Women’s World Cup: Fifa has ‘major decisions’ to make on VAR, says Phil Neville

England v Cameroon
Venue: Stade du Hainaut, Valenciennes Date: 23 June Time: 16:30 BST
Coverage: Watch on BBC One, iPlayer, and BBC Sport website & App; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live with text commentary on the BBC Sport website.

Fifa has “major decisions to make” on video assistant referees after the Women’s World Cup, says England manager Phil Neville.

After dominating the group stages, VAR controversy continued to take centre stage in Germany’s last-16 victory over Nigeria and Norway’s penalty shootout win against Australia on Saturday.

Manchester United Women manager Casey Stoney said VAR is “ruining the game”.

“We probably have to take stock of where football is going,” said Neville.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, he added: “It’s still got to be real, it’s still got to be fair for every player on that pitch and the supporters watching as well.

“I think Fifa have got major decisions to make after the World Cup and they will probably think they should have maybe done some things a little bit different, that’s the disappointment.

“But it’s probably a conversation for after the World Cup, when we look back at think ‘that worked’ and ‘that didn’t work’.”

While VAR was used during Norway’s win over Australia, it was not needed during the decisive penalty shootout.

No controversial VAR decisions were made during the Lionesses’ group matches against Scotland, Argentina or Japan.

Neville added “I think VAR is a fantastic thing, we have to support the rules and the regulations that we’ve been told to adhere to, and that is all I’ve said to my players.

“You can like it, you can hate it, but ultimately the rules are the rules and we’ve just got to stick by them.”

On Friday, a rule that stated goalkeepers at the World Cup must be cautioned for encroachment at penalties was suspended for shootouts.

It came after three players were shown yellow cards for breaking the rule during normal time.

In a news conference on Saturday, Neville said he had told his goalkeepers “to get on with it”.

“There is no point moaning about it. If there’s a shootout they’ve got to handle it. We’ve got to get on with it – whether it’s right or wrong,” he said.

“Maybe everyone at the World Cup should stop moaning about it. It’s not going to change. I can’t see Fifa coming in now and saying you can take your foot off the line.

“It’s here and our goalkeepers have been scrutinising and they’re in a good place about it. We’ve told them not to get over dramatic about the situation.”

England play Cameroon in the World Cup last 16 on Sunday (16:30 BST).

‘Referees using VAR as a comfort blanket’

In Germany’s win over Nigeria, the former two-time world champions were awarded a penalty and, while the decision might have been correct, many queried why there was any need to use technology for what they saw as an obvious foul by Evelyn Nwabuoku on Lina Magull.

“The referees are using it as a comfort blanket,” former England defender Laura Bassett said on BBC Two.

“We were at the other end of the pitch and it was clear to us it was reckless and obviously a penalty. It is not good enough. That is not what VAR is there for. It is not the game we all love.”

Her views were echoed by Stoney, who added VAR “hasn’t worked in this tournament”.

“The referee has to see this. If you are in a good position, you can see that is a penalty. You should not need to go to VAR for that to be given and waste even more time. I’m questioning the ability of the officials in this tournament,” Stoney said.

“Where are these referees doing their job week in, week out? It needs to be the best person for the job to give these players an opportunity to play their football. I want to talk about the football, not the VAR decisions.”

Germany’s Sara Dabritz converted from the spot, that goal coming seven minutes after Alexandra Popp’s opener was allowed to stand by referee Yoshimi Yamashita despite Svenja Huth appearing to interfere with play while in an offside position.

The decision sent Stoney – and social media – into a frenzy as the former England centre-back questioned how the referee could allow the goal to stand.

“I think it is poor refereeing. It’s the interpretation,” said Stoney. “Anything that is interfering is offside. We had another stop of over two minutes and we still didn’t get the right decision.”

In Saturday’s second last-16 tie, there was an even longer stoppage in play as the referee consulted numerous replays of a handball decision against Norway’s Maria Thorisdottir, for which she initially awarded a penalty to Australia.

Eventually, with Matildas’ striker Sam Kerr waiting patiently at the penalty spot, the decision was overturned, with the official deciding the ball had hit Thorisdottir’s chest.

‘They are ruining the art of defending’

The decision to allow Popp’s goal in the first game isn’t the first time the interpretation of offside has been questioned at this World Cup.

There was controversy in Australia’s thrilling 3-2 win over Brazil when defender Monica’s unfortunate own goal was eventually awarded by VAR, with an offside Kerr controversially judged not to have been interfering.

The same debate arose after the USA’s win over Sweden as substitute Carli Lloyd was offside in the build-up to another deflected own goal – again, allowed to stand.

Stoney, who said she “genuinely can’t understand what is happening in this tournament”, was critical of both goals, and Bassett added that VAR was “ruining the art of defending”.

Australia 3-2 Brazil

Own goal completes Australia comeback against Brazil

Stoney: “This is offside. In terms of at the point of contact, she is offside but the defender has to play the ball. It interferes with the defender’s decision-making.”

Sweden 0-2 USA

Stoney: “It’s infuriating for me as a centre-back and it was exactly the same in the USA game. The run and the action of the attacker is affecting the decision making of the defender because she has to play the ball, therefore, she is offside.”

Germany 3-0 Nigeria

Goals from Popp, Dabritz and Schuller give Germany a comfortable 3-0 win over Nigeria

Stoney: “How can she not be interfering when she is stood, offside, two yards in front of the goalkeeper, blocking her vision? It has to be offside!”


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