More players, more technology… the novelties of the 2022 World Cup

Semi-automatic offside

After introducing video assistance to arbitration (VAR) at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, FIFA validated on July 1 the use during the Qatari tournament (November 20-December 18) of “semi- automated offside” (SAOT), a tool designed to speed up and make refereeing decisions more reliable. This additional step, tested during the Arab Cup at the end of 2021 then during the Club World Cup and in the Champions League since the start of the season, makes it possible to establish the position of the players and the ball at any time., facilitating the detection of offsides without however replacing the judgment of the referees. In Qatar, this system will use twelve cameras placed under the roof of the stadiums, and will monitor “up to 29 data points“per player”50 times per second“, while a sensor placed in the center of the ball will send data “500 times per second“, determining when it is played far more precisely than a human eye could.

With the help of artificial intelligence, says Fifa, an alert will be transmitted to the video referees “each time the ball is received by an attacker who was in an offside position” at the time of the pass, and they can inform the main referee, who will make the final decision. Impossible, however, to hope to fully automate offside detection and eliminate controversies: once the position of the players has been taken into account, it remains to be assessed whether an opponent was able to intentionally put the ball back into playas illustrated by the validation of the controversial goal of Kylian MbappĂ© in October 2021 during the victory of France against Spain in the final of the League of Nations (2-1).

Lists of 26

Exit the “list of 23”, intangible since the 2001 Confederations Cup: Fifa increased the maximum number of players for each selection to the 2022 World Cup to 26 at the end of Juneperpetuating this measure of flexibility introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic and already adopted by UEFA at the Euro in 2021. The objective is to integrate the risks of contamination and quarantine, but also to take into account “the unusual period in which the World Cup will take place“, in the middle of the season in Europe, namely in November-December and not during the summer. During the Euro, the coaches had shown themselves to be divided on this enlargement which, if it offered them more sporting choice, the also forced to spare even more carefully the ego of the less used players.

England coach Gareth Southgate said that “picking 23 players is a skill” to be valued for a coach, while Luis Enrique, boss of the Spain team, had preferred to be content with calling 24 players during the European tournament. Among the Blues, who are awaiting the return of many injured people before defending their world title, Didier Deschamps will unveil his list on November 9 and believes he has a “certain margin between 23 and 26“.

Five changes

The International Board (Ifab), guardian of the laws of football, definitively validated in mid-June the passage from three to five changes per team and per matcha measure also introduced during the pandemic and which ended up convincing all players in the game. This amendment to the “Law 3” of football had been decided by Ifab in May 2020, and was to run until the end of 2021 for club competitions and until July 31, 2022 for international matches, before being extended for the first time until the end of 2022. In October 2021, the guardian of the laws of the game had left the choice to each competition of adopt the five changes or not, the English Premier League remaining refractory for a long time.

On the other hand, Ifab has decided to extend until August 2023 the sixth substitution trials in the event of a concussion – a delicate subject in football since the effects of a cranial shock often appear after a delay, complicating the immediate evaluation. – “in order to collect enough data to make a valid scientific decision“.

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