On Shakespearian VAR, Scouting Missions & Dog Whistles

It shows the mindset of some when the performances of Morocco and Iran are pushed into the background. The haste with which VAR ‘decisions’ are pushed into the headlines says much about the way football is reported today. A match is secondary.

Not for today’s headline writers and scribes how Iran spurned a late opportunity to dump Portugal out of the competition; this morning is about how the referees made decisions after VAR’s intervention.

There are several issues which VAR highlights. Firstly, the amount of guesswork in offside decisions; there were still arguments about whether a shoulder can be kept onside by a toe. Did VAR put a ruler against the screen to work out whether Iago Aspas was offside? When they told the referee, did they update Shakespeare? “For I mine own gained knowledge shows ONSIDE!”…

We then come to how poorly referees are making their initial decisions. Ronaldo being Ronaldo was given a free pass for a snide little haymaker, delivered with the effectiveness of dried grass. Yellow card for delivery, red for intent. The latter was the decision; the former the coward’s way out. Not for Señor Caceres the notoriety of dismissing the Goateed One.

As for the penalty given to Iran after review. Quite rightly, Caceres is receiving flak. While I celebrate the equaliser for the bloodied nose it dished out to Portugal, but honestly, if that was handball, I’m a Dutchman’s uncle – meet my nephew Johan, he’ll be writing this week. Why did the previously esteemed referee change his mind on such a weak moment?

The upshot of it all is that the worst possible combination for the knockout phase as Uruguay face Portugal. Two of the least adventurous teams ever to be labelled ‘Dark Horses’ meet and are ready to bore everyone to tears.

Spellcheck Didn’t Like It

It’s another opportunity to scout Lucas Torreira, about whom we are all suddenly becoming experts. Those ears though. I didn’t take a close look but maybe they flap while he runs, giving the Uruguayan the impression of floating across the pitch.

He was very industrious in yesterday’s heat. Russia were disappointing compared to their previous performances but that has more to do with finding their level, which is somewhere between Egypt and Uruguay. Quite a wide gap, I think. That Spain prefer to meet Russia says it all.

Today, Argentina’s World Cup reaches make or break point. Just like Germany, there’s a feeling that Messitina will do enough to qualify. Unless Iceland take full advantage of Croatia’s already confirmed presence in the knockout stage. Will VAR intervene to wreck or save Messitina?

In the other group, Granit Xhaka, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Tubs Shaqiri will move around the pitch much faster after FIFA, without any self-awareness or sense of irony, took some pounds from them for failing to honour sporting integrity. I’ll leave that one there for you to ponder.

Will Neymar get to sob his heart out on the pitch after the final whistle today? A Serbia victory is too delicious to think about. And also too far-fetched although there is also the prospect of Germany playing Brazil in the Round of Sixteen which will mess with FIFA’s seeding system.

Elsewhere, the staggering level of sexism in English football surfaced when former talentless Chelsea defender decided that his radio show needed some publicity. Jason Cundy, for that is how you spell his name not otherwise, thought women’s voices were too high-pitched for football commentary. Thought is obviously used in the loosest definition of the word.

Aside from the rampant sexism, we learned Cundy must have real problems around dog whistles.

Still Plenty of Work to Do

I don’t care if he apologised afterwards, there’s no place for his retarded view of women’s place in football. Why is everything about a female tempered with ‘so long as she knows her stuff’. Plenty of male commentators and journalists, not to forget bloggers, make a living from the sport without knowing anything about football. Why is it suddenly beholden on women to know their stuff? Jesus wept people; this is 2018, not 1818.

While we’re on the subject, with the growing number of female assistants and referees, how come none are on the FIFA list? Football commentary maybe the litmus test for how far football has come, but the governing body is the one which shows how much work there is still to do in promoting equality.

’til Tomorrow.

59 thoughts on “On Shakespearian VAR, Scouting Missions & Dog Whistles

  1. Cundy is a yobbish moron. He and Goldstein run an appalling show. He is deeply biased against Arsenal and is an unreconstructed Chelsea fan. Since TalkShite developed the concept of host neutrality went by the board as it generates listeners- of a certain type.
    I’m delighted he has been castigated for such pathetic remarks

  2. Its no surprise that the only decent 20 mins of football for Egypt were when elneny got subbed. This is a truly shocking player and we are unlucky to have him. I’d bet my house that if the Egypt manager dropped him against the Saudis they’d have won.

