Two first-half goals from Enner Valencia handed Ecuador a 2-0 win against hosts, Qatar in the opening ceremony at the Al Bayt Stadium during the opening game at the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
Although Ecuador took all the points against Qatar, top scorer Enner Valencia could have gotten the first hat-trick of the tournament and not a brace but for the goal disallowed in the third minute of the game.
The decision by referee Daniele Orsato to disallow the goal following consultation with the VAR team has raised a few eyebrows with many fans finding it difficult to accept the decision.
When the free kick was played into the area, Ecuador defender Felix Torres challenged Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb. The ball fell to Michael Estrada, who headed it back to Torres for him to create the goal for Valencia.
However, when Torres got a touch on the ball (the direction it travels, forwards or backwards, is irrelevant) Estrada had one foot ahead of the second-last defensive player, who was Abdelkarim Hassan.
The review took longer than a regular offside because the offside VAR, Tomasz Listkiewicz, had to be certain that the ball did come off Torres. Without that touch, Estrada would not have been offside. Any subsequent touch of the gloves of Al-Sheeb would not be considered a “deliberate play” to reset the offside phase.
It’s irrelevant in offside law whether or not an attacking player means to play the ball, the touch automatically sets the phase for every other player’s offside position.
The added confusion comes from Estrada being obscured by Torres and Al-Sheeb, and another defender being closer to goal. Fans naturally look for the last defender, which can be misleading when the goalkeeper is ahead. That said, Al-Sheeb wasn’t even the second-last defensive player, in this case, it was Hassan (who was also blocked from view by Torres and Al-Sheeb.)
So it was correct, but there was a lack of clarity over it for too long. Even with FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology, the key factor of judging that Torres played the ball had to be made by the VAR.