on VAR and technology in football

“Don’t blame VAR, blame the rule” - Jamie Carragher, analysing Ayemeric Laporte’s handball after Manchester City’s draw to Tottenham in August, 2019

Carragher’s comments referred to the change in the handball rule this summer: any accidental handball involved in the creation of a goal would now result in the goal being disallowed. Accidental handballs were not automatically punished before this. The rule change followed a series of controversial incidents in Europe the season before, when VAR (video assistant referee) had been used to award handballs that were not only accidental, but barely noticeable to the naked eye.

When PSG met Manchester United in the second round of the Champions League, the referees inside the VAR shed outside the stadium watching multiple replays of every incident on multiple screens, saw something barely anyone on the pitch managed to catch. Marcus Rashford hammered a shot into Presnel Kimpembe’s arm from point-blank range, initially resulting in a corner. …

Juiced in it - Conor McGregor and the UFC's capitalism

These days, it’s hard to remember the mixed-martial artist Conor McGregor before all the riches and fame. In recent years McGregor has established himself as one of the most famous men on the planet: a man who pervades the spectacle to such a degree that even people of no interest in mixed-martial arts are fully aware of what he looks like, how his voice sounds and what he does. At the root of McGregor’s fast rise to global fame has been his ability to attract the media cameras by boasting about both his fighting talent, and the obscene amounts of money his talent has afforded to him to earn. But at the start of his fighting career in 2013, calm, without swearing or raising his voice, McGregor can be seen informing the cameras of his fundamental beliefs: that he is open, drawing inspiration from anything he sees in life – just anyone chasing down any old dream… whether you’re a day one beginner or not whoever you are…I’m always tryin to take things, always tryin’ to learn…just wanna …

Looking back - on Guardiola, Pedro & Messi

It has often been remarked that Leo Messi has succeeded in making the spectacular look so ordinary, such is the sheer number of incredible goals he scores. From 2009-2013 was Messi playing at a level few, if any players have ever reached. The ability to turn and dart past an entire defence on a whim, finishing it off with either a deft chip or a wrapped finish into the far corner. This Messi still exists - but today he tends to unleash it in shorter bursts, spending most of his time linking the play and freeing up teammates to run on goal. The Messi we saw under Guardiola played like a ferocious recurrent explosion. None of this is to deny how great Messi still is. To my mind he is still the greatest player in the world by some distance, but every time I've seen him play (nowhere near as much as I did 6/7 years ago...who at all watches any Spanish football these days?) of late, despite the flashes of brilliance, he seems to walk a lot more, wait rather than run for the ball a lot…

STILL RAGIN A MONTH ON: anti France n Pro Croatia

World Cup's over then, but still the feeling nags away at me that France were unworthy winners of the thing. Of course they played well, fast efficient football and easily had the strongest team and probably the strongest squad. Mbappe too was the tournament's real star, eclipsing not only Neymar but Ronaldo and Messi too. Driving at teams with Griezmann ontop of an iron base of Matuidi and Kante, he ripped teams apart practically on his own. France swept aside every team that faced them without much difficulty. The final was the biggest disappointment: never in a million years is that a freekick for 1-0, and never in a million years is that a penalty for 2-1. Croatia were robbed, absolutely robbed of their best spell of the game. After that, Modric, Rakitic and crucially the goalkeeper Subosic were out of gas, unable to chase any longer after such an exhausting set of fixtures.

I saw plenty of calls for a France win before the game, citing the recent fascism of Croatia fans …


remember Bob

no fear
no envy
no meanness

Brazil 1-2 Belgium

Lukaku, Hazard, De Bruyne. De Bruyne the thrust, dropping slightly deeper, picking passes, sliding passes, driving eating up the yards like a bullettrain. Hazard constantly dipping weaving clipping his heels round corners, an absolute slipstream, an absolute trace of a player. Like the fucking moon - you see him where he was half a second ago. Lukaku a whole other blade in himself. How much has this man improved from the lumbering, slow inflatable we saw at Old Trafford in August? Dominating centre halfs in the air, for speed, positioning. These three tore Brazil a new one in the first half hour. Belgium could have had three or four by half-time. I'm not Martinez' biggest fan, but he set the team up to allow these lads to flourish today, and for half an hour they cut Brazil, one of the strongest defensive sides in World Cup history to absolute shreds.

Brazil - goes against any actual rationale, but I did kinda feel sorry for Neymar, slumped, dumped, almost in tears as he slun…

Columbia 1-1 England (England win on penalties AET)

You don't have to be great to win a World Cup. You gotta be smart, sure, but you don't need to win each game five-nil at a canter, playing the most superb football ever seen and leaving teams scratching dust as they chase you all over the pitch. Columbia and England showed signs of this theory earlier tonight.

Columbia started the game in the garage, nevermind which gear, but slowly, surely worked themselves into something of a coherent team performance, enough to snatch a late equaliser and very nearly enough to win the game. Quintero, the man who's sublime Gascoigne-isms in the group games had even forced me into ordering a fucking Columbia shirt was way off key, short of both room and options on the ball, while Falcao spent the first 70 minutes battling 3 defenders on his own.

England by contrast, started brightly but soon faded. Gone were the fluid attacks of the Tunisia game in a first half which eventually saw Harry Kane dropping into the number 5 position to try an…