Football history was made Wednesday night during the FIFA Club World Cup semifinal in Japan. Kashima Antlers win came as a surprise against Atletico Nacional.
Japan's Kashima Antlers reached the final when they beat Colombia's Copa Libertadores champions Atletico Nacional 3-0, with the game notable for being the first to make use of video to award a penalty.
Referee Viktor Kassai used the video replay to award a penalty kick for the first time in an official game, as Kashima went on to become the first Japanese club to reach the final of the competition.
During the 31st minute, Kashima's Daigo Nishi was fouled inside the box by Atletico Nacional forward Orlando Berrio which referee Kassal initially missed, but after receiving information about the incident from video assistant referee Danny Makkelie, Kassai drew an imaginary square with his hands to indicate that he would conduct a review of the footage via a monitor on the sidelines.
Kassai then pointed to the penalty spot, ruling from the replay that Nishi was tripped inside the penalty area by Berrio.
Shoma Doin converted the penalty putting the scoreline 1-0 for Kashima Antlers during the first half.
During the second half Yasushi Endo scored the Antlers' second goal after 83 minutes when he took advantage of an error by goalkeeper Franco Armani to backheel a loose ball into the empty net. Atletico's heads went down and two minutes later substitute Yuma Suzuki, who had just come on, sidefooted home a third from close range after Mu Kanazaki's ball across the face of goal.
The South American champions dominated the first half, with 23 shots at goal to Kashima's 10 but the momentum shifted to the Japanese side with the history-making call. Atletico Nacional could not find a way past Kashima's veteran goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata and they paid the price when they were caught on the break.
"We've made it to the final, which is an achievement for Kashima Antlers and Japanese football as a whole," said Antlers' coach Masatada Ishii. Japan's J-league champions will face the winners of Thursday's semi-final between Real Madrid and Mexico's Club America. The final is scheduled for Sunday.
FIFA head of refereeing Massimo Busacca praised the first implementation of video replay "The communication between the referee and the video assistant referee was clear, the technology worked well, and ultimately the final decision was taken by the referee, which will always be the case since the VARs are only there to support," said Busacca in a statement.
The replay system allows referees to halt games to review footage of "game-changing decisions" which was exactly the case in this game. The referees can also rely on information being fed by video assistant referees (VARs) watching broadcast feeds away from the field.
Video replay allows referees to review a previous play through a monitor on the sidelines. Kassai's use of video replay is the first of its kind approved by FIFA.
Live tests are set to be expanded globally in 2017 with a decision anticipated by the following year on VARs becoming a permanent feature. FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who has observed recent off-line trials with VARs at Italy games, wants video replays in use at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
No more controversies?
Video replay and goal-line technology are steps that FIFA has taken towards bringing more fairness to the game but just how efficient these new rules will actually be are yet to be seen. While goal-line technology is a clear black or white decision, video replay is a gray area that will still be up to the referee's interpretation.
Goal-line technology is regularly used in major European leagues such as the Bundesliga, the Premier League and Serie A.
Speed as well as accuracy will be fundamental for FIFA to successfully implement video replay to all top leagues without affecting the game's pace and non-stop nature. While purists may be against changes done to the beautiful game a great majority welcome innovation to the sport.
It could be argued that the game's history would look a lot differently had this technology been a part of football before but all in all it appears as FIFA is taking a big step in the right direction.