Screenshot: Telemundo

Scotland just had to defend a 3-0 lead over the final 20 minutes of their match on Wednesday against Argentina in order to make it to the knockout stage of the World Cup. They couldn’t do it, and as a result will exit their first World Cup after just three games.

Argentina’s second-half charge to a 3-3 draw started off thrilling but concluded with a messy, confusing anti-climax that played almost exactly the same as Nigeria’s loss to France on Monday. After Erin Cuthbert scored in the 69th minute to give Scotland its massive advantage, Milagros Menéndez responded in the 74th with a goal to keep her team alive. Then Flor Bonsegundo got a long shot to hit off the crossbar and bounce in.

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Then it got weird. With the score at 3-2 in the 86th minute, the VAR clusterfuck began. Scotland defender Sophie Howard mistimed a slide tackle in the box, which initially passed without a whistle. But then, after a lengthy VAR review in which everyone stood on the pitch awkwardly waiting for the check, and then waited as the referee walked over to the sideline for an on-field review, the penalty was called. And so eventually, after a five-minute delay that included some mind games from the Scotland players on Argentina’s penalty-taker, Bonsegundo stepped up and ... got stoned on the shot, preserving Scotland’s place in the Round of 16.

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But wait! Just like Nigerian keeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, Scotland’s Lee Alexander jumped off her line before the kick was taken—not noticeably enough for any call to be made in real time, but enough that it was obvious upon video review. Bonsegundo was awarded a retake, and this time she didn’t miss, tying the game in the 94th minute.

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Bizarrely, despite something like an eight-minute delay towards the end of the half, the game continued on for less than two minutes after Bonsegundo’s equalizing goal. The match finished awkwardly, with both teams more-or-less eliminated and nearly everyone in a state of shock.

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Aside from the lack of stoppage-time, which felt completely wrong, the VAR system did its job, at least if you understand that job as “making sure the calls on the pitch were unimpeachably correct when replayed in slow-mo.” But at the risk of repeating myself, this isn’t how soccer is supposed to be played. VAR is changing the way the game is perceived, slowing it down beyond normal human comprehension to magnify every infraction. The obvious casualty here is free-flowing play, which is subordinated to an idea of order that forces everyone to squint at screens for extended breaks like juries watching CCTV footage. It’s not all that fun. It’s not even exciting. It’s just a sloppily executed attempt to impose objective truth on a sport that won’t be better off for it.