The fixtures of the group stage of the FIFA World Cup 2022 ended on Saturday. Switzerland beat Serbia in the last game to secure a spot in the round of 16.
A total of 120 goals were scored in 48 matches as the teams were reduced to half.
But, like every edition of the FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022 has had its share of controversies, refereeing calls being the root cause for many.
Interestingly, this World Cup has an added feature, the semi-automatic offside technology (SAOT), which improves the accuracy of decisions.
The SAOT, along with the video assistant referee (VAR), provided clarity in a number of on-field decisions, which drew mixed reactions from fans.
Ahead of the last 16 matches, Sportstar takes a look at five controversies that unfolded because of VAR and refereeing -
1. In or out?
Japan’s Ao Tanaka scored in the 51st minute against Spain to give the lead to the Samurai Blue in a Group E game on Friday.
The ball was delivered from the right side of the field and Kaoru Mitoma got behind it and eventually Tanaka slotted home. The ball, however, seemed to have crossed the touchline, and had gone out of play, before Mitoma stopped it.
The goal underwent a lengthy VAR check but stood as the referees found the ball to not have crossed the line.
The FIFA World Cup games have SAOT to judge decisions like these. The ruling for the point of contention in the game was that while the ball seemed out of play from a particular camera angle, the ball’s right-angled tangent (with the surface of the pitch) was within permissible limit.
The goal eventually led to Germany’s elimination by virtue of worse goal difference.
2. Ample confusion to begin with
The first goal by Ecuador in the third minute of the opening game of the FIFA World Cup against host Qatar was ruled out after a VAR check, leaving many bamboozled.
Enner Valencia, having received the ball from Felix Torres, headed it into the net, much to the jubilation of thousands of Ecuadorian fans at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar.
But VAR denied the visitors.
The official rule states that if the goalkeeper is the second-last opponent and someone is behind him, then the player in question will be deemed offside. However, if there are two players behind the ‘keeper, as was seen in this instance, one will only be flagged offside if he or she is ahead of the second-last opponent.
In Ecuador’s case, Michael Estrada (No. 11) was seen ahead of the line of goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb and the next Qatar player Abdelkarim Hasan Fadlalla.
After a check using VAR and SAOT, the goal was ruled out as Estrada was seen influencing the follow of play from the free-kick.
3. Ronaldo continues to grab headlines
Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player ever to score at five different editions of the World Cup in the 3-2 win against Ghana on November 24 at the Stadium 974 in Doha.
But the manner in which he achieved this feat sparked debate among football pundits and social media warriors.
In the 62nd minute, Ronaldo sprinted into the six-yard box before seemingly getting tackled by Ghana’s Mohammed Salisu.
Ismail Elfath, the match official, awarded a penalty and there wasn’t a subsequent VAR check. Additional replays revealed the former Manchester United player had taken a fall after the slightest of touches from Salisu.
Ronaldo ended up scoring from the spot to open Portugal’s account.
Fernando Santos’ side went on to win the match and eventually topped group H to qualify for the Round of 16.
4. GOAAAAAAALLLL! Oops...
Antoine Griezmann scored in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time in France’s game against Tunisia on Wednesday but the goal was ruled offside.
Griezmann’s goal was ruled out as the French forward was standing in an offside position before the free-kick was injected into the Tunisia penalty area.
His presence was deemed to have interfered with the Tunisia defender’s action. The defender was interpreted to have tracked back to cover Griezmann, which ultimately helped the Atletico Madrid player convert the chance.
While the referee gave the goal, he was asked to double-check the action on the VAR screen. After a review, the referee, Matthew Conger, overturned his decision to disallow France’s equaliser.
It has now been learnt that the French Football Association, after complaining to FIFA, have been informed that the result will not change.
Argentina and Poland were facing off in their last game of Group C. Their fate, along with Mexico and Poland’s, in the tournament were still in the balance.
The controversial call, aided by VAR, happened in the first half, with the scores level. A cross from the left was hooked into the box and Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny attempted to claw it away, with Lionel Messi competing for it.
The ball went past Szczesny and was headed off the target by Messi, which was followed by Szczesny’s gloves clattering into the Argentina captain’s head.
The referee Danny Makkelie initially waved away Argentine appeals for a penalty, but VAR chose to intervene. Upon a second look, Makkelie pointed to the spot.
Szczesny, though, ensured Poland didn’t pay dearly for the questionable penalty.