VAR will be in use for England’s Nations League campaign this week as the Three Lions look to win the inaugural competition which could become a pivotal tournament in international football.
Of course, video replays are used to make sure the referees get the big decisions right across four match-changing situations - goals, mistaken identity, red cards and penalties.
In recent history, England have had some controversial decisions go for and against them in major tournaments. Goal-line technology is a separate entity so unfortunately for Frank Lampard and Geoff Hurst, they are left off this list. We’ve taken a look back through history to see how VAR would have changed the course of history.
Diego Maradona v England 1986
In the heat of Mexico, England would be knocked out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage in the most controversial of circumstances. Diego Maradona was the finest player in the world and one of the greats of history heading into the tournament but this World Cup win was his crowning glory.
With the scores level heading into the second half, England struggled to deal with an Argentinian attack and the ball was punted up in the air. Peter Shilton came out to punch the ball but was instead beaten by a leaping Maradona who punched the ball in with his left hand. He would add a brilliant second minutes later and although England would pull one goal back, it would not be enough.
The Argentinian magician later referred to it as ‘The Hand of God’ and that is how it has been known ever since. Although VAR would have ruled this goal out, there was nothing stopping Maradona from scoring his second and extra-time would have been a tough ask in that heat.
VAR Decision: No Goal
Sol Campbell v Argentina 1998
England met their fierce rivals Argentina again 12 years later and once again it would be the same outcome. This was one of the all-time great World Cup games, Batistuta and Shearer traded early penalties before Michael Owen scored England’s best ever World Cup goal. Javier Zanetti struck the equaliser on half-time before David Beckham became the nation’s villain after a petty red card.
England battled on with ten men and another big moment came on the 80 minute mark. Darren Anderton’s corner was nodded in by Sol Campbell and it looked as if the Three Lions had won it against all the odds. However, the referee cut short Campbell’s celebrations disallowing the goal due to Alan Shearer impeding the goalkeeper. Now we know VAR can sometimes give soft decisions but there was nothing wrong with this goal which could have sent England through to the World Cup quarter-finals.
VAR Decision: Goal
Michael Owen v Argentina 1998
You cannot have it both ways. If we are analysing dodgy decisions in big games we must also look at the ones that have gone in England’s favour. Alan Shearer may have converted the penalty won by the Three Lions early on but it was won in controversial circumstances by MIchael Owen.
Running at pace at a terrified Argentina defence, Owen broke into the penalty area and then threw himself to the floor next to Roberto Ayala, who made no contact with the attacker. The penalty was awarded by the Danish referee who may have been influenced by the fact that he had given one to the Argentinians just three minutes earlier.
VAR Decision: No Penalty
Sol Campbell v Portugal 2004
That man again. This one was brutal. England were at Euro 2004 with the best team in a generation and in a fresh-faced Wayne Rooney they boasted one of the best attackers in the game, completely fearless. The game started brilliantly for England as a long David James kick was flicked in by Michael Owen but Helder Postiga equalised with just seven minutes to play.
In the 89th minute, England thought they had won it. A Beckham free-kick was whipped in and headed onto the bar by Campbell. The ball span up into the air and it was Campbell who got there to nod home but the referee ruled this one out for John Terry’s apparent obstruction of Ricardo. Nonsense. VAR would have given this one to England.
VAR Decision: Goal