  3. Excellent stuff Yogi. Reminds me of the Neanderthals who are not on Sky but now cozy at BeIN who denigrated the lineswoman. Notably the PL still has not had a woman referee a match and there are hardly any women (or ethnic/racial minorities) referees in the football league. Quite atrocious this little boys club. So it isn’t surprising we see that other bastion of mediocrity and typically all male preserve of commentary and punditry resistant to change as well.

  4. Dukey,

    He has been really underwhelming and frankly unimpressive for Egypt this WC. I expected him to be much better. It is another reason I do hope we are adding to midfield besides Torreira.

  5. Of all the players that we have seen over the years at arsenal, none excite Duke as much as elneny!

  6. consolsbob,

    Its only to try to wind me up….Elneny and Brasil seem to be his methods, then I remind him he supports the partying like they won the World Cup after beating Tunisia, England side and he tries to get me banned 😂

  7. I get Egypt were horrid but by far the most disapppinting side have been Poland….expected to win their group and anybody who has watched them has watched some absolutely dreadful futbol for a side that has quite a few outfield players playing in the CL and Europa; please don’t get me started on how disappointing Lewandowski has been.

    Anyways, we have seen plenty of WC Champions start off poorly in the group stages and then build and peak at the end. Didn’t Italy tie all matches in a group stage one time then lifted the trophy?

  8. Great post yogi.

    VAR is not perfect and there will be some growing pains but for the sake of integrity of the game we need to use whatever technological methods we can to help the ref get the correct answer. The biggest problem for VAR that can’t be solved is the nebulous rules of the game. The best written rules should be black and white with no room for creative interpretation but in football 2 reasonable people can watch the exact same play and 1 will believe it’s a foul or a penalty and the other will not. It brings randomness to the decision making process that unfortunately nothing can fix. However how can it be acceptable when we know with certainty that about 1/2 of the close offsides calls are wrong and not infrequently offsides calls that are not even close are missed.

  9. Dukey:
    Its no surprise that the only decent 20 mins of football for Egypt were when elneny got subbed. This is a truly shocking player and we are unlucky to have him. I’d bet my house that if the Egypt manager dropped him against the Saudis they’d have won.

    That is a bit over the top but I agree that Elneny is not the sort of player who should potentially be in a position to play regular minutes on a team whose ambition is supposed to be competing for the top of the table and regularly playing in the CL.

  10. Surely Brazil are the biggest disappointment so far? Unbeaten in qualifying, unbeatable the rest of the time; playing like Stoke City in these finals.

  11. Limestonegunner:

    He has been really underwhelming and frankly unimpressive for Egypt this WC.I expected him to be much better.It is another reason I do hope we are adding to midfield besides Torreira.

    I watched 2 of Elneny’s games and he played exactly the way he does for Arsenal. The idea that he is a highly talented and potentially influential player who has been under utilized and is just waiting for the right manager or right situation is wishful thinking at best. IMO.

  12. Totally agree. Philip Neville has been nicking a living as a pundit, a coach and a player for years.

    VAR is certainly making the World Cup interesting. And the reporting on sites like the BBC is absolutely hilarious. Why do they refer to every VAR decision as controversial, even when they are clearly spot on? Obviously VAR decisions are going to be contested by the team they are given against when they are on the pitch, they don’t have the benefit of seeing the replays. In most cases they probably look at the event after the game and think, “fair enough”. There have also been some bizarre interpretations of the replay as well and I don’t really see how the ref or the VAR team can ever have come to the decision they have.

    In the games where I consider myself a neutral (all those not involving England) the use of VAR has made things hugely entertaining and have turned what could have been a dull World Cup into an interesting tournament. I’d be interested to see what the scores would have been if the ref’s original decision in all of these events would have stood.

  13. Cundy – what year is this, indeed. There seems no end to the persons determined to turn the clock back to “the good old days” when we all knew our place. Some of the best players I’ve played with have been female. Always great to see the blokes who can’t take it when they turn them.

  14. Oh come on c, I only sent Yogi an email stating i wanted to start a petition to get you band for a week or two !!

  15. Bill,

    I agree about VAR: we need it for the integrity of the sport, we need to remove some of the ambiguity in the rules, and, as the Portugal game shows, refs need to be prevented from using their “discretion” to bottle it.

  16. Football is the only sport that I know of where a players intent is taken into consideration as part of the decision process when interpreting the rules. Only God can read minds and how can a ref be expected to figure out a players intention when he has to make a split second decision on a play he does not always have the best angle to see. Its utterly impossible for any ref to be consistent.

