++ First ever penalty kick awarded thanks to Video Assistant Refereeing ++
++ Referee spots foul inside the penalty area upon video review and gives a penalty ++
++ However, the attacker fouled was in an offside position - it is up to interpretation whether the offside became punishable before the foul or at the same time like the foul ++
++ If offside and the foul happened at the same time, penalty would be correct. If the offside became punishable before the foul, then a penalty kick may not be given. Instead, the offside must be whistled. ++
++ We argue that this shows that 100% clarity and certainty won't be guaranteed by VARs ++
During a high free-kick into the penalty area, Antlers fullback Daigo Nishi was tripped by Atletico’s Orlando Berrio which got missed by both Kassai and his assistant referee Vencel Tóth. Thanks to the input of the Video Assistant Referees Bakary Gassama (Gambia), Danny Makkelie (Netherlands) and Damir Skomina (Slovenia), Kassai got aware of a potentially match influencing situation he should better re-check himself on a video board close to the sideline.
Interestingly, though, the decision appears to be incorrect as the tackle was made after an offside position of the attacker fouled. At the moment of the free-kick, the attacker is in an offside position and has previously sought physical contact with the defender, which should be deemed as impeding or challenging an opponent for the ball. But was the ball in play at that moment?
On the one hand, you can argue that the offside becomes an offence before the defender trips the opponent. If you follow this interpretation, offside (indirect free-kick) would be the correct decision. It would have been different if the offside offence had become punishable at the same time like the foul (Why is this so? See this article!).
On the other hand, a large part of this interference with the defender happens when the ball is not in play yet. It depends on your individual judgment whether the offside offence happens before the foul at the moment of the free-kick and when the ball gets into play first. We rather tend to think that in the period when the ball was in play, the attacker did not challenge the opponent for the ball.
Therefore, we tend to deem the offside as not punishable and to support the penalty kick decision.
FIFA's official reading of the situation is:
"Prior to that, the assistant referee had correctly applied the ‘wait and see’ technique with regard to the offside position of the player who was fouled. The offside offence never materialised because the player was unable to challenge the opponent for the ball, and the Hungarian referee subsequently pointed to the penalty mark, judging from the replay that Daigo Nishi had been tripped inside the penalty area by Atletico’s Orlando Berrio. Shoma Doi successfully converted the penalty kick, with the host club going on to win 3-0."
At any rate, as Kashima won by 3:0 after full time with the score having been 0:0 at the moment of the offence, this example at least shows that the availability of Video Assistant Refereeing might have immense, game-changing influence on the course of a match.
This has been a historical moment for sure, although a comparable situation already happened once in the USA.
With this blueprint incident having occurred, it is hard to imagine that FIFA's decision-makers will not use Video Assistant Refereeing in the coming years including 2018 FIFA World Cup. Even though, in our view, this is the ultimate proof that Video Assistant Refereeing will not lead to completely clear decisions without any room for debate. Not to mention that 90 seconds passed until the decision was taken. And that the tackle actually required a yellow card considering the type of stud-contact.
Coming to a final conclusion, we say: This experiment still allows VARious interpretations of incidents instead of ensuring an efficient and clear decision-taking process.