We’re analyzing every VAR decision made throughout all 64 games at the 2022 World Cup
After each game we take a look at the major incidents to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.
VAR overturn: Valencia goal ruled out for offside
What happened: In the third minute Ecuador thought they had the lead against hosts Qatar through Enner Valencia, but there was a lengthy review for offside.
VAR decision: Goal disallowed.
VAR review: This was the correct decision, though it wasn’t at all clear for fans and it took quite some time for the offside visualization to be shown.
When the free kick was played into the area, Ecuador defender Felix Torres challenged Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb. The ball fell to Michael Estrada, who headed it back to Torres for him to create the goal for Valencia.
However, when Torres got a touch on the ball (the direction it travels, forwards or backwards, is irrelevant) Estrada had one foot ahead of the second-last defensive player, who was Abdelkarim Hassan.
The review took longer than a regular offside because the offside VAR, Tomasz Listkiewicz, had to be certain that the ball did come off Torres. Without that touch, Estrada would not have been offside. Any subsequent touch of the gloves of Al-Sheeb would not be considered a « deliberate play » to reset the offside phase.
It’s irrelevant in offside law whether or not an attacking player means to play the ball, the touch automatically sets the phase for every other player’s offside position.
The added confusion comes from Estrada being obscured by Torres and Al-Sheeb, and another defender being closer to goal. Fans naturally look for the last defender, which can be misleading when the goalkeeper is ahead. That said, Al-Sheeb wasn’t even the second-last defensive player in this case, it was Hassan (who was also blocked from view by Torres and Al-Sheeb.)
So it was the correct, but there was a lack of clarity over it for too long. Even with FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology, the key factor of judging that Torres played the ball had to be make by the VAR.