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VAR shambles taints Chile triumph

Eduardo Vargas Chile star Eduardo Vargas (source: Getty Images)

Noted science fiction author Douglas Adams once observed: “Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.”

By that definition, FIFA’s Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system is a technological work of art.

VAR – which uses officials watching the action from a screen to advise the match referee – is being used at the Confederations Cup as part of a two-year trial but is already proving an unnecessary and infuriating distraction.

Certainly Chile, and in particular star midfielder Arturo Vidal, would oppose any move to bring it in on a permanent basis.

The South American champions thought they had broken the deadlock in first-half injury time against Cameroon when Vidal slipped a wonderful ball through for Eduardo Vargas to chip cleverly over advancing goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa.

Their boisterous fans hugged as the players indulged in an elaborate, orchestrated celebration.

Two minutes elapsed, with no suggestion VAR had been utilised, before Slovenian referee Damir Skomina indicated the goal had been disallowed for offside.

Even then there was plenty of head-scratching in the stadium with big-screen replays indicating Vargas had been in line with covering defender Adolphe Teikeu.

When FIFA’s official replay did come, five minutes into the second half, it showed the Chile striker may have had a toe in an offside position. It was that tight.

And the issue here is not the question of whether the on- and off-field officials made the right call, it was more why VAR was called for in the first place.

When the International Football Association Board (IFAB) agreed to the trial in March 2016, it was made clear VAR would only be used when the match official had made a “clear error”.

A clear error this was not and FIFA needs to ensure this kind of farce is not repeated.

It is a shame the incident will be the major talking point from an entertaining game in Moscow. A match in which Chile started well before running out of steam, and then coming on strong again in the closing stages to earn a deserved 2-0 triumph.

It’s quite conceivable the VAR overrule initially doused their fire, but credit Cameroon, who started to play like the champions of Africa after surviving an early onslaught.

It looked in the opening stages as though they would be overwhelmed by Juan Antonio Pizzi’s vibrant side.

Vargas struck a post in the opening minute before Ondoa did well to keep out a low, prodded Jose Fuenzalida effort.

Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui had a header ruled out for a foul at the other end before Ondoa excelled again to parry clear an Edson Puch drive.

The lively Vargas shot wastefully over after 40 minutes before prematurely thinking he had netted the opener five minutes later.

Chile looked deflated after the break and in need of a spark. Pizzi turned to Alexis Sanchez, fit enough only for a place on the substitutes’ bench due to an ankle injury.

It proved a masterstroke as the Arsenal man dinked over a tempting cross from the left with 10 minutes to go and Vidal – the game’s outstanding player – nodded home.

There was still time for VAR, and confusion, to reappear once more as Chile made it 2-0 late on.

Sanchez ran on to a chipped ball over the top and although his attempt to round Ondoa and slot home failed, Vargas got the goal he deserved by mopping up the rebound.

The goal was initially disallowed, but again VAR was called for due to doubts over whether Sanchez was onside.

The on-field officials were again overruled and the goal was given.

It was all a bit shambolic. Adams was right. This technological advancement is not ready. It doesn’t work yet.

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