CONMEBOL today admitted that it made a costly VAR error in Brazil’s recent 1-1 draw to Colombia.

The referee and VAR officials denied Real Madrid star Vinicius Jr. a penalty during the 42nd minute. If the penalty had been given, Brazil could have taken all three points from the game and finished on top of the group.

Brazil denied penalty after VAR error

The incident happened in the 42nd minute of the match, with Brazil leading Colombia 1-0. A win for Brazil would mean they would finish at the top of their group, avoiding a difficult quarterfinal fixture against Uruguay. Any other result would mean Brazil would finish second in their group.

Vinicius had the ball on the left wing, striding towards left-back Daniel Munoz. Vinicius dragged the ball, feinted as if he would cut inside into the box, and then cut inside towards the goal line in an impressive piece of skill. The move caught Munoz entirely by surprise, and his untimely slide tackle connected with Vinicius rather than the ball.

However, referee Jesús Valenzuela, who refereed Argentina’s controversial 2-0 win over Canada, signaled for a corner kick. Vinicius and Rodrygo dropped to their knees in frustration, while manager Dorival Junior was caught ranting to the fourth official about the call. A brief VAR check backed up the referee’s on-field decision, and Brazil had to settle for a corner kick.

“After that, we conceded a goal, so for me it was a decisive thing,” manager Dorival said. “In the stadium, maybe only [the referee] and the VAR team did not see that that penalty existed.”

Only minutes later, Brazil conceded a goal. Jhon Cordoba received the ball with his back to the goal at the edge of the box and flicked an impressive ball toward a streaking Munoz — the same Munoz who made the tackle on Vini.

Munoz, with only the keeper to beat, neatly converted his chance. The goal made the difference in the draw, as Colombia advanced as group leaders. Brazil will have to face a strong Uruguay side in the quarterfinals.

VAR takes center stage at Copa America

“The referee doesn’t observe the action and allows the game to continue. “The VAR, in its protocol check, analyzes from different angles, speeds, and considerations and doesn’t identify that the defender does not touch the ball before contacting the attacker,” CONMEBOL said in a video.

“The VAR incorrectly confirms the original decision on the field.”

Valenzuela’s blunder during Brazil’s match against Colombia is one of many at the Copa America. Poor, contentious refereeing in several games dominates headlines daily. CONEMBOL referees have also suffered from CONMEBOL’s decision to use an old, outdated version of offside technology.

The decision in Brazil’s draw wasn’t a product of offside technology but rather a blunder from the VAR officials. CONMEBOL has fewer camera angles than UEFA has for the Euros, which played into the controversial decisions. VAR officials incorrectly said that Munoz had touched the ball before grounding Vinicius, when Vinicius in fact tapped the ball before suffering the slide tackle.

Controversial calls from CONMEBOL refs

It follows complaints from Chile after their 0-0 draw to Canada that knocked them out of the tournament. Chile alleged referee Wildmar Roldan ‘lacked impartiality’ after several impactful decisions. Roldan gave Gabriel Suazo a second yellow card 27 minutes into the game, sparking anger throughout the Chile camp. He also made several ‘suspicious’ decisions, such as refusing to review several decisions with VAR.

The best example of CONMEBOL’s VAR controversy was the United States’ 1-0 loss to Uruguay. Uruguay found a winner through Mathias Olivera, but many in the stadium thought that Olivera was in front of the last defender when the ball was last touched by his teammate.

Referee Kevin Ortega gave Olivera the goal because the potential offsides would have been too marginal to decide with the offsides technology. The software CONMEBOL uses has inconsistencies, and viewers can’t see the crosshair technology referees use. It meant that the refs couldn’t judge whether Olivera was exactly offsides — meaning Uruguay scored simply because of the overlap.

Poor refereeing has dominated headlines at the Copa America, and although some of it is the fault of outdated VAR technology, there have been countless mistakes individually. The refereeing performances of Ortega, Roldan, and more hints at CONMEBOL’s lack of concern for its refereeing dilemma.

It’s a stark contrast from the Euros, which has been praised for its use of semi-automated offside technology (SAOT). Denmark’s disallowed goal in their round of 16 match against Germany is a good example of the Euros’ usage of SAOT. The multi-camera-based technology ruled that Thomas Delaney’s big toe was offsides, ruling out Joachim Andersen’s opener. Only minutes later, Germany scored and eventually won 2-0.

Photo: Imago

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