We thought about it and decided that the opening game of the World Cup went as well as anyone could have hoped for.
It was garbage Qatar was terrible, and everyone was able to unload all their jokes and complaints on the VAR in the first five minutes. For this particular opening game of this particular World Cup, we couldn’t have asked for more.
At some point there will come a really brilliant football game and, despite ourselves, we will get excited. But this game surely wasn’t that game, and the longer we can maintain our smug disdain for all things related to this tournament, the better.
Mainly, we are also childishly invested in Qatar doing terribly well. And in that sense this really was unbeatable. They were honking. Ecuador is a middling international team that put in half an hour of concerted effort and an hour of shrewd management of low-energy play that never seemed likely to come back and bite them. Levels above Qatar were maintained throughout, and the fact that the hosts have spent none of the last 12 years trying to find and train a suitable goalkeeper already seems like a catastrophic but hilarious mistake.
There will be many who would argue that having a VAR decision come Qatar’s way just three minutes into the tournament is a bit over the top, a bit hacked, a bit rejected in the writers room for being. very obvious. To those people we say, one, all that “bit on the nose, lazy writing” is itself extremely clichéd and gimmicky, which is why we’re having our cake and eating it by framing it this way. But two, and most importantly, no. This was excellent. This was the ideal way for the tournament to start. A VAR decision for all of Twitter!
We desperately wanted this game to be boring and for Qatar to be beaten well, and it was precisely that. But that was always going to mean some banter was needed along the way to keep everyone going, and that made for some very nice VAR nonsense on every level. If the game is going to be ruined, at least try to make it fun.
Offside decisions like this are the best type of VAR decision. They let everyone say “technically right” in a dismissive way, but the good thing about it is “technically correct” really just means “correct”. What the sniffing really comes from is that these kinds of offside decisions, and this was a pretty perfect example, not only were they never given offside before VAR, but more importantly, they were never given. they argued, and really that’s it. on.
It’s almost as if giving flawed technology far-reaching power to intervene in football matches would have had unintended consequences. Who could have imagined it? And if we want to get rid of “technically correct” decisions like today, which take away our joy and steal moments, then really the only solution is to not only throw out VAR but also ban the endless discussion of “bad decisions” that go against our teams because I just have to accept that it’s part of the game and now we’ve looked at the alternative and decided it’s worse. The rather confident footballer isn’t ready to have that particular conversation.
But if the VAR holds up as we should assume, then he’s going to have to get better at explaining it. Nothing was going to stop the confirmation bias and conspiracy theories already circulating the internet, but showing an inconclusive replay and then nothing for 10 minutes certainly helped the spread. And then when we got the actual evidence on which the decision was based, the graphs for the “semi-automatic” system were absolutely sensationally low. Good thing we all got to see them for the first time in a game that doesn’t matter and in an incident that didn’t influence the outcome. At least everyone should now be prepared for the inevitable shit storms ahead.
A bit of snorting from VAR also allowed the BBC’s coverage to pass from what it was in reality. quite skillful handling of the elephant in the studio during the pre-match section. Alex Scott spoke brilliantly and Alan Shearer scathingly on tournament-related issues and there was no pretense of “sticking to football”. Even Shearer’s Newcastle affiliations were addressed to cut off another potential avenue of quackery and misdirection from the fakers.
Inevitably, though, seeing Shearer as enthusiastic about VAR as he did about immigrant workers makes it all look a bit strange. It is an impossible situation in which neither focusing nor ignoring football is really viable. Gary Lineker and the gang handled it about as well as you’d expect.
The same can’t be said for Dion Dublin’s often bizarre turn in the co-commentator’s chair. When he wasn’t trying to offer accurate medical diagnoses of various injuries on the field (he must have at one point set the world record for most repetitions of the word “knee” in a 15-second period), he was often found praising the non-stop chant of Qatar fans in a way usually reserved for non-league fans having a great day at Goodison Park or Elland Road in the FA Cup third round.
We spent much of the second half, when nothing else was going on in our defense, trying and failing to find an answer to the riddle of how a man can be a perfectly competent host of a popular daytime television show about prostitutes. he built houses for profit but was so inept at offering co-commentary insight on the sport he played professionally for two decades.
The initial VAR uproar followed so quickly by Ecuador’s conceding and goal from a penalty was also good at slowing the progress of the conspiracy theories, and obviously it was important that Qatar were beaten. We’ll admit we’ve been scared off by all the beard-stroking hipsters who have spent the last few weeks saying “Don’t write Qatar off, they’re not really cups” and we’re happy to report that Qatar absolutely sucks. .
Maybe they were nervous, they certainly seemed nervous, and maybe in other games their goalie won’t stage his own dirty protest against the tournament. But other host nations were surely on edge ahead of their opening game and none had lost it. Qatar had lost this match with barely half an hour left on the clock.
And they won’t be facing a weaker team than Ecuador after this. Based on the defense and goalkeeping we saw here, the Netherlands could tear them to pieces if they are brave enough in various ways.
Now, in any case, the road to qualifying for Qatar is desperately long and we make no apologies for it. This is how we are dealing with it all.
Normally, at a World Cup outside the heart of traditional football, you find yourself rooting for the hosts a bit. South Africa. Japan and South Korea. Even the damned Americans in 1994, a bit.
The longer the hosts are interested and involved, the better for the tournament. More fun for everyone that way. Although not here. The best copy for this tournament will be for the hosts to disappear from the action on the field as soon as possible. At least that, unlike literally everything else in this damn tournament, shouldn’t be a problem now.