Fans in stadiums about 1,000 miles apart — and millions watching on multiple screens around the globe — were transfixed on a studio outside Moscow where World Cup fates turned on nearly simultaneous video replay decisions.
Iago Aspas had scored in the first minute of stoppage time Monday night, pulling Spain into a 2-2 tie with Morocco in Kaliningrad, but a referee’s assistant ruled he was offside. If the goal did not count, Spain would be in second place behind Portugal.
Referee Ravshan Irmatov went to the monitor on the side of the field to view the image put on the screen by the control room at the International Broadcast Center in Krasnogorsk.
At the same moment, referee Enrique Caceres went to view his monitor in Saransk to determine whether Portuguese defender Cedric committed a handball when Iran’s Sardar Azmoun headed the ball down. Portugal was leading 1-0, past 90 minutes and into stoppage time.
If Portugal won, it would finish first. If Iran were able to score on the penalty kick and somehow score again while Morocco held on to beat Spain, Iran would have shockingly won the group, Portugal would finish second and Spain’s World Cup would be over.
Iramatov reversed the call, pointing to the center circle to signal goal, and Spain got the 2-2 draw . Cacares gestured to the spot for the record 20th penalty kick of the World Cup, and Karim Ansarifard converted in the third minute of stoppage time to give Iran a 1-1 draw .
When final whistles blew, Spain and Portugal — which drew 3-3 earlier in the tournament — were tied again atop Group B, but Spain got the top seed on the second tiebreaker, total goals, 6-5.
That means host Russia, which finished second in Group A, will play Spain on Sunday in Moscow, while Portugal faces the much more difficult opponent, Uruguay on Saturday in Sochi.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz was incensed after a decision that followed a video review not to send off Cristiano Ronaldo. The five-time FIFA Player of the Year instead was given a yellow card after an arm of the Portuguese star hit Iranian defender Mortez Pouraliganji in the face in the 82nd minute.
Early in the second half, a video review led to a penalty kick for Portugal when Saeid Ezatolahi was judged to have fouled Ronaldo. There was minimal contact and Caceres originally waved off a foul. Ronaldo’s penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Queiroz threw his jacket when the penalty kick was given.
“When there is a penalty, everything becomes more warm in the pitch. The temperature in my body it comes from 46 to 250, so understand why I need to take the jacket off,” he said.
Queiroz coached his native Portugal from 2008-10 and has led Iran since 2011. He complained that Ronaldo gets star treatment.
“The reality is you stop the game too far. There is an elbow — elbow is red card in the rules, and the rules doesn’t say if it is (Lionel) Messi or Ronaldo.”
Queiroz railed against the way video review was used.
“I need to know if I am grandfather or no. I don’t want to know if my daughter is a little bit pregnant or it’s a little evidence or obvious,” he said. “It’s a red card. So the question it is for me, as I said before, it is not about the refs, it’s about the attitude and the bravery and the character. The decisions, they must be clear for everybody, for the people.”
Soccer’s rules-making body started allowing experiments with video review last year and FIFA adopted it for the World Cup for the first time.
“Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes and referees make mistakes,” Queiroz said. “But now you have one system that costs a fortune — a fortune. High technology, five, six people inside, whatever, nobody takes responsibilities. The referees on the pitch, they are … washing their hands. They cover themselves with decisions because the guys are upstairs. The guys upstairs they don’t know exactly what they should do. Stop it.”
Not surprisingly, Portugal coach Fernando Santos agreed that Ronaldo did not deserve red.
“It seemed like a normal thing in the match and the referee did what he had to do,” Santos said. “I’d have to watch it again, but I think the VAR did its job, and that’s what we have to accept.”
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