Soccer  

Why Lionel Messi shouldn’t have been awarded a VAR penalty

We’re analysing every VAR decision made throughout all 64 games at the 2022 World Cup. Argentina’s Lionel Messi was awarded a penalty after he was fouled by Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

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.

– World Cup VAR review in full: Every decision analysed

VAR overturn: Penalty for foul by Szczesny on Messi

What happened: Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny came out to claim a cross in the 36th minute. Lionel Messi got to his head to the ball first, with Szczesny then colliding with the Argentina striker with his arm. The VAR, Paulus Van Boekel of Netherlands, advised a penalty review.

VAR decision: Penalty, Messi’s effort saved by Szczesny.

VAR review: Another remarkable VAR decision, and quite simply not the kind of incident the system was brought in for — it didn’t require the intervention of the VAR.

Granted, Szczesny’s glove did make contact with Messi’s face, but the striker wasn’t prevented from playing the ball and any contact was minimal. A very experienced official is in charge of this game, Dutch referee Danny Makkelie, and it would have been refreshing had he rejected the VAR review at the monitor.

We regularly see attacking players caught by an opponent after they have played the ball all the time, with far stronger challenges than this, and they are very rarely punished. There’s a different discussion to be how about how defensive players get away with that so often, but this is just a completely inconsequential incident.

If the referee gave this as a penalty during the game, that would perhaps be a different matter, but even then many would feel it was so soft there would be grounds for the VAR to overturn it.