Belfast Telegraph

VAR shambles

By Adam McKendry

European heavyweights Portugal and Spain endured drama, controversy and differing fortunes with VAR last night to secure their place in the last-16 of the World Cup with qualification from Group B.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal were leading Iran 1-0 in the 93rd minute and going through as group winners when a header brushed off the hand of Portuguese defender Cedric in his own box and, after consulting the Video Assistant Referee, Paraguay official Enrique Caceres awarded the dubious spot-kick. Karim Ansarifard converted to set up a hectic final few minutes as Iran pushed for the winner.

Meanwhile, at nearly the exact same time in Kaliningrad, Spain, who were 2-1 down to Morocco, thought they'd equalised through an Iago Aspas flick only for it to be ruled out for offside. But then it was reviewed on VAR and the goal was awarded to spark ugly scenes as the furious Moroccans objected.

As a result, Spain have won the group and will go on to face hosts Russia on Sunday in the last-16, while Portugal, who were relieved when VAR ruled out a red card on Ronaldo for an alleged elbow, are set for a tougher test when they take on Group A winners Uruguay on Saturday.

Frustrated Portugal coach Fernando Santos said: "The referee did what he had to do. He went to the VAR three times and considered two penalties and one yellow card.

"I think the VAR did its job and that's what we have to accept."

Belfast Telegraph

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