The 2017 Confederations Cup is a week old now and has turned up more talking points than normal. Past editions of the competition have gone by without many fans taking notice and in reflection, this may be the same. It has however thrown up a few things to discuss and in large the football is not one of them. The majority of the games have produced close results but it has been more the introduction of Video Assistant Referees which has provided column inches.
The tournament started with a routine 2-0 victory for hosts Russia over Pacific champions New Zealand. It was then onto Sunday and the VAR’s time to enter the competition. It was used to correctly rule out Portugal’s first goal of the tournament for an offside in the build-up. Many thought that the use of video referees would take some of the controversy out of football but until we all fully understand how they will be used, they will still provide some grey areas. The Portuguese players were in an offside position, that part is accurate but the assistant did not raise his flag. There was then a further nine or ten seconds of play before the goal was scored. In the end, it was an accurate decision but how far the video can pull back play is something we must all get used to if VARs are here to stay.
West Ham’s Jose Fonte played the full match of the 2-2 draw with Mexico and maybe could have done better in the lead-up to Mexico’s late equaliser. The 91st-minute header came from a corner although Fonte appeared to be pulled in the build up. Fonte was then dropped to the bench for Portugal’s 1-0 win over Russia on Wednesday. An 8th minute Ronaldo header helped to seal the game and but for a few late chances for the hosts, Portugal hung on. Portugal are second in the group, level with Mexico following their 2-1 win over New Zealand, Russia are a point behind in third. It is yet to be seen if Fonte will be recalled for the game against New Zealand this afternoon but a win for Portugal will see them progress to the Semi Final. Mexico look set to top the group but if Portugal can better their rivals result then they will go into the favourable draw for the next round.
Chile top group B on goal difference following their impressive start to the competition. The VAR was once again used for Chile’s second goal in the 2-0 win over Cameroon. Having taken the lead with 10 minutes to go through Arturo Vidal, Chile fans were made to wait before celebrations could begin following their second. Cameroon did, however, have a goal disallowed at 0-0 for what the referee deemed a pull during a free kick. Former Premier League player Eduardo Vargas then had a goal rightly ruled out for offside, although it was a very marginal decision. It was he who scored Chile’s second but was made to wait around 40 seconds before being able to celebrate it. With the goal originally ruled out by the assistant referee for offside, the VAR intervened and rightly overruled the decision.
The video assistant was once again used during Germany’s 3-2 win over Australia on Monday in front of a half full stadium. With the score at 3-1 to the youthful German side Australia scored but the referee checked a possible handball in the build up. The goal rightly stood but it does pose the question over whether referees will make decisions as they see it or allow the video to judge once the goal has been scored. The sides in group B then all shared 1-1 draws as Germany came from behind to level against Chile, while Australia laboured to a draw with Cameroon. Draws for both Chile and Germany in the final games will see them progress and we could see squad rotation in the sides as they prepare for the next round.
The final group games will be played this weekend before the top two sides progress to the Semi Finals on Wednesday and Thursday. The final will be played next Sunday where we will have a chance to see how video referees are used in a showpiece final for the first time.