BEHIND THE WHISTLE WITH MARK HALSEY: BETDAQ World Cup Ambassador and former FIFA and Premier League referee Mark Halsey discusses the opening few days of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and has his say on some contentious referee calls early on in the tournament.


Everyone was watching the Qatar versus Ecuador game live and saw the goal go in, and I don’t think anyone saw anything wrong. You’re looking at it and you just think ‘that’s the opening goal of the tournament, no problem!’ Then the officials start looking for the offside and nobody in the stadium knows what’s going on! Was it a foul? Was it a high boot?

I think the time is coming where we need to hear the conversation between referee and VAR. We have to hear it; everyone needs to know what is going on. Fans and pundits may not like the outcome of decisions but at least we know what referees are looking at, how they got there, and why they’re giving it. We hear it all the time in rugby and in cricket – everybody knows what’s going on. We’re in 2022, so it should be happening in the number one sport in the world too.


There was a referees’ meeting prior to the World Cup, they all sat down and they pointed out they wanted all the shirt pulling and the blocking in the area cut out. That was the instruction to the referees.

In the game against Iran, I have to say, the referee is in a perfect position when Harry Maguire gets rugby tackled, he has to see that incident! For me, it was an absolutely clear penalty. I’m amazed he didn’t give it nor that the Paraguayan VAR team didn’t recommend a review.

All we ask for is consistency within that 90 minutes – did we get that? No we didn’t. I don’t think VAR should have intervened with the John Stones incident at the end of the game because it wasn’t a clear and obvious error, whereas the rugby tackle on Harry Maguire was. They should have got involved in that incident, but not the Stones one.

I’m sure that the referee’s committee, when they sit down in the classroom to review the footage for training and education, will examine those two incidences and the question asked ‘how can we not give the first one but give the second one? Why has the referee not seen that?’ The referee at this level has to identify that and the penalty kick.


FIFA did say that they wanted to see the ball in play a lot longer, so they’re going to be tight and strict on stoppages in play. If we see any time wasting from players then there’s going to be a lot more time added on, and I think we’re going to see a lot more minutes added on top of full-time.

FIFA want to see the ball in play a lot longer and are looking at ways of doing that. You sit there and think ‘nine minutes? Where’s nine minutes come from?’ They’ve laid down the directive that they want the ball a lot longer – if that means adding more stoppage time then so be it!

One of the things for me with time wasting as well is goalkeepers – I think we do need to look at that. Goalkeepers are catching the ball, there’s nobody around them, and they fall to the ground and take their time. You’ve got the six second law, but you look at it now and it could be 25 or 30 seconds sometimes. That’s one area where we can kill time wasting – the referee can award an indirect free kick.


England must have been listening to our previous post! The discipline was excellent – they left the referee alone, accepted the decisions when it went against them, and didn’t complain too much about the penalty that they should have had. I think Gareth has installed that discipline in the squad.

If you look at the group stages, the players always seem to behave themselves in the first few games of competitions, but when it comes to the knockout stage then that discipline seems to waiver a little bit. You look at the Americans – they put in some hefty challenges and received five cautions in their game and the Welsh had two. I think it’ll be a lot more physical against the USA, so England just need to keep a level head and let the referee deal with the intensity and the reckless challenges.

I thought it was a first-class performance from England against Iran, it seemed the players were all together. Even Raheem Sterling – the way he took his goal was fantastic! For Chelsea it seems he can’t score at all but he got his chance and it was a fantastic goal. Also, the way Gareth managed that squad, you could see in the second half he made numerous changes and it was great to see an attacking formation.

I thought Jude Bellingham was absolutely outstanding – for a 16-year-old at Birmingham to go to Dortmund, he’s just flourishing. His energy, his challenges, his tackling, he gets back and gets forward and scoring his first England goal. Declan Rice too playing that holding role in midfield was superb.

We’ve got to take the way we attacked into the next game, we don’t want to go into a defensive mode like we did against Italy in the Euros. You can’t criticise the togetherness and the team that Southgate picked, so onwards and upwards to the USA game.


I think England will win comfortably, I think we could win it 3-0. If you look at our defence, it looks strong and while they’ve got some good players, I think we should win that game. Back England to beat the USA at 1.65.

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