The 2014 World Cup opened in glitz, glamour and controversy in Sao Paulo, as some questionable refereeing decisions took centre stage.
When Neymar avoided a red for elbowing Luka Modric, some eyebrows were raised. When the hosts were awarded a penalty for what seemed to all the world to be a dive by Fred, the dissenting voices grew louder. By the time Ivan Perisic's equaliser was chalked off for what most onlookers saw as a legitimate challenge on Brazil keeper Julio Cesar, the anger reached fever pitch.
The referee, Yuichi Nishimura of Japan, was accused of being corrupt, spineless, incompetent and worse. It emerged after the match that Nishimura has a reputation for awarding dubious penalties in his native Japan and many J-League fans were unsurprised by his decision.
The general feeling post-match was that the decisions were poor and game-changing too, but that nothing could be done in a wider sense. Your referee has a bad performance and you just have to live with it.
The tournament should've moved on there, leaving the world to focus on the unbelievably exciting football on show, but refereeing errors reared their heads again in the very next game, between Cameroon and Mexico.
Giovani dos Santos of Mexico had two goals ruled out for offside, when replays showed him to be clearly and unambiguously onside in each occasion. Unlike the Brazil game though, the decisions didn't affect the outcome of the match - Mexico winning 1-0 thanks to Oribe Peralta's second half strike.
The offside decisions made football fans around the globe groan, as everyone can relate. It happens pretty much every weekend somewhere and every team has been the victim. What elevates the frustration of the phantom offside above things like Neymar's lucky escape is that the decision can be proved definitively right or wrong within seconds.
This is where the argument for technology comes in. If the mistakes are so easy and quick to spot by camera, why not do that? There is the age-old complaint that adding another stage to the decision making process will disrupt the flow of the game, but surely a delay of a couple of seconds would be preferable to a farce like the Mexico game?
The same argument was levelled at goal-line technology before it was introduced, delaying the arrival of the system by several years. And as shown in the Premier League all season, as well as in France's game on Sunday, a guaranteed correct decision is preferable to just about all alternatives.
A system in which, for example, linesmen could allow play to continue after a close offside call while someone spends a couple of seconds reviewing the replays to come to a correct decision would be perfect. Unobtrusive, it would massively cut down on bad calls without sacrificing the all-important flow of the game.
Less easy to solve are the judgement calls, like Fred's apparent dive for Brazil's penalty. For occasions where there was absolutely no contact, or when the refereeing team missed an incident (Diego Costa's headbutt against the Netherlands, for example), a cricket-style appeals system might be the closest thing to a solution.
In test cricket, each team gets two reviews per innings with which they can use to appeal a decision to the video umpire, who can then confirm the original decision, overturn it or - crucially - rule that there isn't enough evidence to make a definitive decision, in which case the on-field ruling stands.
A system like that would eliminate the absolute worst decisions and would probably deter many divers with the knowledge that their chances of success would be greatly reduced and their chances of punishment increased.
It wouldn't be a perfect system and it would need tweaks before it could ever be implemented. For a start, this system could dramatically affect the flow of the game. The line between "definitely a dive" and "probably a dive" would need to be defined better as well. But it's something that must be looked at, as the opening weekend of the biggest footballing event on the planet was turned into a farce.
Football cannot afford to stand still on this issue or it risks becoming a laughing stock. So many sports have incorporated video replays into their officiating, why is football still lagging behind?
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