The World Cup of Penalties
How many penalties have been awarded at the 2018 FIFA World Cup?
After 14 matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, an astonishing 8 penalty kicks have already been awarded. To put this into perspective a total of just 13 were given at the 2014 finals in Brazil.
Now the sample is obviously small but it does seem that VAR is set to change the game as we know it forever. VAR has been responsible for the award of 3 of those spot-kicks after official reviews and it could easily be argued that they have missed plenty of other opportunities to add to that tally.
Harry Kane for one was seemingly wrestled to the ground on at least 2 occasions against Tunisia, yet the VAR officials opted to turn a blind eye to those infringements.
It does beg the question though as to how many penalty kicks could be awarded in a single game if such incidents were put under the microscope?
Fantasy Premier League managers are likely to get a reprieve for at least one season with advanced testing set to continue throughout the course of the 2018/19 Premier League season but it seems only a matter of time before it is introduced.
The value of penalty kicks has probably never been higher and you could easily forgive any fantasy manager who opts to stack his World Cup line-ups with those designated takers.
The other area to keep an eye on is the grappling that takes place at set-pieces. If VAR do decide to clamp down on this then it may open the door for defenders that offer an aerial threat at set-pieces to be even more influential since they are likely to get a clearer run at the ball.
Both of Kane’s goals against Tunisia came from corners as Gareth Southgate’s side showed that they can be an effective outfit in dead ball situations despite an apparent lack of options. Harry Maguire is arguably the biggest threat in the air and the ‘risk-taking’ Leicester City defender was targeted at most set plays.
The 2018 World Cup has been full of controversy – it’s already being dubbed ‘the World Cup of Penalties’ with Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann, Miles Jedinak, Luka Modric, Andreas Granqvist and Ferjani Sassi all converting from the spot while Lionel Messi and Christian Cueva fluffed their lines, so ignore those recognised penalty kick takers at your peril!
The bookmakers for one seem to have taken note, with the odds on a penalty occurring in a match now generally around the 2/1 mark.