Gerard Pique

Is VAR favouring ‘big teams’? Fans lash out following Group B controversy

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.

Crucial evening

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.

2-2

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.

1-1

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.

Uproar

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:

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:

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