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Top 5 moments VAR would've changed World Cup history

The World Cup is almost upon us, yet the landscape of modern football has never looked more different. Russia 2018 will see the introduction of the video assistant referee system (VAR) to the World Cup finals.

Some are sceptical of the system, and some have witnessed its potential to make eagle eyed corrections as well as its frustrating failures firsthand.

Nevertheless, cutting edge technology is now a part of the game for the foreseeable future. And while we will see goal-line technology and VAR in place for the World Cup in Russia, here's a look at 5 controversial moments in World Cup history that the VAR would have changed dramatically.

5. 2006 Australia v Croatia – Josip Šimunić 3 yellow cards

This one went down in footballing folklore as one of the biggest refereeing blunders of all time.

The plucky Australians had qualified for their first World Cup in 32 years in 2006. The group stage match between Australia and Croatia was an intense affair, as both sides aimed to progress with a positive result going their way. Australia merely needed a draw, while the Croatians needed nothing less than 3 points.

The referee Graham Poll was considered one of the best referees in the world, and at the time was supposedly a shoo-in to officiate the World Cup final. That was until he encountered Josip Šimunić, a Croatian international who was born and raised in Australia.

Graham Poll cautioned Šimunić in the 61st and 90th minute, yet spectacularly missed the fact that Šimunić had already been booked the first time. Simply put, Graham Poll forgot, and no one on the field seemed to take notice.

After his retirement, Poll conceded that it was Šimunić's Australian accent that led to him incorrectly recording the yellow card against Australia's number 3, Craig Moore. It's lucky that Australian defender didn't get himself a yellow card later on, as he might've been sent off by mistake.

The game finished 2-2 and Australia progressed from the group, while Poll gained the spotlight in the most unwanted way possible.

VAR outcome: Poll is reminded of the earlier yellow card, and Šimunić gets his early shower

4. 2006 Australia v Italy – Fabio Grosso's last gasp penalty

A debate that still rages on 12 years later: Was it a penalty or not?

After placing 2nd in their group behind Brazil, they found themselves in a round of 16 clash with European heavyweights Italy.

Australia had the lion's share of possession throughout the game, and even a man advantage after Marco Materazzi was sent off early in the second half. The talking point came in the dying moments of the game when Australian defender Lucas Neill tried to slide tackle the ball from Fabio Grosso.

Grosso trips on Neill and astonishingly wins his side a crucial penalty in the last few moments of injury time. It's as last gasp a penalty as you'll ever see. Neill pleads his innocence as he suggested he was not in the action of sliding and remained still on the ground. How could he have fouled him by staying still?

Ask an Italian, they'll tell you it's a penalty. Ask an Australian, they'll most likely curse Lucas Neill for being in such a vunerable position, yet claim Grosso dived like an Olympian. The talismanic striker Francesco Totti slotted home the penalty cool as you'll ever see in the final minute of play.

Had the Socceroos taken the victory on the day, they would have faced Ukraine in the quarter finals. At the time, Australia were ranked 42nd, while the Ukrainians were 45th. It wouldn't have been a guaranteed victory for either side, but it would have been an incredible matchup to see. It leaves the World Cup open for a different winner.

The game finished 1-0 to Italy, who went on to become World Cup champions, while Australia went home left wondering what might have been for their Golden Generation.

VAR outcome: It's open to interpretation, though the scales may tip slightly in favour of Italy

3. 2014 Uruguay v Italy – Suarez bites Chiellini

One of the most disgraceful acts to be seen on a football pitch happened in Natal, Brazil. Uruguay and Italy were battling it out for a place in the knockout stages of the competition. A win or draw for either side meant progression, and they were prepared to fight through the teeth to get it. Literally!

In the 79th minute, Luis Suarez and Giorgio Chiellini got tangled in the box, with both players going to ground and claiming a foul. Suarez was holding his teeth like he'd just been punched, while Chiellini was writhing on the ground clutching his shoulder.

