There have been rumors in the past that football matches have been shortened from their traditional 90-minute length to appeal to a younger generation used to digesting content quickly.
But at the 2022 World Cup, viewers will experience games that just got longer – much longer.
We’ve seen fourth officials raise their electronic boards at the end of halves during the Qatar games, signaling well beyond the usual four or five minutes.
Seven or eight minutes often seems like the minimum. Occasionally more than 10 minutes have already been added.
This resulted in just one of the tournament’s first eight games ending in less than 100 minutes.
In fact, according to statistics website Opta, the five longest overtime periods in a single World Cup game since records began in 1966 all happened on Monday and Tuesday at the 2022 World Cup.
England’s 6-2 win over Iran lasted a total of 117 minutes and 16 seconds, adding 14 minutes and 8 seconds at the end of the first half and 13 minutes and 8 seconds at the end of the second.
As a result, Mehdi Taremi’s penalty, with 102 minutes and 30 seconds left on the clock, was the last penalty scored by a team at a World Cup since 1966.
14 minutes and 34 seconds were added to the 1-1 draw between the Wales and USA men’s national teams, 12 minutes and 49 seconds to the Netherlands’ 2-0 win over Senegal and 10 minutes and 18 seconds to Ecuador’s 2-0 -Beating hosts Qatar in the tournament’s opening match.
Part of the stoppage time is due to longer injury breaks.
Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand suffered a severe concussion in the team’s game against England, while Saudi Arabian defender Yasser al-Shahrani was injured by a knee by his own goalkeeper Mohammed al-Owais against Argentina.
However, the extended games are part of a move by FIFA, the sport’s governing body, to fight perceived time wasting and reclaim time lost to goal celebrations, video assistant referee (VAR) checks and substitutions.
Pierluigi Collina, famous former referee and current chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, explained Before the start of the tournament, fans should expect games in excess of 100 minutes, with added time in excess of “seven or eight minutes”.
“This is nothing new,” Collina said at a media conference. “(At the last World Cup) in Russia, it became quite normal for the fourth official to show the board with seven, eight, nine minutes on it.
“We have advised our referees to be very precise when calculating the time to be added at the end of each half to compensate for time lost due to a specific incident.
“What we want to avoid is a match with 42, 43, 44, 45 minutes of active play. This is not acceptable.
“Whenever there is an incident like injury treatment, a substitution slot, a penalty, a red card or a goal celebration – I want to emphasize that because for one team it’s a moment of joy, for the other maybe not – but it is is so may take a minute or a minute and a half.
“So imagine in a half there are two or three goals scored and it’s easy to lose five or six minutes and that team has to compensate at the end.”
However, these longer games have drawn a mixed reaction from former players and football pundits.
Former England and Liverpool midfielder Jamie Carragher said on Twitter: “I’m delighted with the time added by the officials at the Qatar World Cup 2022. Too much time is wasted in football!”
But the South American football expert Tim Vickery said it was “the addition of extra rounds at the end of a boxing match”.
“Not for those huge stoppage times,” Vickery wrote on Twitter. “Dragging the players into the ground. 4 would have been good. 9? Not for me.”
He added: “Players are already covering a lot more ground than they used to. Makes up for the blatant waste of time, ok. But this is all too much.”
Physiotherapist Matt Konopinski also warned that the increase in stoppage time could lead to more player injuries in addition to “an acute demand in terms of games and game density”.
“This will contribute to both mental and physical fatigue,” Konopinski, co-founder of Rehab4Performance, told CNN Sport.
“We know that towards the end of the halves there is an increased risk of injury. So if we increase the amount of time players are encouraged to play, it would result in an increased risk of injury.
“From a mental point of view, adding another 10 minutes to the end of the game makes it physiologically difficult for teams to finish a game.
“It’s also more of a challenge for teams looking to integrate players who may be returning from injury. For example, a 20 minute cameo can become a 30+ minute cameo.”
Konopinski also highlighted the busy football calendar. He said the 32 World Cup teams and their staff needed to work “harder” to improve player recovery between games.
“This includes interventions such as nutritional strategies, hydration strategies, therapeutic and technological advances towards recovery management. Examples would be soft tissue, swimming pools and ice chambers.”
Injury worries aside, brace yourself for many more World Cup minutes before the tournament concludes on December 18.