Ronaldo rides the VAR roller-coaster

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

VAR had a big part to play in the Group B decider between Iran and Portugal on Monday night. Did it overplay that part?

Football fans know from experience that following your team or country can often resemble a roller-coaster ride.

The highs brought on by your favourite team scoring a goal can last all night, or even just a matter of seconds if the opposition are rude enough to score an equaliser. It is part of what makes football, and being a fan, so absorbing.

This World Cup has been no different, think Germany recovering from a goal down and then a man down to snatch a last-minute win against Sweden, or Harry Kane’s last-gasp winner for England against Tunisia.

The added ingredient this time around is VAR, what many predicted would be a disaster has largely been a success, although there are still a few problems that need to be ironed out before fans, players and coaches will be willing to accept this new-fangled addition to the football world.

VAR may have added a degree of certainty to more decisions, but it has arguably added to the emotional highs and lows that everyone connected to the beautiful game are experiencing.

Just ask Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese talisman has – predictably – been one of the stars of the show so far in Russia with four goals, including a hat-trick, in his opening two games.

But he endured his own personal VAR adventure on Monday night during Portugal’s crunch Group B match with Iran.

First came the high. Early in the second half, Ronaldo went down in the box following a challenge by Iran’s Saeid Ezatolahi. Referee Enrique Caceres initially waved away appeals, but then rightly reversed his decision after checking VAR to hand Ronaldo the chance to take his World Cup tally to five.

Iran keeper Ali Beiranvand ensured the high didn’t last, however, superbly diving to his left to save Ronaldo’s spot kick.

Minutes later, the Real Madrid star’s World Cup fate hung in the balance after he appeared to catch Morteza Pouraliganji in the face with a stray arm.

Another delay, another review, before another save. Only this one was in Ronaldo’s favour as Caceres judged his challenge worthy of only a yellow card.

A controversial VAR penalty for Iran in stoppage-time then ensured a nervy few minutes for Ronaldo and co. before their place in the last-16 was finally confirmed.

Overall, it was a mixed night for VAR, and one that is sure to prolong the debate over its worth.

Those, however, who said the introduction of VAR would make things fairer and less controversial should maybe ask the Portuguese superstar what he thinks.

They may not like the answer.

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