Charlie Christie looks at the Under-17 World Cup and yet more VAR controversy in his regular Inverness Courier column
I’ve been monitoring the Under-17 World Cup, which is currently being played in Indonesia.
This week saw Germany and France make the final at the expense of Argentina and Mali, and the showcase match will be played at lunchtime on Saturday.
The final will be contested by two European nations for only the second time since the tournament’s inception in 1985.
The biggest shock of this year’s event was the defeat of 2017 champions England by Uzbekistan in the round of 16.
The annual youth academy spend of the two nations will be worlds apart, but the result again shows that anyone can come out on top in a one-off match.
The former Soviet Republic are currently ranked 74th, but went on to run finalists France very close in the quarter finals, losing out to a solitary late goal.
Incredibly, in the 19 tournaments to date, only three teams from Europe have lifted the trophy – England, Switzerland and France. It has been the African nations who excel historically, along with the South Americans.
Nigeria tops the statistics for most titles with five successes followed closely by current holders Brazil with four.
The fact that neither Spain nor Germany have ever lifted the trophy is very surprising given the huge array of talent they have produced – although Spain have made the final on four occasions, falling just short each time.
VAR continues to make 'nonsensical' decisions
The debate on video assistant referees (VAR) in football rages on and this past week’s events have only added to the clamour that something needs to be done and done quickly.
I watched the English Premiership match at Fulham where Gary O’Neill’s Wolves were the visitors, and the awarding of the third penalty of the game in injury time was quite simply nonsensical.
Fulham’s Harry Wilson and defender Joao Gomes came together in the Wolves box and, after initially waving play on, the referee was advised to go to the monitor which inevitably led to the spot kick – when it could easily be argued that the right decision should have been a yellow card for simulation.
I then witnessed a spirited Newcastle performance away to PSG being undone with another ridiculous injury time penalty. Tino Livramento was adjudged to have handled the ball when the ball had ricocheted off his chest prior to touching his arm – but again VAR got it wrong.
One thing I’d like to see is the use of former players. These are the people who have been in the heat of battle and understand fine margins in football better than anyone, so a former player alongside a qualified referee would make a lot of sense to me.