Understand the VAR technology that made Argentina cry

In their debut at the 2022 World Cup, which is being held in Qatar, Argentina was defeated by Saudi Arabia by 2-1 in the upset. And one move in particular has kept the “hermanos” awake at night.

Striker Lautaro Martínez even scored a goal, annulled by VAR through semi-automatic technology. However, according to the Argentine tabloids, there was an error of interpretation by the referee when drawing the offside line.


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A Spanish architect who helped design the system interviewed by the Olé portal, Nacho Tellado, said the goal was cool. “In no case is the goal illegal. It’s a cool move. There’s no need to go into the subject of the speeches, it’s an error of judgment, they get confused with the defenders. It’s very simple: I just did an analysis of the right player, the left-back from Arabia, who is behind. The system is not semiautomatic, it is something subjective, it is a person who is in a room putting lines.”

Image released by FIFA of Lautaro Martínez’s bid (Image: Reproduction)

But, after all, how does the semi-automatic VAR technology that is being accused so much of being wrong by the Argentines work? O Digital Look explains below.

The basic system of semi-automatic VAR

The basis of the semi-automatic VAR system, successfully tested at the 2021 Arab Cup and the Club World Cup of the same year, is an automated offside alert that notifies the refereeing team in the VAR booth and on the field, then releasing a 3D animation on the stadium screen and in the official broadcast of the matches for viewers, in order to playfully explain what the score was.

In all, there are 12 tracking cameras exclusively dedicated to this purpose and positioned on the roofs of the stadiums.

They keep an eye on Al Rihla’s ball and up to 29 points of the 22 athletes on the field, 50 times a second, pinpointing the position of each one on the pitch.

Among the players’ information collected by the cameras, there are the respective positions of their members and relevant and necessary extremities to indicate if there is an impediment.

Al Rihla with sensor

The ball of the Qatar World Cup, the Al Rihla, also has an internal inertial measurement unit sensor that complements the system, which sends video data to the VAR room. The device forwards the images 500 times per second, which makes it possible to precisely identify the exact point of the player’s kick.

The data and AI (artificial intelligence) are combined, generating the alert that is sent to the referees, who decide whether or not there is an offside. The semi-automatic system makes it possible for the waiting time for the infraction to be marked or not to be reduced to mere seconds.

Test data analysis

In tests carried out at the 2021 Arab Cup and Club World Cup, the data collected was analyzed by the MIT Sports Lab and scientifically validated by TRACK from Victoria University the technology that tracks players’ limbs.

“This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to provide the very best for the teams, players and fans who will be heading to Qatar later this year. FIFA is proud of this work and we hope the world will see the benefits of semi-automatic offside technology at the World Cup,” said Gianni Infantino, FIFA President.

Constant VAR errors: is there a solution?

Even before the insertion of semi-automatic technology, the VAR is the target of many complaints due to constant errors and delay in decisions, especially in Brazil.

What happened in the match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia will be discussed for a long time, especially by Argentines and while the World Cup lasts.

So, is there a solution to the mistakes made by VAR? This was the theme of edition 18 of Sync, the podcast of Digital Look?? See below:

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