VAR has been a disaster at the Copa América this summer, and last night’s Brazil-Argentina semifinal was no different. And as evidenced by his scathing postgame comments slamming VAR and the refereeing in general after his team fell to Brazil, Lionel Messi is fed the fuck up with it.
Brazil beat their most hated rivals of Argentina by a score of 2–0 in a scruffy, competitive, intense match that was closer than the scoreline might imply. Had just a couple bounces or calls gone Argentina’s way—an off-the-post shot sneaking into the net here, a penalty or two there—the outcome easily could’ve gone the other way. Those narrow margins, and the understandable feeling that bad refereeing was what kept at least a couple of those big moments from falling Argentina’s way, are what got Messi so hot after the match.
“They [the officials] had called a lot of bullshit,” Messi said (as translated by the Independent) in his postgame comments, referencing the kind of shoddy VAR-induced referee decisions anyone who’s watched the Women’s World Cup over the last month could relate to. “But they didn’t even check the VAR [tonight], that’s unbelievable.”
The two main moments Messi was referring to there were a couple of very legitimate penalty shouts that went not only ignored in realtime, but also went unflagged by VAR. The first came during a promising Argentina attack, when Dani Alves appeared to trip Sergio Agüero right as the striker entered the penalty area looking to latch onto a pass from Messi:
Here it is from another angle:
That no-call was especially huge because Brazil’s clearance of Messi’s pass there sparked the counterattack from which Brazil scored their second goal.
The second missed call came during a corner kick a little later in the game, when Brazilian midfielder Arthur, not even looking at the ball, jumped straight into Nicolás Otamendi’s chest and shoulder-checked him to the ground:
Continuing from his comments above, Messi kept right on going with his string of bullshits:
“That happened all over the game. At the first glance of contact, they ruled in their [Brazil’s] favour and this kind of bullshit distracted us from the game
“Throughout the tournament they called bullshit handballs, bullshit penalties, and bullshit fouls. But somehow today, they refused to use VAR.
“There is no excuses for us, but we need to review this, analyse it and let’s hope CONMEBOL does something about it - but surely not, because Brazil commands too much power in the organisation.”
Technically, Messi isn’t quite right when he says VAR wasn’t used at all. The video assistants do look at everything, but it’s only sometimes, when they believe the refs on the pitch missed something or made an error, that they instruct the head ref to stop the game and go take another look on the monitor. But his point that VAR probably should’ve reversed at least one and probably both of those denied penalties is totally justified.
Losing like that must hurt, but Messi should look on the bright side. It’s probably way better to lose in righteous indignation after a couple bad calls in the semifinal than it would’ve been to take yet another agonizing L in a big final.