  17. Bill,

    It is difficult but I think some consideration of this sort is necessary for handballs because once wingers get a whiff that the ref will penalize anything that strikes a hand, they start aimimg for them. Any defender will tell you that they are inadvertently struck on the hand all the time. It’s different if the hand is stuck out or waved around in the air.

  18. Woolwich Freddie,

    Exactly what I thought. We’ll start seeing clever flicks towards hards and instantly all players running at the ref claiming to look at VAR and from what we’ve seen they’ll be given.

  19. Woolwich Freddie:

    It is difficult but I think some consideration of this sort is necessary for handballs because once wingers get a whiff that the ref will penalize anything that strikes a hand, they start aimimg for them. Any defender will tell you that they are inadvertently struck on the hand all the time. It’s different if the hand is stuck out or waved around in the air.

    I agree, I don’t think there is a good answer for the question of handball and there is always going to be some inconsistency and VAR can’t fix that.

  20. C,

    I agree Poland really take the booby prize for failure. Will they even score this tournament?!

  21. YW,

    I didn’t think they have been playing like Stoke City. Take Neymar’s antics and dwelling on the ball and there have been periods of sustained flowing attacking threat and flair. They have dominated possession, even if in the first game they ween’t Incisive with it. Players like Marcelo, Coutinho, Douglas Costa, Jesus, Firmino playing some creative good technical stuff. I believe that they may have underrated the opposition in the first two matches and all the teams with big expectations have found that super motivated and organized players of less talent have come to compete. That’s why it has been for me a genuinely entertaining group stage so far. Brazil have 4 points. If they win the next game they will have 7; if they draw they go through with 5. 7 is what France has and they haven’t impressed but don’t lead the underwhelming/underperforming sweepstakes on people’s lists. Why should Brazil? I think Germany, Argentina, and Poland have been clearly shakier through 2 games than Brazil has. If Brazil loses the next game we can certainly nominate them for top dishonor. I think Neymar colors everyone’s impressions and I really can’t take him, his stupid hair, his diving, play acting, precious entitlement, arrogance, silly tricks—his whole act essentially—but there are still some great footballing attributes in this Brazil that I am hoping we’ll see take precedence over the sad and annoying Neymar show. Probably a vain hope, but unless France wakes up under Deshamps, I don’t see a big team I can really get behind. As it is I am all about Nigeria over Argentina, Senegal and Columbia going through. Slim pickings now that many of the minnows who have done so much for the group stages with their spirit and terrific fans are on the way out. Arsenal connections are also scant, alas. It is where we are right now.

  22. Bill,

    He’s a serviceable squad player in a top 6 PL team, so I hoped he would be one of the better players for Egypt. Facing Russia, Saudi, and Uruguay, you would hope he would perform reasonably well against those first two and hold his own against the third. He did pretty well CS Europa league teams and that includes CSKA midfielders. Uruguay’s mids aren’t playing at RM/Barca either. In that respect it was disappointing. I didn’t have high expectations, just hoped he wouldn’t be so anonymous. He has had a poor tournament. I already thought we needed Torreira plus another in midfield as it was. He hasn’t given me any impetus to revise that view. My problem with him consistently has been that he was not robust enough physically for PL as a DM (he isn’t physically aggressive enough), despite his stature is pretty weak in the air, and doesn’t have the ball carrying or consistently creative passing to play other midfield roles. He can fill in, play early Europa and cups but I wouldn’t want to depend on him starting 20+ PL or CL matches. Neither will Emery and, tbf, nor did AW.

  23. Limestonegunner,

    Doubt they will. The thing is, its been the 10 outfield who have been utter shit. I was laughing with a mate of mine because at one point we lost count of how many times Columbia either were 1v1 or 2v1 on Szczesny.

  24. Wavey,

    I think it was already far more interesting in the group stages than the last two WC’s. But VAR has added even a bit more drama and spectacle (not always exemplary but certainly entertaining) than otherwise. Still some adapting needed and more consistency to application—lots of variation in what is getting reviewed—and clearly weak or incompetent refs are more vulnerable to player pressure. They now know it is possible to get a ref to reverse a decision. It is a big culture change. I think it works better for neutrals watching in tv in a big tournament type setting. In the league, I don’t know if it would be as appealing to me especially if I attended lots of home matches and enjoyed regularly the stadium experience.

  25. C,

    I think he could have communicated better and maybe positioned himself better on the second Senegal goal. But there is no doubt he was left pretty exposed by Poland defenders, mids. I did think his distribution and kicking game has become more refined post-Arsenal. But giving up 3 isn’t a great look for any keeper even with poor defending around him.

