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Soccer

After further review, technology makes an impact on the World Cup

The World Cup entered the 21st century on Saturday when Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha used a video replay to reverse one call on the field and goal-line technology to confirm another in France’s 2-1 win over Australia in Kazan.

Under the Video Assistant Referee system, or VAR, a video referee watching the game from an operations center in Moscow can alert the on-field referee electronically when he believes a “clear and obvious” error has been made in one of four key areas: penalties, red cards, goals and mistaken identity, such as giving a caution to the wrong player.

If the on-field referee agrees an error might have been made, he can pause play and view the field-side replay system. That is what Cunha did before awarding a penalty kick to France when a replay showed Antoine Griezmann was fouled in the box by Australian defender Joshua Risdon, leading to the game’s first goal.

Less than 20 minutes later, goal-line technology — which relies on electronic aids to determine if a ball cleared the goal line — confirmed Paul Pogba’s game-winning score after it struck the underside of the crossbar.

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VAR was also used in Friday’s Spain-Portugal game, but in that case the video confirmed the original call on the field. The system, which is used in MLS and a handful of other leagues around the world, has not been warmly received by many players and coaches who believe stopping a game to review a video interrupts the flow. But French coach Didier Deschamps, whose team benefited from both calls Saturday, was pleased.

“I’m not going to complain about the use of video today,” he said. “It helped correct a mistake.”

Referee Andres Cunha from Uruguay enter the field after he watches a replay on a screen during the g
Referee Andres Cunha returns to the field after watching a replay during a Group C game between France and Australia on Saturday in Kazan, Russia.
(Hassan Ammar / Associated Press )

Can you hear me now?

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Martin Gomez figured he’d be watching Costa Rica’s World Cup opener Sunday on TV. But then he got a surprise call telling him he had won an all-expenses-paid trip to Russia to see the Ticos play in Samara in person, all because he had paid his phone bill on time.

Gomez didn’t even know he had been entered in the contest and hung up on the first two calls informing him of his prize, thinking it was a prank. The third time, convinced it was real, he began to cry.

“When I sing the national anthem and wave the flag of my country ... the tears of joy with flow,” Gomez, a 52-year-old electrician, told the Associated Press.

Gomez was among three dozen Costa Rica fans who were awarded the same prize by the country’s state-run telephone company. After Sunday’s game they will follow the team through the rest of the group stage, traveling to St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.

Lalas backs Mexico

When Mexico kicks off its World Cup campaign against defending champion Germany on Sunday it will have an unexpected fan in its corner: former U.S. World Cup defender Alexi Lalas. With the U.S. not playing in Russia, the Fox Sports analyst said he was hoping to see the only North America team in the tournament do well.

“I’m not cheering for them. I’m supporting them,” he said of Mexico. “If I had my team playing here there’s only one team that I would be supporting and that’s the United States. I don’t have that team so I’ve got to look around. They’ve earned my respect.

“I’m not telling anybody what to do. I’m just telling you what I’m doing.”

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11


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