This is the first that has official video replay used in the refereeing the game. There have been rumors that fourth official saw Zidane’s headbutt on the big screen before he notified the referee. That is one of the arguments for video replay as it’s hard for officials to see the whole game. This help to inform them about obvious errors.
This has had a big effect on giving penalties. There is no doubt that official will now give a penalty on balance of probabilities then wait to see if VAR have any problems with the choice. Rather than only giving a decision if they are sure. This lead to a lot more penalties as before is world cup the most penalties awarded in a tournament was 18 and there has been 28 awarded in this tournament.
After the increase in penalties from VAR. Then I would expect that the number of Yellow cards and Red cards would increase but this is not the case. While the yellow cards are lower than normal. This is the 2nd lowest of the current format 205 which is up on Brazil’s 187. The main difference is that officials are not giving red cards. If in the last four games there isn’t player sent off will be the lowest number of red cards in World Cup since 1978 in Argentina when there were only three red cards.
Only 12 players have been sent off in the semis and finals in tournament history. Even if there will be a couple there currently is four. In 64 game world cup, the closest is ten (Brazil). If we look at red cards per game. This currently 5th lowest ratio in a tournament. This would only be beaten by two world cups without a sending off (1950 Brazil and 1970 Mexico) and two world cup with one player getting his marching orders (1930 Uruguary and 1934 Italy).
VAR the Counter-argument
The counter-argument that it could be due to following the trend from Brazil and removal of double jeopardy. The rule that if a player is denied goalscoring opportunity it’s a penalty and red card which was in place for Brazi. Now if the player makes an attempt to get the ball it’s a yellow card. This happened in Croatia vs Denmark game. Mathias Jørgensen got a yellow card for fouling Ante Rebić. Under the old rules that would have been a red card.
Previously to Brazil world cup, the average number of red cards was 21 per 32 teams tournament. Then in Brazil, it had halved to 10. It has followed that trend by halving again.
On the other hand, could it be as VAR is at the tournament players know that they can’t get away with violent conduct even if the ref doesn’t see it; they know TV will more likely to spot it and let the ref know. It changes there behavior. I don’t think that would have an impact on Luis Suarez biting Chiellini in 2014. As he knew he would be banned for the rest of the tournament after past experiences.
Personally, I think it’s a mixture of both. That officials have changed their game management style due to VAR but also a general trend of less red cards have continued as players are better at avoiding red cards. There is less impact on a team with yellow cards and change doesn’t seem to been affected by VAR.