Sweden goalkeeper on VAR uproar: 'Just stick to the rules and there will be no issue'
LE HAVRE, France – One of the Women’s World Cup’s leading goalkeepers has issued a vigorous defense of the Video Assistant Referee penalty-kick decisions that have become a major talking point of the tournament.
Sweden’s Hedvig Lindahl, a veteran of four World Cups and widely regarded as one of the top keepers in women’s soccer, believes that for all the hoopla about certain key decisions, VAR is having a positive impact.
“It’s actually better now for goalkeepers,” Lindahl told me on Thursday night, following her team’s 2-0 defeat to the United States to complete Group F action.
It didn’t seem better the previous night, when Scotland’s Lee Alexander saved a late Argentina penalty, only for the referee to adjudge she had strayed inches off her line and order the kick to be retaken. The second attempt from Florencia Bonsegundo scored, resulting in a 3-3 tie and Scotland’s elimination from the World Cup. Similar occurrences took place earlier in the tournament, with Nigeria and Jamaica on the receiving end.
However, Lindahl supported the decisions and explained that while fans are accustomed to seeing goalkeepers encroach, that is simply because referees have historically shown too much leniency.
“What’s funny is that the laws of the game used to be (goalkeepers) should have both feet on the line and now we only have to have one foot on the line,” Lindahl said. “So it’s actually better now for the goalkeepers. The difference is now that (referees) make sure that’s happening and if you are leaving the line you get penalized for it. So I don’t see why the discussion is so big. Just stick to the rules and there will be no issue.”
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body charged with discussing and proposing rule changes in soccer, agreed earlier this year on a change to the penalty laws pertaining to goalkeepers and their positioning.
“The goalkeeper must be on (not in front or behind) the goal line at a penalty kick but only needs to have one foot on the goal line (or in line with it if in the air) when the kick is taken,” reads the amendment to Law 14 of the sport’s Laws of the Game publication.
While the decisions may have seemed harsh, video footage did show Alexander, Nigeria’s Chiamaka Nnadozie and Jamaica’s Sydney Schneider all coming off the line.
However, the IFAB did approve a request from FIFA on Friday to give temporary dispensation preventing goalkeepers who encroach on penalty kicks from receiving yellow cards as punishment between now and the end of the tournament. The action was taken in response to fears that the outcome of games - especially with penalty shootouts a possibility during the knockout phase - could be disproportionately affected by the new rule. The dispensation does not apply to penalty kicks during "normal time," the IFAB clarified.
Lindahl plays her club soccer for Chelsea in England and played a heroic role in Sweden’s penalty shootout victories over the U.S. and Brazil at the 2016 Olympics, as Sweden claimed a silver medal.
“I know there will be problems for some goalkeepers because traditionally you have been able to leave the line too early,” Lindahl added. “And yes, I can see the point if it is centimeters here or there. But there is a rule and there is a reason to why we have the rule.
“And I can tell you as one of the goalkeepers that’s been staying on the line…it was very frustrating. I am maybe alone in this but I actually like that they finally penalize goalkeepers that don’t stay on the line.”