFA’s spokesman said the federation was delighted with the “very positive feedback from all of our stakeholders”.

“There is a lot of work to be done still. Credit goes to the whole team: the LOC, the cities and the regions for looking after everyone so well. I have seen first-hand the hospitality, the accommodation, the passion, the enthusiasm for hosting the World Cup here,” Smith said.

“I think it has been fantastic to see all these nationalities grouping together and enjoying themselves. A huge shout-out to all the fans. They have been fantastic, and we know this will continue right through the final.”

By INSIDER Mark Bisson

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