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FIFA boss wants video referees at 2018 World Cup

Yokohama (Japan) (AFP) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino hopes to see video referees used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia — if its teething problems have been fixed in time.

Colombia’s Atletico Nacional slammed the new video assistant referee (VAR) technology being trialled at the Club World Cup in Japan after the first-ever penalty awarded under the system helped knock them out midweek.

Real Madrid were also lukewarm after confusion around a Cristiano Ronaldo goal in another game, but Infantino promised FIFA would iron out the glitches.

“It’s still premature to say when we will go live with this system,” he told reporters on Saturday. 

“But I hope at the next World Cup the test results will be positive enough to be able to implement it.”

Infantino praised the decision to award Japan’s Kashima Antlers a penalty against the South American champions.

“The referee didn’t see the play and his non-decision could be corrected thanks to the video technology,” he said on the eve of the final between Real and Kashima.

“The time it took (to award the spot kick) lasted too long, that’s something we can work on. 

“But the right decision was taken and the penalty awarded, which was correct.”

Chaos followed Ronaldo’s late goal in a 2-0 victory over Club America a day later, when it appeared video technology could have ruled out the effort.  

Ronaldo’s celebrations were briefly cut short before the goal was confirmed.  

Infantino blamed the confusion on the video assistant pressing the intercom while consulting colleagues, confusing the match referee.

“The Ronaldo goal was a communication issue,” said Infantino, who later confirmed that 12 national associations have signed up to trial the system. 

– Unhappy fellow –

Real midfielder Luka Modric criticised the system after the game.

“I’m sure Modric will be happy next time, if he wins a match because of it,” said Infantino. “Even if it takes a few seconds to make the decision, the bottom line is the decisions were right.”

FIFA’s technical development chief Marco van Basten echoed his boss’s sentiments.

“It can only be better with VAR because there are more eyes,” said the former Dutch goal machine. 

“Modric was a little bit confused like everybody was after Ronaldo’s goal,” he added. 

“That happened unfortunately, but it probably won’t happen next time so I’m sure Mr Modric will be a happy fellow.”

Players have complained that it holds up play, with Nacional midfielder Mateus Uribe calling it “annoying.”

But Infantino hit back, arguing that players spend more time feigning injury than it takes video assistants to review footage.

“We don’t want the flow of the game interrupted but what is 30 seconds or one minute in a World Cup if you can win or lose a final because of a mistake by the referee?” he said.

“How much time do players waste in a match when they fall down?

“For over 50 years there has been discussion and FIFA has been criticised for refusing to use video assistance,” Infantino added. 

“Now we have made history here in Japan. We are in a test phase and it needs to be fine-tuned but VAR can deliver minimum interference for maximum benefit.”

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