Fortune smiles on Sweden, Belgium and England

Maswood Alam Khan | Published: June 19, 2018 21:01:12 | Updated: June 19, 2018 21:10:41


England celebrates after Harriy Kane’s match-winning strike against Tunisia. -Reuters photo

Again, VAR (Video Assis-tant Referee System) intervention is generating debates! VAR is replacing one sort of controversy with another.

As you watch video replays in slow motion, at whatever frequencies you choose, it will always be a subjective interpretation of the viewer at the end of all the video reviews. To some eyes, a shove or a push in slow motion is a clear foul, to others it is not at all a foul, and to some 'maybe or may-not-be' a foul.

In contact sports like football (unlike cricket), slow motion replays don't give the truest picture. Slow motion of a real-life football play can make a good challenge look like a deliberate foul, and contrariwise, an intentional or aggressive foul may look like a great defensive tackle.

Yes, in cricket, where DRS (the VAR equivalent) is used, such slow-motion replays present a much smaller problem.

Genetically, after all, our eyes are not evolved to interpret a normal motion into a slower one.

Thanks to VAR penalty Sweden defeated South Korea 1-0. If the penalty were not awarded, Swedish fans would have railed against the decision and the rest of the world would rapidly have forgotten and moved on.

South Korea fans can now rail against the award of penalty and the rest of the world rapidly will forget and move on.

Should it have been a penalty? Maybe or may-not-be! Janne Anderson, the Sweden manager, called it "crystal clear" penalty. Salvadorian referee Joel Aguilar was in an excellent position not more than seven or eight yards from the spot of the incident. If his live instinct based on wide-open eyes was that it was not a punishable offence it is hard to know what he could possibly have seen on the video replay to make him change his mind!

Sweden were the superior side no doubt and, hence, deserved the victory. They were organised and composed throughout the game. South Korea should have shown more ambition and courage. Korea just didn't have the players. Their defenders were poor on the ball. They, however, made several good but dangerous last second tackles in the box in the first half.

Belgium had strolled on the field to win against Panama by 3-0. It was Romelu Menama Lukaku of Belgium who headed the easy parade. Like many football watchers, I myself was eager to see Panama do something outstanding in their first ever appearance in this World Cup. Many fans sided with them. But we were all frustrated. Some viewers got emotionally attached with them after seeing their emotion-soaked facial language during their national anthem at the onset.

Panama had a plethora of very good chances, but they failed to finish up their efforts. They have, I am afraid, proved to be the weakest team in this World Cup. Belgium will grow into the tournament, and they will be a frightening prospect.

Jewel moment in the night was England's victory over Tunisia by 2-1.More than a decade since England last comfortably won a game at an international tournament, England flowered a wide smile.

Harry Kane, England's captain, kept his head tall and strong and helped England find a ray of sunshine. Harry Kane did not just save his England team by heading the winning goal in the last desperate knockings of this 2-1 defeat of Tunisia, he did the decisive, destiny-shaping thing twice, finding a hazardous space in the penalty area crowds. He scored from three yards out at both ends of the game, one with his right foot, the other with his head in injury time.

These two goals will be remembered as polished jewels on the crown of England.

Tunisian tactics were superb. In the first half, nobody was sure which side would smile at the end of the day. Their goalkeepers (one injured) showed their dexterity and agility. It would not be a surprise if Tunisia roars back like a thunderous lion.

On day six, let's see what happens in the conclusion of the first round of group stage clashes between Colombia and Japan, between Poland and Senegal, and between Russia and Egypt.

maswood@hotmail.com

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