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Why Ecuador’s goal was disallowed for offside

We’re analysing every VAR decision made throughout all 64 games at the 2022 World Cup

After each game we take a look at the major incidents to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.

VAR overturn: Valencia goal ruled out for offside

What happened: In the third minute Ecuador thought they had the lead against hosts Qatar through Enner Valencia, but there was a lengthy review for offside.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

VAR review: This was the correct decision, though it wasn’t at all clear for fans and it took quite some time for the offside visualisation to be shown.

When the free kick was played into the area, Ecuador defender Felix Torres challenged Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb. The ball fell to Michael Estrada, who headed it back to Torres for him to create the goal for Valencia.

However, when Torres got a touch on the ball (the direction it travels, forwards or backwards, is irrelevant) Estrada had one foot ahead of the second-last defensive player, who was Abdelkarim Hassan.

The review took longer than a regular offside because the offside VAR, Tomasz Listkiewicz, had to be certain that the ball did come off Torres. Without that touch, Estrada would not have been offside.

It’s irrelevant in offside law whether or not an attacking player means to play the ball, the touch automatically sets the phase for every other player’s offside position.

The added confusion comes from the second-last defender being obscured by the goalkeeper, and another defender being farther forward. Fans naturally look for the last defender, which can be confusing when the goalkeeper is ahead. That said, Al-Sheeb wasn’t even the second-last defensive player in this case, it was Hassan.

So it was the correct decision, but there was a lack of clarity over it for too long. Even with FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology, the key factor of judging that Torres played the ball had to be make by the VAR.