Hope Solo wants to talk about VAR – and when one of the game’s greatest goalkeepers speaks, it’s worth listening.
Former US star Solo was left frustrated by watching Scotland goalkeeper Lee Alexander being penalized by the video assistant referee after her dramatic penalty save during her team’s game with Argentina Wednesday.
Alexander appeared to have help secure Scotland’s first ever victory at the Women’s World Cup when she blocked Florencia Bonsegundo’s effort deep into stoppage time – only for VAR to adjudge that she did not have part of her foot on the line as the ball was kicked.
The referee ordered the penalty to be retaken after consulting VAR and Bonsegundo scored to knock Scotland out of the competition.
“We need to talk about this rule and the way it’s impacting matches, “ Solo tweeted in the aftermath of Scotland’s 3-3 draw
“Stepping off your line does not do enough to cut down the angle during a penalty to justify a retake. There’s not enough time during a penalty kick for any goalkeeper to get close enough to shut down the angle. Moving a few inches off the line can actually hurt a keeper’s reaction time during a pk!”
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‘Hindrance more than an advantage’
Three penalty kicks have been retaken at this summer’s tournament so far after VAR ruled that goalkeepers did not have at least one part of their foot on the goal line.
While FIFA has yet to comment publicly on the penalty controversies, it is clear that officials are simply following the laws imposed by the sport’s rule making body, the International Football Association Board.
The IFAB rule, implemented on June 1, is clear: “The goalkeeper must have at least part of one foot on/in line with the goal line when the kick is taken; cannot stand behind the line.”
The rules goes on to say: “Goalkeepers are not permitted to stand in front of or behind the line. Allowing the goalkeeper to have only one foot touching the goalline (or, if jumping, in line with the goal line) when the penalty kick is taken is a more practical approach as it is easier to identify if both feet are not on the line.
“As the kicker can ‘stutter’ in the run, it is reasonable that the goalkeeper can take one step in anticipation of the kick.”
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Not only are the rules clear, players and coaches have had them explained to them and were made fully aware of them going into the tournament.
Solo, who won 202 caps for the US, says she always felt that stepping off the line was a “hindrance more than an advantage” when facing a penalty.
“A GK inching off their line before the kick doesn’t help, and it hurts the spirit of the game when VAR calls back penalties and keepers get cards in these scenarios. If a shooter misses, they shouldn’t get a freebie simply because a GK moved slightly forward.”
Earlier this week, Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was punished for appearing to come off her line too early while facing a penalty from France’s Wendie Renard.
Though Renard’s penalty hit the post, VAR suggested it be retaken and Renard fired home at the second attempt to secure France’s 1-0 victory.
Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider was also penalized during her side’s 5-0 defeat by Italy after appearing to jump off her line in an attempt to save Cristiana Girelli’s penalty.
Once again, the penalty was retaken and Italy scored.
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‘Tough to swallow’
Former Canada goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who played at five World Cups and two Olympics, told CNN Sport that while the new rules are “tough to swallow,” goalkeepers need to arguably alter their mindset.
“If you put on your mindset of a goalkeeper, this is your opportunity to be a hero,” she said.
“Goalkeepers for most of the time, always have to be perfect. You make the save, you’re a hero. So imagine getting to the point where you’ve lived this moment all your life, you’ve seen the sold out stadiums, you’ve seen the penalty shootout and you make the save.
“You’re feeling so high. And then all of a sudden, to have everything break down and you lose, it’s tough.
“I feel sorry for Lee Alexander because she’s going to play that over and over and over in her mind. It’s not fault it’s just how the game is evolving and that’s why I think my heart breaks for her.”
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While VAR looks set to continue to police penalties in international football, the English Premier League has confirmed that it will not use the system for such incidents.
A spokesman for the EPL told CNN that the positioning of goalkeepers when they face penalties will remain the responsibility of the on-field official.
In the US men’s game, Major League Soccer chose not to implement the new rules until March 2020.
CNN’s Joe McCurdy in Atlanta contributed to this report