‘VAR will impact Russia’ – Lopetegui

Spain boss Julen Lopetegui feels the Video Assistant Referee system will have a major say at this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

VAR was given unanimous approval by the International Football Association Board in Zurich in March, who voted to introduce the system permanently. This will be the first World Cup to have used video replays, although the tournament in Brazil four years ago saw goal line technology introduced.

VAR only intervenes during a game when officials have made a ‘clear and obvious’ error in one of four key areas: penalties, goals, straight red cards and mistaken identity.

Lopetegui believes it will be an influence on Spain’s World Cup campaign as many of their players have no experience of it.

“It’s certainly an important issue, no doubt about that,” said the 51-year-old in an exclusive interview with AS.

“VAR is going to influence and condition lots of games at the World Cup. For example, using it will mean stopping and starting games; that in itself has an effect on the continuity and rhythm of them.

“Spain like to have long spells with the ball and wear down their opponents, so we’ll need to be ready for what is a brand new situation for us. Of course, we’ll make sure we are fully prepared for VAR and all its various scenarios, for when matches are stopped and then started again.

“I’ve analysed where VAR is in use and seen that there are usually a lot goals scored just after stoppages for it, which shows that teams make full use of the break in play and concentration of their opponents.

“But there’s no point in complaining about it as we must be ready for VAR. We’ll be studying it with the players and making sure they are prepared. It’s something we do need to take into account.”

La Roja are one of the favourites to lift the trophy but Lopetegui refused to be drawn on which teams he sees as the strongest.

“There are so many strong teams! Firstly, there is Portugal, who are the reigning European champions, and after that all the teams who have silverware in their collection because they have that winning mentality in their DNA.

“Belgium are an extraordinary side in every department. Having said that, it’s worth remembering every team, including Spain, has to go out and win each match. A country’s history or however many stars you have on your shirt won’t mean a thing. Italy would be in the finals for sure if it did,” he affirmed.

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