Serbia vs Portugal: Pandemic blamed for lack of VAR after Cristiano Ronaldo's complaints

Portugal's path to the 2022 World Cup has been complicated by Ronaldo being denied a stoppage-time winner against Serbia on Saturday.

Published: 29th March 2021 09:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th March 2021 09:42 AM   |  A+A-

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after his goal was ruled out during the World Cup 2022 group A qualifying match against Serbia. (Photo | AP)

By Associated Press

LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo's tears and rage over the absence of VAR already hastened the introduction of the technology in one competition.

He'll now be hoping UEFA takes note of his video-review protests once again.

Portugal's path to the 2022 World Cup has been complicated by Ronaldo being denied a stoppage-time winner against Serbia on Saturday. The ball crossed the line, despite Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic's attempt to sweep it clear. But with no goal-line technology or VAR to confirm that to the referee, the goal was not given.

Ronaldo, the Portugal captain, ripped off his armband and tossed it onto the field, storming off the field in disgust.

It brought back memories of Ronaldo's Champions League debut for Juventus in September 2018 when he was sent off for appearing to pull at an opponent’s hair in a decision that could not be reviewed by VAR. Juve protested and UEFA announced within a week that VAR would be introduced by the following season.

UEFA said it intended to use VAR in the World Cup qualifying campaign that began last week but decided it was too complicated to do so despite it being used in recent Champions League and Europa League knockout phase games. VAR relies on a couple of video assistant referees receiving a live feed of multiple angles from matches and a direct connection to the referee.

“In 2019 UEFA had proposed to FIFA the implementation of VAR in the current World Cup qualifiers,” UEFA said in a statement. "The impact of the pandemic on operational and logistical capabilities led UEFA to delay the implementation of VAR in the Europa League group phase (to 2021-22 instead of 2020-21) as well as to withdraw the proposal to implement VAR in the 2022 European qualifiers.

“VAR was also not in use in the UEFA Nations League group stage in the autumn of 2020 and has therefore to-date never been used in UEFA national team qualifying group stage matches.”

That explanation is not satisfactory for Portugal, which is level on four points with Serbia in Group A rather than being ahead.

“I told the referee on the pitch, with great respect, that it’s unacceptable to play a World Cup qualifying match without VAR and goal-line technology,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.

Portugal has support from its neighbor with Spain also complaining about the lack of VAR when Greece was awarded a penalty that led to the qualifier being drawn on Thursday.

Spain looked in control but defender Iñigo Martínez’s foul inside the area led to Greece's equalizer from the penalty spot in the 57th.

Spain loudly complained about the penalty call, which could not be reviewed but it was not a clear-cut error like Ronaldo's goal not counting. A video review of the incident could even have resulted in a red card for Martinez for dangerous play in planting his raised studs into an opponent’s leg.

FIFA, which organizes the World Cup, said it was informed by UEFA in January that VAR could not be used in qualifiers due to the “issues and restrictions” caused by the coronavirus.

“I think that VAR is helping football, it’s certainly not damaging football,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in December, responding to irritations about the use of technology.

Now the focus is on the lack of VAR, which made its World Cup debut in 2018.


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