Again and again: World Cup record playing time according to new Fifa guidelines | World Cup 2022

So much for football being a game that lasts 90 minutes. Or the sight of a fourth official holding up a plaque showing two or three minutes of overtime. In this tournament, the 100+ minute match becomes the new normal.

England’s 6-2 win over Iran on Monday lasted a record-breaking 117 minutes, with 14 minutes 08 seconds of added time in the first half and 13 minutes 08 seconds in the second. Argentina’s surprise 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was not far behind, lasting 111 minutes. Forget Fergie Time, welcome to Fifa Time.

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The reason, Fifa has confirmed, is due to a new policy ensuring all “unnatural times lost” are added at the end of each half. In Qatar, it has asked officials to monitor more closely when a game is suspended due to goal celebrations, wasted time, decisions by video assistant referees, substitutions, penalties and red cards – even if it means adding many minutes to a game.

Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of FIFA’s referees’ panel, said last week: “If we want to have more active time, we have to be ready to see that kind of extra time.

“Imagine a game where there are three goals in one half. The celebration usually lasts one to one and a half minutes. If you score three goals, you basically lose five or six minutes. So what we really want to do is accurately calculate the time that needs to be added.”

According to Opta, the average playing time in the first six games of this World Cup was 106 minutes 12 seconds, compared to 97 minutes 12 seconds in 2018. The four halves with the longest added time in a World Cup game since records began in 1966 were all on Monday, with the second half time for USA vs Wales and Senegal vs Netherlands each exceeding 10 minutes. That was before added time in Argentina’s second half against Saudi Arabia, which lasted 14 minutes.

That was partly due to lengthy injury absences: Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand suffered a concussion after being hit in the head against England and Saudi defender Yasser al-Shahrani was knocked out by a flying knee by his own keeper Mohammed al-Owais, in added time.

Collina made Fifa’s position clear, saying: “If we want to protect the image of the game, we have to calculate the time and add it at the end of each half. We don’t want games where the ball is only in play for 43, 44 or 45 minutes. We have to make sure the time is fair for both teams.”

Ifab, football’s legislature, rejected a proposal to shorten matches to 60 minutes of “actual playing time”, with the clock stopping when the ball goes wide. Last season in the Premier League, the ball was in play for just over 55 minutes on average, but in some leagues it can drop as much as 45 minutes.


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