Soccer: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022-Belgium at Canada Nov 23, 2022; Al Rayyan, Qatar; Canada forward Tajon Buchanan (11) keeps the ball from Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen (5) during the first half of a group stage match during the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The referee and VAR were on the fritz in the 2022 FIFA World Cup match between Belgium and Canada.

Belgium never seemed to get into a rhythm, with few shots and Kevin De Bruyne missing critical passes on the counter.

Roughly ten minutes in, Canada was gifted a penalty kick from a Belgian handball in the box. The Bayern Munich winger Alphonso Davies stepped up to take the kick-which was subpar-but Thibault Courtois easily denied the golden opportunity.

But the real action was what wasn’t called by the ref and VAR. Soon after Davies missed the penalty, Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen fouled Tajon Buchanan in the box but was ruled as offsides.

Still, Buchanan was not offside as Belgian Eden Hazard intentionally played the ball back. The gray area comes from Vertonghen touching the ball before fouling Buchanan, which is clutch when VAR is ruling whether or not to go to review.

Later, Canadian Richard Laryea was running alongside Belgian defender Axel Witsel when he came crashing down inside the penalty box, immediately appealing for a foul, which was not awarded.

Systems like VAR were designed to make soccer more objective when enforcing the rules. Still, so far, it seems to be operating more as a kind friend meekly pointing out they received the wrong food at a restaurant than the safeguard for consistency it has always been touted to be.

The only goal of the game came against the run of play when Belgian Michy Batshuayi scored in the 44th minute, earning Belgian three points to take the top spot in their group.

Belgium will play Morroco Sunday (8 am ET) at Al Thumama Stadium. Canada will play Croatia Sunday (11 am ET) at Khalifa International Stadium.

[Stu Holden]

About Mike Gawdzik

A fan of the Red Devils and White Sox, Mike Gawdzik is a high school English teacher by day and a writer by night. He tries to write what he knows, like when he was a drag queen for a day or when he competed in an amateur boxing tournament in South Korea. When reading student essays isn’t enough for him, he’s also the creative nonfiction editor for Flying Island and Sport Literate.