Six footballing robberies VAR could have saved us from

VAR has been the star of the show since its introduction to the Champions League, but history would be so much different if we had it before now…


VAR’s hugely influential intervention in Manchester United’s miraculous victory in Paris was the latest in a string of video-assisted refereeing decisions.

Irrespective of whether it was the right decision or not, VAR is changing the face of the game and we took a look at some of football’s most controversial moments which certainly wouldn’t have happened if VAR had been around.

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The Hand of God – 1986

While the jury is still very much out as to whether Presnel Kimpembe’s handball was worthy of awarding a penalty or not, there would be no debate in the case of Diego Maradona. Handballs awarded by video assistants have generally been for a ball striking the player’s hand in an unnatural position, but this is a case of pure and blatant cheating.

Maradona’s first goal against England simply would not have stood in the modern era. It really shouldn’t have stood in 1986 either. It wasn’t that hard to miss.

Maradona’s divine intervention was a key moment in Argentina’s elimination of England in Mexico, and without it, who knows what other way England would have extracted themselves from the World Cup.

The Hand of Frog – 2009

Similar to Maradona, Henry’s handball was a clear and deliberate act of cheating, rather than a ball simply hitting an arm. Also similar to Maradona, the opposing fans are still not over it.

Had VAR been in place in Paris on that November night, William Gallas would not have equalised when he did, Henry would not have sat beside Richard Dunne in an act of false compassion and the path would have been clear for Ireland to lose on a penalty shootout.

Lampard’s ghost goal – 2010

Another moment that England fans will be a long time getting over, Lampard’s ghost goal was one of the most high-profile refereeing mistakes in a World Cup since the turn of the century.

It seemed as though England had pulled off a famous comeback against the old enemy when Lampard’s shot rebounded off the crossbar and bounced several feet over the line. However, referee Jorge Larrionda and his officials somehow deemed the ball had not crossed the line and Germany went on to cruise to a 4-1 victory.

What must particularly vex English football fans is the fact that VAR was not even required to confirm whether Lampard had equalised or not. The most basic of goal line technology would have discerned whether or not the ball crossed the line, and that technology was brought in at the next World Cup.

Geoff Hurst’s winning goal – 1966

If England were robbed by Germany in 2010, the roles were reversed in the World Cup Final nearly 50 years prior. At 2-2 in extra-time, Geoff Hurst’s shot crashed against the crossbar and bounced perfectly onto the line, despite the embarrassing claims of certain English media to tell you otherwise on the 50th anniversary of the goal.

The goal put The Three Loins into the driving seat, and they won their first and only World Cup when Hurst completed his hat-trick at the death. He remains the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final.

VAR’s existence might have led to a different outcome in Wembley that afternoon and may have stripped Hurst of that memorable feat.

South Korea – 2002

While Lampard’s ghost goal might be the most high-profile refereeing error in a World Cup since the Year 2002, the series of shambolic refereeing performances in South Korea is by far the worst at any tournament.

South Korea’s passage to the semi-final of the World Cup in 2002 was riddled with controversy, most notably against Italy and Spain. Italy were denied a perfectly legitimate golden goal that would have seen them dump the hosts out, while Spain had not one, but two perfectly good goals ruled out in their quarter-final defeat to the Koreans.

VAR would have instantly reconciled those errors, although with such evident corruption in place in South Korea and Japan, who is to say it would have made any difference.

Barnet vs Brentford – 2019

A curveball, this makes the list not because of the high-profile nature of the robbery, but because it may be the most head-scratching one of all. Having knocked out Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in the third round, non-league Barnet welcomed Championship Brentford to the Hive on a Monday night in front of the cameras.

They looked on course for another giant-killing too when they took the lead midway through the second half, only for Brentford’s Ollie Watkins to blatantly dive and win a penalty, forging a way back into the game for Bees.

VAR would have easily spotted Watkins’ cheating, but there was no VAR. That is particularly baffling considering the FA had decided to use VAR in this season’s FA Cup, only not for every game. That decision was made to look ridiculous in this fourth-round clash, and it cost Barnet the chance of progressing to the last-16. They eventually lost the replay 3-1.

VAR is still in its infancy, and some of its rulings are still causing debate. But it would have overruled each of the above robberies and many, many more, and that has to be a good thing.

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