Top 10 biggest VAR controversies: From Confederations Cup chaos to technology breakdowns

Jordan Henderson England VAR Italy
The technology is being rolled out with the aim of eradicating refereeing errors, but its introduction has not been without drama

Having been trialled in competitions across the planet over the past year and a bit, VAR (Video Assistant Referee) will be in operation on the biggest stage of them all this summer - the World Cup.

The technology has endured a bumpy beginning in the game though, prompting confusion and outrage to such an extent that the Premier League actually opted against bringing it in next season.

Given that it is the introduction of a new method of game regulation, occasional hiccups were expected and there have been a few. 

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With the new approach to refereeing set to be applied in Russia, there are sure to be a few more examples, but Goal takes a look at the biggest so far, in no particular order. 

Confederations Cup 2017 final

Chile Germany ref

International football got its first taste of VAR in the 2017 Confederations Cup, but the rollout was far from smooth, with a number of incidents arising.

The final showdown between Germany and Chile was not exempt either and referee Milorad Mazic felt the heat when he consulted the technology during the game.

An apparent elbow on Timo Werner by Gonzalo Jara was missed by Mazic during play, leading to protestations from the Germans. In response, the referee signalled to see the incident on video and despite the replay showing clear contact, decided to show Jara a yellow card, leaving pundits stunned by the sequence of events. 

"Other sports must be looking at it and thinking what a joke football is," former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon said on ITV.

"Everyone up in the box who thinks that is a yellow card should be locked up, put in a van and driven away somewhere."

VAR's English football debut

West Brom Liverpool VAR

VAR's first ever outing in English football came in an FA Cup clash between Liverpool and West Brom, and the technology got off to a frantic start.

The Reds took an early lead through Roberto Firmino, but were soon on the back foot as a Jay Rodriguez double fired the Baggies in front. Craig Dawson looked to have made it 3-1, but his header was struck off after referee Craig Pawson used VAR to determine that Gareth Barry had been in an offside position.

Shortly afterwards Liverpool were rewarded a penalty thanks to VAR, with Jake Livermore being sanctioned for pulling Mohamed Salah's shirt, but Firmino missed the spot-kick. VAR was again consulted after Joel Matip inadvertently turned the ball into his own net, but fouls were adjudged to have taken place.

West Brom won the game 3-2 to advance to the next round, but the initial appearance of VAR, filled as it was by controversy and delays, was not well received. Nevertheless, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp defended the technology

"I think it's important, that's actually what we always wanted – that if a goal should be disallowed, it should be disallowed," said the German. 

Copa Libertatores 2017 semi-final

Copa Libertadores Lanus River 2017

In South America, VAR played a decisive and controversial role in the Copa Libertadores semi-final between River and Lanus.

The technology had not been used in the competition - or any other CONMEBOL competition - until that stage and it had an extraordinary introduction.

In the second leg of the tie River's appeals for a first-half penalty claim to be reviewed were ignored and in the second half Lanus benefitted from a VAR review, which awarded them a penalty.

Alejandro Silva stepped up to score the spot-kick and it proved to be the difference as Lanus qualified for the final thanks to a 4-3 aggregate victory.

Luckless Lazio

Lazio Piero Giacomelli referee

There have been a number of high profile examples of VAR impacting on games in Serie A, but Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi may feel that his side have been particularly unlucky with the technology.

In December, Inzaghi saw his side suffer a 3-1 defeat to Torino in a game where Ciro Immobile was denied a penalty before being sent off, with the help of VAR, after being perceived to head-butt an opponent. 

Later that month in a game against Inter that finished 0-0, Lazio were denied a penalty by VAR, leading Inzaghi to fume that the video technology had cost his side seven points that season

"I'll be honest, I don't like this technology," said the former striker. "I prefer the Europa League, where there is no VAR."

Things didn't get any better for the Biancocelesti either after they suffered a 2-1 loss to AC Milan with the help of a controversial Patrick Cutrone goal that escaped the attention of VAR.

Mainz vs Freiburg - Half-time penalty incident

Mainz Freiburg Bundesliga

One of the most bizarre VAR incidents occurred in the Bundesliga during game between Mainz and Freiburg in April.

After the two teams exited the field for half-time, referee Guido Winkmann made the decision to call them back out from the dressing rooms in order to execute a penalty.

Mainz's initial appeals for a penalty following what they perceived to be a hand-ball by Marc-Oliver Kempf were denied and the whistle was blown for half-time. 

However, Winkmann was advised to review the incident and, upon doing so, he decided to award the penalty, instructing the players to return to the pitch so that it could be taken.

