Johannesburg - The first of two legs of the final round of African World Cup qualifying kick off on Friday and the Confederation of African Football (Caf) has opted to pull out all the stops for this most critical phase of qualification.
The road to determining the final five teams that will represent the continent in December in Qatar will be aided by the welcomed introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) into the last phase of qualifying.
"President Patrice Motsepe confirmed that Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be used at all the African qualifier matches between 25 and 29 March 2022," the statement from Caf read.
Recent clashes between the South African national team and Ghana in the World Cup qualifying are thought to be the instigators for the introduction of VAR at this stage of proceedings.
Bafana Bafana's World Cup qualification hopes came to a controversial end as Senegalese referee, Maguette N'diaye, upon review, appeared to gift Ghana a dubious penalty and that penalty turned out to be the difference as Ghana leaped above Bafana and progressed to the final round of qualification.
The reliability of the VAR and its reputation is a hugely debated subject. While it does add a certain level of accuracy, many feel it also impacts the human element of refereeing and infringes on the man at the centre of the field and his/her ability to make huge calls decisively.
The Malian Eagles take on the Eagles of Carthage 🇲![CDATA]>🇱 🦅 🇹![CDATA]>🇳— CAF (@CAF_Online) March 23, 2022
⚖️ The scale weighs Mali’s relentless chase after a historic #WorldCup debut against Tunisia’s 6th possible appearance at the tournament 🦅
What are your predictions? 🧐 #WCQ | @femafoot | @FTF_OFFICIELLE pic.twitter.com/XTP0r9dWRk
The refereeing standards of African football came under the spotlight at the recent Afcon 2021 showpiece. Even with the presence of VAR, the tournament played host to one of the most consistently controversial and heavy handed refereeing ever seen in a major tournament, resulting in seven red cards in the Round of 16 alone.