Chiellini pulled his shirt down to reveal any bite marks on his shoulder, pleading with the referees and almost appealing to the world. Suarez' innocence was dispelled when broadcasters shows that Suarez had bitten into the shoulder of his Italian opponent without any form of provocation.

The game was allowed to continue, and Uruguay scored just two minutes later to send Italy packing. Incredibly, Suarez escaped any form of punishment, and Uruguay went on to the knockout stages.

On video review, the VAR would have seen the offense and dealt Suarez a red card. This would have placed Uruguay on the back foot, and with 10 minutes left in the game you can bet the Italians would have launched an all-out assault on the Uruguay goal.

Italy would have faced Colombia in the next round, and it's unlikely that the former champions would have gotten past a rampant Colombian side that made the quarter finals. Suarez was subsequently suspended for 9 international matches, as well as 4 months of any football related activity.

VAR outcome: Direct red card for Luis Suarez would've led to the most frenetic final 10 minutes of football

2. 2010 England v Germany – Frank Lampard ghost goal

Ah, I have fond memories of South Africa. It was the first World Cup I was old enough to understand everything about the game, and I knew exactly what controversy looked like when it struck.

Some might argue that England didn't have a chance to win the World Cup, but the English always strive to compete to live up to their Premier League standards as the best in the world. So, you can imagine that when they came up against arch rival Germany in the round of 16, of course things were going to be intensified.

England were trailing Germany 2-1 when Frank Lampard thought he had scored. A perfectly lofted shot went over the head of Manuel Neuer, went off the crossbar and bounced into the goal. 
Or so we thought. Neuer, either unaware or far too competitive, pounced on the ball and play continued. The referee had not given the goal, leaving Lampard utterly bewildered and defeated.

It's no mystery that the ball had cross the line by at least a yard. England were completely disheartened, especially considering that goal would have brought them level and left the second half wide open for either side.

At 2-2, England might've had a very good chance to take the game. If they had won, they would've faced Argentina and reignited another long-time rivalry in the quarter finals. It wasn't to be for Fabio Capello's men, going down 4-1 and leaving South Africa with a bitter pill to swallow.

Argentina or England vs Spain might have been a great match, but ultimately Spain's dominance of the tournament wouldn't have been stopped by anyone.

VAR outcome: the goal is given, and the complexity of the game changes dramatically

1. 1986 Argentina v England – Maradona and the Hand of God

Diego Maradona was one of football's finest talents. The Argentinian superstar before Lionel Messi, Maradona set the world alight with his skills on the ball, as well as his career damning controversies off the field. There are few and far times that the two instances meet in football, but Maradona spectacularly made headlines that has rippled through decades and tarnished his legacy forever.

In 1986, England met Argentina in the quarter finals where not just one, but two of the most history defining moments occurred. Just 6 minutes into the second half, a looping miskick from Steve Hodge went in the direction of Maradona and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Maradona outjumped the 6-foot-1 keeper to head the ball home and put Argentina up 1-0. England players immediately began remonstrating with the referee to no avail.

The replays show that the little 5-foot-5 striker had jumped and used his hand, disguising the obvious foul as a header. It was enough to fool referee Ali Bin Nasser and infuriate the entire England team, and the world. Incredibly, the goal stood and Argentina were leading 1-0.

On review, the handball would have disallowed the goal and the game carried on at level pegging. Despite Maradona's talents, you could almost guarantee that he would not have the confidence to score his world-famous Goal of the Century if his first goal was rightfully chalked off.

England might have had a chance at a World Cup final if not for this result. We might have seen a completely different country crowned World Cup champions.

VAR outcome: The goal is disallowed. England would have faced Belgium next round, and possibly West Germany in the 1986 final. If only

The history of the World Cup is saturated in a myriad of 'what if' scenarios that leaves fans delighted, bewildered or heartbroken. This is what makes football so unbelievably beautiful.

About the author

Chris Sermeno

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