After a delay of seven minutes, Pablo de Blasis scored the spot-kick and Mainz went on to win the match 2-0, with De Blasis adding a second on the 79th minute.

Speaking to Eurosport after the match, Freiburg sporting director Jochen Saier conceded that it was a bitter pill to swallow.

"We were under the impression that when the referee blows for half-time that's it," Saier said.

Confederations Cup 2017 - Wrong player sent off

Cameroon Germany Wilmar Roldan Confederations Cup 2017

The 2017 Confederations Cup was blighted by VAR controversies and one of the more unusual incidents occurred in the Group B match between Germany and Cameroon.

Referee Wimar Roldan was left red-faced when he sent off the wrong player after consulting VAR, before eventually correcting the astonishing decision.

When Cameroon's Ernest Mabouka committed a dangerous foul on Emre Can, Roldan brandished a yellow card to Sebastian Siani, only to upgrade the punishment to a red card.

With players and fans alike left in total disbelief, Roldan reviewed the incident a second time and eventually arrived at the correct decision, sending Mabouka off.

Tottenham vs Rochdale - FA Cup fifth-round replay

VAR Review Tottenham Rochdale FA Cup

The FA Cup is known for its drama, but the roll-out of VAR in 2017-18 added an extra layer, with a number of bewildering incidents occurring at various stages.

Tottenham's fifth-round replay against Rochdale was particularly controversial as VAR was used to first overturn a Spurs goal and then to rule out a penalty for Mauricio Pochettino's side.

Erik Lamela thought he had given the Premier League side an early lead, but the goal was ruled out by referee Paul Tierney after the video assistant showed that there had been a foul in the build-up.

Spurs eventually went ahead through Son Heung-min and he had the chance to double his tally thanks to a VAR-awarded penalty only to see the spot-kick over-ruled after his stuttered run-up was deemed unlawful.

After all that, Rochdale equalised three minutes later, capping a remarkable sequence of events.

In the end, VAR had no bearing on the result as Spurs triumphed 6-1, but, after the game, Pochettino was in no doubt that the technology was more confusing than helpful.

Primeira Liga flag incident

Edu Machado Boavista

There is a full spectrum of controversies related to VAR and some of them are downright farcical. One such absurdity happened in Portugal's Primeira Liga in a game between Aves and Boavista.

Aves were already leading 2-0 when Vitor Gomes added a third on the 70th minute, but the goal was disputed due to a feeling that Gomes was in an offside position.

Referee Fabio Verissimo sought aid from the VAR system in order to determine whether or not the goal should stand, but it was in vain as the cameras could not provide a conclusive answer.

The reason? A giant Boavista flag being waved obscured the view of the camera at the precise moment the ball was played to Gomes, ultimately rendering it useless.

With no new knowledge available, Verissimo was forced to stick with his initial decision, which meant the goal stood.

England vs Italy - 'Clear and obvious?'

VAR England Italy

The March international friendly between England and Italy finished 1-1 thanks to a controversial penalty decision made with the help of VAR.

England had established a lead through Jamie Vardy, but they were forced to settle for a draw after Lorenzo Insigne converted an 87th-minute penalty.

Referee Deniz Aytekin consulted the video assistant to determine whether or not James Tarkowski fouled Federico Chiesa in the area and ruled in favour of the Italians.

The decision was met with widespread derision, with Gary Lineker sardonically quipping that "VAR will be a lot of fun at the World Cup".

In the aftermath, England boss Gareth Southgate expressed doubt that the technology was helpful

"I think the ruling is 'clear and obvious' and this is not. It's one you can debate all day," Southgate told the BBC. "I don't think with incidents like that VAR will clear things up."

A-League Grand Final

Melbourne Victory offside

In May, the biggest game in the Australian football calendar was befouled by a VAR deficiency as Melbourne Victory benefited from faulty technology to triumph over Newcastle Jets in the A-League Grand Final.

The game was decided by a solitary goal as Kosta Barbarouses fired Victory ahead on the ninth minute and the goal was allowed to stand despite replays clearly showing that James Donachie was in an offside position in the build-up.

It later emerged that the lack of an intervention from VAR was due to a technical problem that saw the video feed crash right before the goal, with the FFA expressing disappointment at the "failure".

"On this occasion the technology itself failed and the broadcast angles required were unavailable. We are working with Hawkeye to thoroughly understand why it did and what can be done to prevent this happening again," said Greg O'Rourke, the FFA's Head of the A-League. 

"Whilst we understand that this happened only once this season it was at a most critical time. All parties desire the technology to be failure proof and that is what we will be striving for."