The sight of Tunisia defenders wrestling England’s Harry Kane to the ground in the penalty area without punishment during Monday’s World Cup Group G match has raised more questions about the worth of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
Ferjani Sassi wrapped Kane up in a bear hug and he fell to the ground late in the first half as the striker, who scored twice in England’s 2-1 win, tried to meet a corner.
Yassine Meriah grappled with Kane again in the second half to stop him moving in the penalty area.
Although referee Wilmar Roldan could be excused for missing the incidents in a crowded area, they must have been spotted by the Video Assistant Referee watching in a studio — according to Euro 2016 final referee Mark Clattenburg.
“Last night showed major inconsistency from the referee and video referee team. The referee wasn’t looking at the incident — which is normal as a lot goes on at corners — but the VAR not giving England a penalty retrospectively was a wrong call. It was a stonewall penalty,” Clattenburg said.
“Going forward in the tournament, FIFA needs to have a think about when it is going to intervene.
“We’ve seen lots of good decisions but the threshold for a clear and obvious foul seems very high.”
Grappling at corners has become endemic in the game but according to England’s former FIFA referee Graham Poll, it is one of the areas VAR was brought in to tackle.
“One of the things FIFA said that they would look to stop at this World Cup was defenders ignoring the ball at set-pieces to merely hold or block opponents,” he told the Daily Mail.
“The offences were so clear that I was surprised, and disappointed, that the Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci in the VAR studio in Moscow didn’t get involved. That’s why he is there.
“Ricci’s failure to do so was even more surprising given he’d awarded a penalty as the on-field referee in the Croatia-Nigeria match on Saturday night for the exact same offence.
“Fortunately, the result wasn’t affected but Pierluigi Collina, FIFA referees chief, must be talking to both the referee and the VAR operatives to ensure such foul play in the penalty area is punished in future.”
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has asked FIFA why VAR was not used to review Switzerland’s equaliser in their 1-1 draw on Sunday when it was clear defender Miranda was shoved by Steven Zuber before he headed home.