Why have the matches at the 2022 World Cup been so long?

We’re still in the early stages of the 2022 World Cup, but a theme has already emerged that has shaped several of Qatar’s matches to date.

All four games played at the tournament on Sunday and Monday saw extended overtime at the end of both halves, to the point where each of those games totaled more than 100 minutes, well over the regular 90.

Fans were quick to notice the unusual amount of stoppage time allocated by officials, particularly during England’s first Group B game against Iran, where a whopping total of 27 minutes of stoppage time was allocated in both halves.

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Qatar 0-2 Ecuador (100mins 18secs)

It was evident that something odd was afoot in the first game of the 2022 World Cup when hosts Qatar faced Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium. In the opening game, about five extra minutes were added at the end of both halves – largely due to an early VAR check that disallowed a goal in the first half and some minor stoppages in the second.

England 6-2 Iran (117-16)

The situation then escalated in the second game of the tournament after Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand was seriously injured and the player underwent an extensive concussion test before being substituted, resulting in a first-half injury time of 14:08.

To top it off, another (albeit fortunately less serious) head injury sustained by Harry Maguire after the break, combined with a multitude of substitutions, resulted in another 13:08 of added time at the end of the second half .

The long delay also allowed Mehdi Taremi to score two late consolation goals for Iran, the second of which (at 102:30) was the last goal without overtime at a World Cup since 1996. Then the final whistle sounded immediately thereafter, ending the longest World Cup game since 1966 (as far as reliable records stand) that did not go into overtime to a long overdue end.

After a rather dismal first half, the second half of the Netherlands’ opening game against Senegal dragged on with 10:03 left of regular time, just long enough for the Dutch to clinch victory with a couple of late goals.

While Cody Gakpo’s opening goal came in the 84th minute in regulation time, Davy Klaasens, ridiculously late second (98-17), is now second to Taremi’s penalty against England in the final round of World Cup goals outside extra time.

While only four minutes of stoppage time were added in the first half, officials signaled a whopping nine extra minutes at the end of a grueling second half. Despite this, the actual game time played was 10:34, making the period the third longest half in football so far at the 2022 World Cup.

Gareth Bale was already exhausted when he equalized from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute for Wales, but from that point it was almost 20 minutes before the whistle finally rang.

Unsurprisingly, the LAFC star looked annoyed after the final whistle after admitting he and his compatriots were feeling “a bit tired” towards the end of the drawn-out encounter.

“I can’t believe there was nine minutes, I don’t know where that came from,” Bale told ITV after the game, “but we have to dig deep for our country, we always do and we keep going.”

So the first four games in Qatar have shared nearly 65 minutes of stoppage time due to a litany of stoppages.

Of course, the longest delays in England’s victory over Iran were largely a result of concussions and suspected concussions suffered by Beiranvand and Maguire. Overall, however, the longer overtime periods signaled by officials at the 2022 World Cup are part of FIFA’s concerted effort to minimize wasted time during matches.

The intention is to more closely monitor the amount of time a given game is interrupted, with the same “wasted” time then being added back to the clock at the end of each half.

Speaking to ESPN’s The Gab and Juls Show, Pierluigi Collina, a former World Cup referee and current chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, explained both the rationale and gameplay of the new anti-time wasting rules – rules first introduced for the 2018 finals Russia formulated.

“When we talk about wasted time in a game, we should distinguish between the time wasted because of the game and the time that players waste intentionally. The biggest part is the time wasted because of the game,” said Collina.

“What we already did in Russia, you may recall, is calculate more accurately the time compensated at the end of each half. We told everyone don’t be surprised as you will see the fourth official lift the electronic board with a big number on it: six, seven, eight minutes.”

The 62-year-old Italian explained that, on average, many minutes are “lost” when players themselves perform routine actions such as throw-ins and goal kicks. To make up for lost time, the required “active time” is added at the end of each half.

“Imagine a game where three goals are scored in one half,” added Collina. “The celebrations usually last a minute or a half, so if you score three goals you’re basically losing five or six minutes.”

“So what we really want is to accurately calculate the time that needs to be added at the end of each half.”

He also confirmed that any additional time lost during VAR checks will be calculated by the fourth duty official and reported to the referee during the match.

“The lost time for VAR is calculated very sharply and precisely by the video assistant referee. Normally the fourth official suggests extra time and the referee decides.”

While those extra-long games early in the group stage may have surprised the crowd, we may all have to get used to them.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-the-toe-poke/story/4809539/why-have-the-matches-at-the-2022-world-cup-been-so-long Why have the matches at the 2022 World Cup been so long?

Emma Bowman

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