Jose Mourinho has registered doubts over the role VAR has played at the World Cup in Russia – especially during England’s win over Colombia.
The game saw both sides essentially tug at each other’s shirts for two hours, doing everything possible to aggravate opponents into producing tackles or outbursts which, with the help of VAR, would provide an advantage.
Its emergence at this World Cup, in that sense, has resulted in a proliferation of penalties and goals from set-pieces.
And Mourinho, speaking soon after England’s shootout win in Moscow, canvassed doubts about the potentially damaging role of VAR.
“People are focusing on Neymar, but if it was only Neymar I’d be happy — but it’s not only Neymar,” he said.
“Every team has lots of diving, lots of pretending, lots of putting pressure on the referee. The game loses quality, and for me that was the negative point.
“It’s not about England and Colombia, it’s almost every match, they are creating such a difficult job for the referees in every match. Even with VAR the players are creating problems.
“I was surprised to see central defenders like Harry Maguire, normally he is a very honest guy, diving in the attacking box asking the referee for VAR. The players should feel the responsibility of playing in the World Cup in front of billions of spectators.”
The way VAR has, in the space of a few weeks of competition, notably impacted on how defenders conduct themselves is startling, and an example of how small technological tweaks can have lasting effects on how the game is played.
England, for one thing, have benefited from this: both from the reluctance of defenders to grapple players at set pieces, thereby giving strikers like Harry Kane a better chance to score from crosses, and the ability to examine any potential wrangling the referee may have missed.
In response, teams may opt for going more direct in the future, playing for set pieces and, somehow, inviting tension in the box. Traditional, get-to-the-byline wingers may become a thing again. Defenders may end up adopting a different sort of skill-set altogether.
Either way, these changes are necessary in sport and, as always, eventually become the norm rather than a bewildering new phenomenon.