DOHA, Qatar — The 90-minute soccer match is turning into 100-plus at the World Cup – and that is what FIFA wants to give fans more entertainment.

The nearly 14 minutes added at the end of Argentina’s shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday meant the five longest periods of stoppage time for a single half of soccer at any World Cup were all played in Qatar since Monday, according to statistics site Opta Joe.

England and Iran went into the 15th minute of stoppage time in the first half Monday and the referee added almost 14 minutes in the second half. A head injury for Iran’s goalkeeper explained the first, but the second raised more eyebrows.

Even more surprising were the Netherlands-Senegal and the United States-Wales games each entering the 11th minute of time added at the end for the myriad types of stoppages in modern soccer. The American game, which started at 10 p.m. on Monday in Doha, ticked over into Tuesday when the final whistle blew.

The pattern carried on Tuesday as the Argentina-Saudi Arabia match went into a seventh minute of time added on in the first half and twice as much in the second, when a Saudi defender was injured and carted off the field.

“The purpose is to offer more show to those watching the World Cup,” FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina said in Qatar ahead of the tournament.


Collina insisted the directive to referees “is something not new.” FIFA officials have long been agitated about the dwindling amount of effective playing time in the regulation 90 minutes.

In 2017, a 60-minute, stop-start game clock like in basketball was suggested by Marco van Basten when the Netherlands great was then FIFA technical director.

Five years ago, even Van Basten noted wryly it had become routine for referees to add one minute in the first half and three in the second regardless of what actually happened on the field.

At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the ball was typically in play for about 60 minutes. That was down to between 52 and 58 minutes at the 2018 tournament in Russia, according to one statistical analysis.

“What we want to avoid is to have a match lasting 42, 43, 44, 45 minutes of active play. This is not acceptable,” said Collina, widely seen as the best ref of his generation when he worked at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

Video review that was first used at the World Cup four years ago has caused some of the modern delays, with stoppages often lasting about two minutes to check on game-changing incidents.


Goal celebrations that now go on and on have also tested FIFA’s patience.

“Celebrations may last one, one and a half minutes,” Collina said last Friday at a briefing about FIFA instructions to their match officials in Qatar. “It’s easy to lose three, four, five minutes only for goal celebrations and this has to be considered and compensated at the end.”

Five second-half goals in England’s 6-2 win over Iran shows that, plus there was a VAR review to award Iran a penalty at the end of the 10 minutes of stoppage time that were initially indicated.

It helped England complete 730 passes – the second most in any World Cup game that did not include extra time.

Still, there was only one second-half goal in the 1-1 draw between the United States and Wales.

While fans are getting used to the new norm of longer games – and broadcasters perhaps adjust their running times of programs – the current solution is arguably better than those proposed five years ago.


Van Basten’s team also suggested research into combating late-game time-wasting by letting referees stop their watch as play paused toward the end of each half. Both ideas were soon shelved.

RATINGS: Ecuador’s 2-0 win over Qatar in this year’s World Cup opener was seen by 7.2 million television viewers in the United States.

The game Sunday was seen by 3.228 million on the English-language telecast on FS1 and Fox’s streaming services. It was viewed by 4 million on the Spanish-language broadcast of Telemundo, Peacock and Telemundo Deportes’ digital platforms, all parts of Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal.

Fox’s viewership was up 88% from the 2018 opener, a 5-0 romp by host Russia over Saudi Arabia that was televised by the main Fox network on a Thursday in mid-June. Both matches started at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

Telemundo’s audience was up 164% from 1.54 million in 2018.

BELGIUM: Striker Romelu Lukaku will miss his nation’s World Cup opener against Canada on Wednesday night and also could be sidelined for the second match against Morocco.


Lukaku, 29, hasn’t appeared in a match since Oct. 29 because of a left thigh injury and hasn’t played 90 minutes since Inter Milan’s Serie A opener against Lecce on Aug. 13.

CANADA: Winger Alphonso Davies is fully fit and on track to start his nation’s World Cup opener against Belgium on Wednesday night after he recovered from a strained right hamstring.

The 22-year-old Davies was hurt while playing for Bayern Munich on Nov. 5. He has 12 goals in 34 international appearances, including five goals in World Cup qualifying.

WALES: The Wales soccer federation says it has asked FIFA for clarity on reports some Wales fans were stopped from taking rainbow-colored hats into a World Cup stadium.

The Welsh federation said it was involved in creating the hats for fans to wear in Qatar, starting against the United States on Monday.

Rainbow imagery, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, is controversial in a country where same-sex relations are criminalized.


Fans and some staff members were “asked to remove and discard their Rainbow Wall bucket hats before entry to the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium,” the Wales federation said in a statement, adding it was “extremely disappointed.”

“The (federation) has collated information on these alleged incidents and will be addressing this matter directly with FIFA,” it said.

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In April, a senior Qatari security official overseeing tournament preparations suggested fans carrying rainbow flags could have them removed to protect them from possible attacks.

TICKETS: Hundreds of soccer fans in Qatar struggled to retrieve their digital World Cup tickets as problems with FIFA’s mobile application stoked confusion and frustration at the tournament for a second day in a row.

A line of distressed fans snaked outside the main ticketing help desk in Doha, with many reporting that their tickets had abruptly disappeared from their phones and could not be retrieved – a glitch that caused hundreds to miss the start of England’s match against Iran on Monday.


In front of a sign marked “Ticket Resolution Point” at a convention center in central Doha, fans swapped stories of ticket troubles and showed volunteers error messages on their mobile apps. One security guard, Mahammad Sajid, said it had been difficult to control some angry fans when the crowds peaked earlier in the morning.

Marciel Hernandez, a 64-year-old soccer fan from Mexico City, was waiting in line, seething in his sombrero. He said the app problems forced him to miss the first 20 minutes of the England-Iran game the day before.

“I’ve been to six World Cups and I’ve never had any kinds of problems like this,” he said, adding that two of his tickets had failed to show up on his mobile app. “These are important matches I could miss. I spend my whole life savings on the World Cup so when things don’t go well, it’s very frustrating.”

Behind him in line, Mohamed Tom, a mechanical engineer from Khartoum, Sudan, said he was “very worried” that the volunteers wouldn’t be able to resolve his problems before his next match in a few hours. “Everyone is having difficulties,” he said.

Mohamed Afran, a 32-year-old fan from Algeria, said it was his fifth time coming to the convention center to wait in line. The last four times, he said, helpless volunteers had asked him to return the next day.

“This is not the best place to be during the World Cup,” he said, dripping with sweat under the sun.

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