  26. Limestonegunner,

    He could have done better and his distribution and kicking has become very good post-Arsenal. I agree about the one Senegal goal but I mean Falcao, Cuadrado clean through with the whole net to shoot at, 9/10 times they bury them and it wouldn’t matter the GK.

  27. Messi looks like a player hell bent thus far on continuing to carry Argentina as far as he is able to.

  28. Is it just me or does it feel like we will not only have a new GK but a possibly a new CB pairing (strong reports in Germany say we are in concrete talks for Soyuncu) and a new midfiedl pairing. Its almost like Emery knows the attack will be good but wants strengthen and more importantly bring in his players now to adapt to his style in midfield and defense

  29. I genuinely think Nigeria needs Iwobi in for Etebo. Ighalo for Iheanacho is good too. He was awful first half. But Musa was busy, had shots and created for Iheanacho. Ieobi’s ball carrying and passing are really needed.

  30. Penalty call a bit weak but as I am behind Nigeria… May get one on the counter too. But Nigeria defending had been vulnerable—not sure they can keep Argentina out.

  31. C,

    Which penalty shout?

    Re: Nigeria, I think Rohr blew it with conservative caution. He needed to exploit weak Argentina defense with somewhat better attack. I think Iwobi helps them counter and also occasionally keep the ball to relieve some pressure on a disorganized defense. Nigeria looked quite vulnerable all game.

  32. C,

    If Lazio are interested in Rambo, we are in trouble. We can’t expect a big fee from them. On the other hand if only Lazio level interested, we might convince him to sign an extension.

  33. Limestonegunner,

    A ball was played over the top around the 80′ and thr Nigerian player went through the back of the Argentian player and the ref wouldn’t even take a look.

  34. Limestonegunner,

    Probably can’t but then again, I think with thr number of quality box-to-box types that are out there that remain fit, we might not get a big fee for Ramsey tbh.

  35. Big day for Mexico tomorrow. They have played really well and the way they won against Germany was the game of the tournament so far for me. However, they still need a win or draw to guarantee qualification for the round of 16. Gooooooo
    El Tri.

  36. I think Kroos is guaranteed to start and the Germans certainly don’t need 2 high profile playmakers in the line up at the same time especially when a midfield with both Ozil and Kroos is also going to be a weak defensive link. Perhaps Low will move Ozil back to the left wing where his defensive liability is not as much of an issue. Mesut played wide left when Germany won the last World Cup in 2014. Draxler has not been influential from the wide left position so dropping him might be an option if Low wants to get Ozil in the line up.

  37. Bill,
    Agree re Mexico v Germany.
    My money is on Mexico to win the whole thing, so looking forward to today’s games.
    Watched Uruguay yesterday and Terreira in particular.
    Wow , he is vertically challenged., but a tidy player. Impressed with his discipline.
    Even when he had the chance to join in a break, he didn’t. Kept his spot protecting the back 4.
    Wenger would never have looked at him.

  38. Terrible time to be an Aussie sports supporter.
    Just not good enough at the World Cup. Only a few players worth the technical skill required at that level, and no striker since Viduka.
    Mind you, I preferred watching them to our pathetic one day team.
    The Wallabies were done by the Irish.
    And Kyrgios was fined at Queens for a lewd act with a water bottle!
    Dear me.

  39. Phil

    I listened to the Uruguay game on the radio while I was walking my dogs so I did not get to see Torreira play. I did not even know he was in the line up because the radio announcers did not mention his name. That says something about how he plays. I am glad to hear everyone thought he played really well.

    I am still hoping that England win the cup but Mexico would be a close second choice for me. I intensely dislike Mexico when they play against the USA USA USA but I think a lot of us Yanks have decided to cheer for them after we bombed out. If I was at all undecided about the Mexicans that first game against Germany convinced me. The only disappointing thing is the Mexicans did not run up the score against Germany and their GD is only +2 and that has left them at some risk in tomorrow’s game.

  40. C,

    Something we’ve all wanted for years… Cbs and midfielder who isn’t a push over. If we got Sokritis, Turkish lad whos name I can’t remember how to spell and Banega and Torriera it would potentially be our best transfer window in years.

    Such a shame we actually lost Alexis now, he Auba and Lacazette as a three would have been formidable with the strengthening of team behind them that we’re now seeing especially if Emry did want and get Banega. He was MOTM yesterday despite Messi getting all the plaudits

  41. Dukey,

    Dukey, the new plan down here is to roll all of the sporting codes into one (we’ve got four right now) and create a Juggernaut that will win the next world cup. You read it here first.

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