Ian Hart: Expectation grows but VAR has its flaws
So in the end a late Harry Kane header lifted an entire nation, but was the victory against Tunisia ever really in doubt?
It was both an enthralling and at times frustrating evening on Monday, eventually ending up with the result England deserved and a game that we will possibly look back with some affection in years to come as the match when it all began.
England created the opportunities to have been home and hosed by half-time, but unfortunately on the night we didn’t get the rub of the green.
The knockers and doubters were quick to get on the backs of both Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard, granted they both had below-par performances, but they are quality players who I still believe have a big contribution to make in England’s campaign in Russia.
A big factor in the first half on Monday was the use of VAR - already playing a huge part in this tournament - ultimately its viewed by FIFA as progress but clearly there are flaws.
Even with the state-of-the-art technology, it’s down to the interpretation of the people back at the VAR unit.
I’ve no complaints about Tunisia’s penalty award, it was a stupid challenge by Kyle Walker, however, shortly after the VAR officials totally missed a ‘challenge’ on Kane in the opposing penalty area that Hulk Hogan would have been proud of.
Given the extensive television coverage and the countless replays played on the night, it beggars belief, given some of the previous VAR penalty awards in the competition, that it was missed.
It’s been reported that the VAR can give half-time red cards retrospectively having viewed incidents, could that in time extend to penalty awards or is that a step too far even for FIFA?
For good measure, just to keep the VAR adjudicators busy, there was another challenge on Kane in the second half which many, including myself, would have classed as a cast iron penalty.
To miss one might be classed as a mistake, but two?
That aside it all turned out for the best in the end and I have to say some of the football England played in the first half was as good we’ve seen by our national side in recent years.
A slight concern I have is that for all the obvious talent we have in the squad are we lacking that combative midfielder, a Patrick Viera or Roy Keane, who steps up to the plate when the going gets tough, gets the game by the scruff of the neck and won’t be bullied, going in to every challenge as if his life depended on it?
Maybe he is there already?
This could be the tournament that he emerges as a pivotal member of our starting 11.
All will be revealed in the fullness of time and up next it’s Panama on Sunday. Argentina, Brazil and Germany have all found out you can’t take anything for granted in world football now, that said I’m confident England will have too much for the men from Central America and a comfortable victory will effectively guarantee qualification to the knockout stages with a game to spare.
One swallow does not make a summer, but Monday’s night victory, given the last-gasp nature of it, has certainly given us all room for optimism.