Droves of viewers of tonight’s decisive World Cup Group B fixtures have taken to Twitter to complain about VAR, after Spain and Portugal advanced to the Last-16 of the competition.
La Roja and the Selecção das Quinas went head to head with Morocco and Iran respectively, with Morocco the only nation who’s path to the next round had already been closed.
And a pair of thrilling clashes were subsequently played out in Russia a short time ago, with goals, penalties, controversy and, once again, VAR playing a key role.
Spain nabbed a late 2-2 draw with Morocco, courtesy of an injury-time equalizer from substitute Iago Aspas.
La Roja fell behind twice, as a combination of shoddy defending and excellent finishing saw Khalid Boutaib and Youssef En-Nesyri hand the underdogs the chance to secure one of the most memorable results in the history of African football.
However, Isco and Aspas had other ideas, netting a typically-classy pair of goals to ensure that Fernando Hierro’s men avoided an embarrassing defeat and possible elimination.
While Spain are no doubt the superior side, though, many were of the opinion that La Roja were aided by some questionable decision-making and subsequent VAR use (or lack there-of) tonight, with question marks over a possible red card-worthy challenge from Gerard Pique and a pair of penalty calls that could, on another day, have gone against Spain.
Portugal, meanwhile escaped with a 1-1 draw versus Iran, though things could easily have been so different.
Ricardo Quaresma opened the scoring shortly before the interval with a moment of individual brilliance, as the European champions looked to be in complete control of proceedings.
However, a high-octane and controversy-filled second 45 minutes so nearly saw Portugal crash out.
First, Cristiano Ronaldo was awarded a penalty-kick following VAR consultation by referee Enrique Caceres in the 53rd-minute, but Ronaldo’s ensuing spot-kick was saved by Alireza Beiranvand in the Iran goal.
A number of crunching tackles then saw referee Caceres put under huge pressure from both sets of players to continually check his decisions with VAR, setting the scene for a tense final 15 minutes.
As such, when Morteza Pouraliganji went to ground off the ball following a challenge with Cristiano Ronaldo in the 83rd-minute, Iran’s players and staff immediately pleaded with Caceres to once again make use of VAR.
The official subsequently did, before deeming Ronaldo’s coming together with Pouraliganji as being worthy of a yellow card, much to the disgust of large sets of fans.
While Iran were, in the end, awarded a questionable late penalty, others suggested that a William Carvalho challenge in the Portugal box earlier in the second-half should have gone to VAR, only for the team of officials to decide otherwise.
As such, unsurprisingly, following a drama-filled night during which the majority (though not all) of the key decisions were adjudged to have gone in favour of the so-called ‘big teams’, large sections of viewers have taken to social media to insist that officials have showcased clear bias towards the heavyweights of world football through their use of VAR at this summer’s tournament:
— Nqobani (@Nes365) June 25, 2018
Today was a reminder that VAR is only applicable if your team is “big” .. morocco was robbed!
— Mursal (@ibrahim_mursal) June 25, 2018
— The Accountant (@laxlx05) June 25, 2018
VAR is worthwhile but only if used fairly. Not surprised #FIFA‘s big money teams keep getting so many #VAR decisions in their favour. How did Piqué not get a red card? #ESPMOR #SPAMOR #ESPMAR #ESP #MAR #FIFAworldcup
— Mark McFadden (@MarkMcFadden) June 25, 2018
Well that’s the closest I’ve been to swearing on live TV! What I really wanted to say is that VAR is complete and utter bollocks!!
How does a ref decide when to use the VAR? The ref in the Morocco game had some obvious bias. #ESPMAR
— Kenyan Facts 🇰🇪 (@KResearcher) June 25, 2018
The VAR is only used to help big,European teams and that’s a fact #ESPMAR
— twinkle (@NalaNalakosi) June 25, 2018
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) June 25, 2018
— Mr Maritime (@seyisanni) June 25, 2018
Troll Football deleted it for Portugal fans so I’ll tweet it again
VAR IS BULLSHIT, Morocco deserved a win and Iran deserved a win but unfortunately they are not in Europe #ESPMAR #IRNPOR pic.twitter.com/CBOzCCuAH7
— Gaber Jr. ✪ 🇪🇬 (@GeekHamo) June 25, 2018
The ref of Morocco-Portugal decided he’s above VAR, didn’t use it in some decisive cases. If he did, Portugal might be out and MOR in rn.
— adil (@Barca19stats) June 25, 2018
Only European teams were afforded the VAR review ,that’s the issue.
— Dominic Mnisi (@BlackDiamondDEE) June 25, 2018
How the underdog is supposed to succeed in big tournaments if things like VAR is only used when it benefits big teams, My country were unlucky this world cup but refs screwed us over and I just don’t understand where is the logic, how come these refs don’t get punished?
— Yassine (@SwishFutbol) June 25, 2018
VAR cancel Iran last minute goal against Spain as offside but count Spain last minute goal against morocco while saves Portugal from conceding two penalties against morocco and Iran, so tell me who is this VAR is favouring if not for the big nations #ESPMAR
— Ahmed (@A_Taouaf) June 25, 2018
Some sections of Portuguese fans have also suggested that the decision to award Iran a late penalty was made to ensure that Spain topped the Group B table:
Spain scored an illegal goal vs Portugal. VAR gave Iran a non existent penalty vs Portugal. We could have have 9 points and be top of the group but you haters are crying on Twitter because Ronaldo didn’t get a red card. Gtfo of my fucking timeline.
— sandra 🇵🇹 (@SandraThe10th) June 25, 2018
Now Spain top the group because of TWO VAR decisions in both games in stoppage time. Absolute scenes.
— Alex Truica (@AlexTruica) June 25, 2018
Portugal were robbed and now face the tougher opponent Uruguay instead of playing the host nation Russia. #worldcup
— Aidan Walsh (@AidanMUFC_) June 25, 2018