Why is so much stoppage time being added to World Cup 2022 matches?

The referee assistant shows eight minutes overtime during the World Cup group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia. Credit: AP

England's 6-2 victory over Iran in the Three Lions' opening World Cup match lasted 117 minutes and 16 seconds, making it the longest group-stage game of all time.

And that was not the only record broken. At 14.08, the first half had the most stoppage time in a single World Cup match on record, according to Opta. An additional 14 minutes of injury time has not been seen in the 21 previous World Cups.

The additional play helped England complete 716 passes, the second most in any World Cup game that did not include extra time.

But the record might well be broken at this World Cup, as England v Iran was far from the only match to run well past the 90-minute mark.

According to Opta, the four single halves with the most stoppage time in a single World Cup match since 1966 were all on Monday:

  • England v Iran first half (14:08 minutes)

  • England v Iran second half (13:08)

  • USA v Wales second half (10:34)

  • Senegal v Netherlands second half (10:03)

Saudi Arabia's win over footballing greats Argentina on Tuesday morning also stretched well beyond 90 minutes.

Are matches of more than 100 minutes here to stay in World Cup competition?

Why was the England v Iran game so long?

One reason was the injury sustained by Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand in the opening minutes of the match after clashing heads with teammate Majid Hosseini. Despite breaking his nose and suffering a concussion, he carried on for several more minutes following treatment.

Moments later he asked to be substituted, collapsing to the ground and eventually leaving the pitch on a stretcher.

The delay added considerable time to the record-breaking first half - and led to a record -breaking late goal.

Iran's Mehdi Taremi's penalty came at 102:30, the latest World Cup goal ever, excluding extra time.

The second latest goal came not long after when Davy Klaassen's scored for the Netherlands at 98 minutes and 17.

But why are these matches lasting so long, injuries aside? One reason is FIFA's determination to stretch out the game.

Iran's goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand collides with Iran's Majid Hosseini, right, during the match between England and Iran. Credit: AP

What are FIFA's new rules and what is the idea behind them?

FIFA, football's governing body, want to extend the number of minutes the ball is in play for the entertainment of fans.

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 analysis.

FIFA want to more accurately add time in an attempt to crack down on what Pierluigi Collina, FIFA's referees' committee chair, described as players' time-wasting.

Mr Collina confirmed last week that officials had been instructed to keep on top of the time lost during matches at the tournament in Qatar.

Football’s world governing body has repeatedly insisted they want to add time accurately when play stops for VAR interventions, the treatment of injuries, substitutions, penalties and red cards.

Video review - first used in Russia four years ago - is behind some of the delays, with checks taking up to two minutes.

England’s Bukayo Saka with Jack Grealish following the 6-2 defeat of Iran in the World Cup on Monday Credit: Nick Potts/PA

But according to FIFA’s official rules, stoppage time can include “any other cause, including any significant delay to a restart (e.g. goal celebrations).”

This is not the first tournament where FIFA has attempted to calculate stoppage time more accurately. The 2018 World Cup in Russia also saw matches being extended beyond five minutes, despite the ball being in play for less time than in 2014.

Only four of the matches played during the last 16 in 2018 saw fewer than five minutes added, according to figures from FiveThirtyEight.

Wales v USA ran to nearly 100 minutes. Credit: AP

Goal celebrations have also tested FIFA's patience.

“In Russia, we tried to be more accurate in compensating for time lost during games and that’s why you saw six, seven or even eight minutes added on,” Mr Collina told reporters.

“Think about it: if you have three goals in a half, you’ll probably lose four or five minutes in total to celebrations and the restart.”

More substitutions

Substitutions are one of FIFA's official stoppage time disruptions, and this World Cup has more than ever.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved the use of five substitutes for the World Cup back in June, and this may also be impacting match times.

Yellow cards hold up a game and the delay can be added to stoppage time. Credit: AP

What has the reaction been to longer stoppage times?

The extended play has pleased some, who see the longer ball play as a fair trade-off for players' time-wasting.

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher welcomed the move, tweeting: "Enjoying the amount of time that is being added on by the officials at #QatarWorldCup2022 there is too much time wasting in football!"

Others poked fun at the 100-minute-plus games.

One fan tweeted: "If this trend continues, there will be 90 minutes of stoppage time in the #WorldCup final."

Newcastle United sponsors, Fun88, posted a meme of an elderly woman saying "it's been 84 years", with a caption reading "when you add up stoppage time at this World Cup".

The players, themselves, are perhaps less enthusiastic.

Speaking to ITV after his penalty gave Wales a draw against the USA, Gareth Bale said: "I can't believe it was nine minutes added on, I don't know where that came from."