This is not an exaggeration, because the TV viewership of a World Cup final is about 1 billion. The referee is trying to keep track of 22 players roaming more than 7,000 square yards, with minimal help by two linesmen. An official-to-player ratio weaker than in any other sport.
Even before Video Assistant Referee was used at the 2018 World Cup, the actions on the field were covered by more than 20 cameras. The World Cup game could be played in Berlin, Johannesburg or Rio, and viewers in New York, Beijing and Timbuktu would have a better angle and access to replays on controversial, game-changing incidents than the person in charge of making the crucial decisions -- the referee.
I was in the Berlin stadium at the 2006 World Cup when Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi.
The jumbo screens in the stadium provided replays of the game's two goals, near-misses, and the penalty kicks that gave Italy the World Cup title. They did not show replays of controversial incidents, a common practice designed to prevent inciting the crowd or embarrassing the referee. In the press section, we got to see the head-butt replay.
The irony was that it would have been better if the jumbo screen did show what Zidane did. Because the fans in the stadium didn't understand the red card, and were ignorant of the game's most dramatic turn. The fans jeered Italy as it lifted the trophy because they didn't realize how legitimate Zidane's ejection was.
I do believe that video review was used in the Zidane-Materazzi but was not admitted, because first we were told that linesman Dario Garcia spotted it, and then that it was the fourth official, who wasn't far from a monitor.
FIFA had a strict rule about not using video evidence at that time.
Regardless, it would be ridiculous that what the press and millions saw at home on replay would be prohibited information for the referee. Such as when earlier in the 2006 World Cup, Luis Figo got away with a heat-butt on Dutchman Mark van Bommel and Peter Crouch with yanking down Brent Sancho by his hair.
It's even more farcical in this day and age if a referee was denied the ability to get video info while officiating a game that would decide the world champion. Imagine what it would be like to referee the World Cup final knowing that the 75,000 people in the stadium are watching replays on their smart phones that you're not allowed to see?
Someone could hang out at the beach 3,000 miles away from a World Cup game, watching the game on an iPhone, and have had a better view of a controversial incident than the referee.
The concerns about VAR are real. You don't want a lot of delays, a slippery slope to reviewing everything, deflating the thrills of a goal celebrations, or using VAR to make the lowing-scoring sport of soccer even more defender-friendly.
But FIFA pulled off VAR at the 2018 World Cup without that happening. There may have been some flaws, like not calling the PK for Serbia against the Swiss. But the delays were negligible. And spending two minutes to award a legitimate penalty kick is a worthwhile trade-off.
That was the exception, the time it took final ref Nestor Pitana to award the France penalty kick -- because VAR rarely interrupted significantly in Russia. In 64 games, 455 incidents were checked, but fewer than 20 times were game interruptions (averaging 80 seconds) required.
Indeed, VAR's influence exceeded what you noticed when there was a stoppage for replay.
VAR creates a deterrence factor, it enables referees to communicate with assistants who see replays, and the refs know they have a backup.
A backup for calls such as penalty kicks, which refs are hard-wired to resist because soccer is such a low-scoring sport. They don't want to be blamed for deciding a result, and thus err on the side of defenders. Knowing that VAR could make a correction if it really wasn't a foul, 2018 World Cup referees called more than twice as many penalty kicks (29) than in 2014 (13).
Also notable, there were no ejections at the 2018 World Cup for serious foul play or violent conduct, after the last previous five World Cup averaged 9.6. With players knowing all their actions were available on replay, VAR made the soccer cleaner, and safer.
The deterrence factor is obvious. Before VAR, it was easier to cheat in World Cup soccer than shop-lift at a grocery store with CCTV.