SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador: In a soccer world increasingly embracing technology to make sure referees' on-field decisions are correct, CONCACAF appears content to live with blown calls in its most important games.
While the Union of European Football Associations started using Video Assistant Referees in all World Cup qualifiers this week, replays will not be used to help get calls right in qualifiers involving the United States.
US coach Gregg Berhalter criticized the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Association Football for its failure to adopt VAR, which was started by Major League Soccer in the second half of the 2017 season.
FIFA used VAR for the 2018 men’s World Cup and the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The Premier League adopted video reviews for 2019-20 and UEFA for the European Champions League that same season. UEFA’s executive committee said in July that VAR will be used in all World Cup qualifiers across Europe starting this month.
CONCACAF said in April that it was using VAR for the remainder of its 2021 Champions League, for the Nations League final four and for the Gold Cup. But it did not include it for World Cup qualifiers, seen by many as its most important competition.
“I think it’s an error by CONCACAF,” Berhalter said Wednesday, a day before the U.S. opened World Cup qualifying at El Salvador. “I’m going to speak freely and say that because that’s part of the game. VAR, I think it was great that they implemented it in Nations League and Gold Cup, and it’s disappointing that it’s not part of qualifying. That’s where the modern game is going. We want to be right up there with the rest of the world, our region, in terms of the quality and the technology. And we need to find a way to get that done.”
FIFA’s World Cup regulations allow regional confederations to implement video review and goal line technology.
CONCACAF general secretary Philippe Moggio did not respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on Berhalter’s criticism.
The regional governing body said in a statement “a key criteria determining whether VAR could be used in this competition is for the technology to be currently available, in certified stadiums, for the matches of each of the participating federations.”
CONCACAF said five of the eight nations' stadiums in the regional finals did “not meet this criteria," without addressing why VAR could not have been installed.
How VAR can change big games could be seen in the Olympic women’s soccer final last month in Yokohama, Japan. Sweden led Canada on a 34th-minute goal by Stina Blackstenius. Russian referee Anastasia Pustovoitova did not make an initial call when Canadian star Christine Sinclair was clipped by the foot of Amanda Ilestedt midway through the second half.
A penalty kick was awarded after a review by Germany’s Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb, the wife of England’s Howard Webb, who refereed the men’s 2010 World Cup final and was criticized for his failure to give the Netherlands’ Nigel De Jong a red card for his kick to the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso.
Jessie Fleming’s penalty kick tied the score in the 67th minute, and Canada went on to win its first soccer gold medal 3-2 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw.
Canada's 1-0 upset of the United States in the semifinal turned when a video review by Poland's Pawel Raczkowski led to a foul on Tierna Davidson for a challenge on Deanne Rose after no initial call by Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul. Fleming converted the penalty kick in the 74th minute.
Going back four years, the U.S. men were eliminated from contention in 2018 World Cup qualifying partly because Panama's Gabriel Torres scored on a shot that did not appear to cross the goal line in a 2-1 win on the final night.
There were a record 16 penalty kicks awarded at this year’s European Championship (nine successful), up from 12 in 2016 and the previous high of 13 in 2000.
“One of the key points for this increase of penalties, of course, is related also to the implementation of VAR,” said UEFA chief refereeing officer Robert Rosetti, an Italian who refereed the 2008 Euro final.