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France, Germany are World Cup favourites

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 By Ben Gladwell

Video assistant referees a 'catastrophe' - Khedira, Wagner

With Manuel Neuer still recovering from a fractured foot, Joachim Low sheds light on his outlook for the World Cup.
Germany's Mats Hummels is relishing the opportunity of walking out at the famous Wembley, describing England's home as a 'special stadium'.

Germany internationals Sami Khedira and Sandro Wagner have labelled the video assistant referee (VAR) a "catastrophe" ahead of the technology's first use in England on Friday night.

Both Italy's Serie A and Germany's Bundesliga are trialling the VAR system this season, but there is debate as to whether it is proving beneficial or just adding more confusion.

Juventus midfielder Khedira and Hoffenheim striker Wagner tend towards the latter, although they feel it can become positive with the right set of rules.

"For me, football is about emotion and mistakes are part of it," Khedira told a news conference ahead of Germany's friendly with England at Wembley, where VAR will be used for the first time in an official UK fixture. "If you can minimise these then it's good, but now I have the feeling that both in Germany and Serie A that referees are overwhelmed by it.

"They no longer know whether they should blow the whistle or not; whether the video assistant will intervene or not. Sometimes it doesn't get involved even if there's a clear penalty. There's great confusion. Even for some players, when they score they ask themselves, 'Do I celebrate or not?'

"There are an extreme amount of emotion and passion which is getting lost in the game, and this is what football is all about. I don't think there are clear rules right now, whether the referee or the VAR decides, everybody is saying different things.

"We've had discussions in Italy about it, some positive and some negative, but when you are stood waiting for three minutes... We've tried to discuss how to deal with the situation between us because three minutes is a hell of a long time in a football game when a half is just 45 minutes and a break of three minutes standing there, when you could have been pressing or on a run, then it kills the game.

The introduction of VAR has received some criticism.

"The current phase is a test phase and it's not good. If it can be clearly regulated, then it could be good, but right now I'd have to borrow Sandro's words that it's been a catastrophe."

Wagner says the system needs to be improved if it is to add anything to the game, citing a moment in his side's recent 3-0 win over Cologne in which it took several minutes for referee Deniz Aytekin first to confer with his VAR colleagues and then view an incident himself, before awarding Hoffenheim a penalty and showing Pawel Olkowski a yellow and not a red card.

Meanwhile, Hellmut Krug was dismissed as project manager of VAR operations in Germany after it was claimed he had influenced decisions in favour of his hometown club Schalke.

"The whole way it is employed, with all the theatre around it and somebody now being replaced because he's a fan of one of the teams, or the way we were stood, like in Cologne just now, waiting for a penalty for two-and-a-half minutes -- it's not great," Wagner said.

"I think we've got to give the referees a bit of time and see at the end of the season. If it was good, then we keep it, if not, we need to scrap it. But if this drags on over years, it's no fun for the players or the fans. The idea of it is good, but the way it is being used now is definitely not good.

"Despite the video being used, there are still so many mistakes being made, like in Cologne: how could they see a penalty which wasn't one or miss a handball. The way it's being used has been a catastrophe, but I do like the idea behind it."

VAR has largely been welcomed in Italy, although the reaction in Germany has been predominantly negative.

It is also being used in Portugal's Primeira Liga and has been a part of Major League Soccer since August, with former Premier League referee Howard Webb, who is overseeing its use in the United States, telling ESPN FC he is "satisfied" with the way it has gone so far.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.

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