England's World Cup history could have been VAR-y different
Why do the Three Lions always come up short at major tournaments? Any sensible fan will tell you that it’s because key decisions have gone against them.
England and World Cups - rarely do these two things go together. Ever since the nation’s triumph in 1966, decades of disappointment have followed.
The Three Lions’ best showing since then came under Bobby Robson at Italia ’90, when they lost to West Germany on penalties in the semi-finals.
The question is, why do England always come up short at the World Cup? Any sensible fan will tell you that it’s because key decisions have gone against them over the years.
So, with VAR making its World Cup debut in Russia this summer, we looked at how the technology could have changed England’s fortunes.
The Three Lions are in the latest football betting odds to lift the trophy in Russia, but could we have had more than one World Cup to our name if it had been around earlier?
The card of God
Perhaps the most famous moment in World Cup history, 'The Hand of God' is still something that pains England fans 30 years on.
During the 51st minute and with the game locked at 0-0, El Diego drove down the centre of the pitch, playing an unorthodox one-two with Steve Hodge, who looped the ball over England’s backline for Maradona to palm home.
The villainous genius of Maradona was in contrast to his amazing footballing ability, and both were on full display that day in Mexico City.
Later in the game, he glided past the whole England team and scored Argentina’s second goal, giving them an insurmountable lead. Would this have happened if he had received a yellow card for his blatant handball only four minutes earlier thanks to VAR?
We'd like to think that after receiving a caution, Maradona would have kept things simple and England would have gone on to win 1-0 thanks to Gary Lineker’s goal late on in the game.
Down to 10
In their quest to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States, England faced tough opposition in their group from the Netherlands, Poland, Norway and Turkey.
Fans and media alike predicted that England and the Netherlands were certain to share the two qualifying spots available. The only thing left to decide was who would finish first.
However, things rarely work out as planned for England at major tournaments. They played the Netherlands in Rotterdam, knowing that the second qualifying spot was their last hope due to a strong showing from Norway, who eventually claimed the group’s top spot.
Early in the first half, with the game tied at 0-0, David Platt raced through on goal only to be brought down by the Netherlands’ captain Ronald Koeman on the edge of the 18-yard box.
Koeman received a yellow card, despite being the last man and went on to score his country’s opener from a free-kick in what would become a 2-0 win.
Norway and the Netherlands ended up going to the World Cup, while England were left at home. Things could have been so different had, after reviewing VAR, the referee decided to red card Koeman and England played most of the game against 10 men.
A towering success
England came up against Argentina in the last 16 of the 1998 World Cup in what would go on to be one of the most eventful England games ever. After David Beckham was sent off for his petulant kick on Diego Simeone, the game was tied at 2-2.
Then things started looking up when Sol Campbell towered above the Argentine defence and headed home for what he and the rest of England thought would be the winner.
But the referee saw things differently, and decided to disallow the goal due to Alan Shearer elbowing the goalkeeper.
To add insult to injury, Argentina restarted the game immediately with half of the team still celebrating at the corner flag and launched a counter-attack against the five England players left on the pitch.
Darron Anderton ran 70 yards from the Argentine penalty box to make a decisive tackle once the ball was played through to a young Hernán Crespo, who was bearing down on goal. Even this wasn’t enough, though, as Argentina went on to win 4-3 in penalties.
Surely after reviewing VAR, the referee would have ruled there was no infringement and England would have progressed to the quarter-finals.
The goal that was
England once again met Germany in the knockout stages of a World Cup in 2010. Despite trailing 2-0 early on, England pulled one back thanks to Matthew Upson converting from a corner.
In the 37th minute, Frank Lampard unleashed a 20-yard strike which hit the underside of the bar and fell over the line before bouncing out of the goal due to the backspin on the ball.
Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, however, deemed that the ball had not crossed the line and the game continued. England went on to lose 4-1 and were eliminated from the World Cup.
Some say that Germany were just better than England and would have gone on to win the match even if Lampard’s goal had stood.
But had the Three Lions had made it to half-time with the score at 2-2, the outcome could have been different.
They think it’s ball over
After all the heartbreak and sorrow, England fans can’t feel too hard done by after Geoff Hurst’s famous goal to make it 3-2 in the 1966 World Cup final against Germany.
The "was it over the line?" debate has lasted generations and comes up every time the World Cup is played.
England fans know the truth, though.