Ten penalty kicks had been awarded in the Fifa World Cup in Russia by yesterday so what are fans supposed to deduce from that?

Is it a testimony to the long-overdue introduction of VARs (video assistant referees) or is it simply a case of officialdom playing politics in the face of overwhelming evidence everything isn't kosher?

In the seductive theatre of wild contradictions of the world's largest team sport, I'm inclined to believe it is an endorsement the beautiful game is still pretty ugly.

The numbers game is just a red herring. Remove the halfslip to find the naked truth is that VARs only accentuate the sad state of neglect the code suffers at the elite level between cups.

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Unlike any other sport, shock results are a given in the cup that holds no respect for defending champions, big names and traditional powerhouses.

Where else can you find the top seeds bundled out — Mexico beating Germany 1-0 — or favourites Brazil held to 1-1?

It is where fans can see why Argentina captain Lionel Messi isn't in the same league as Portugal counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo.

Pretty boy Ronaldo not only scored a career and cup 51st hattrick but also showed how to take a penalty kick at the highest echelon. Conversely, Messi choked, just as Christian Cueva, of Peru, did.

But then a star, or two or three, is always born during the cup and will mercifully deflect some attention from howlers.

What gets me is why Fifa chooses to highlight ugly play on its grandest stage when it should be eradicated at its marquee leagues.

The VARs are far from the desired tool. Why stop at just awarding goals, penalty decisions, red cards and mistaken identity?

For instance, Steven Zuber headed in the equaliser for Switzerland early in the second half after a two-handed shove (also Poland sub Jan Bednarek on Senegal's Abdoulaye Sane for his teammate to head in a goal) on the back of Miranda during a corner kick.

The Swiss winger seemed just as stunned as the howling Samba boys when referee Cesar Ramos, of Mexico, refused to go to the VARs to revisit how the scorer had miraculously created all that time and space to nod the ball in.

The South Americans, and Africans for that matter, aren't renowned for their defence but that was totally unacceptable.

Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji, in the 74th minute, had unceremoniously brought down Gabriel Jesus with the grace of a farmer docking sheep, wrapping up his prey in seatbelt fashion before letting him go when the ball was beyond reach.

If VARs had been employed effectively, this sort of mindless play from Germany's Mats Hummels on Mexico's Miguel Layun should have been eradicated well before it got to Russia. Photo/Photospsort
If VARs had been employed effectively, this sort of mindless play from Germany's Mats Hummels on Mexico's Miguel Layun should have been eradicated well before it got to Russia. Photo/Photospsort

What's the point in having VARs when refs can't consult them in the face of big-screen evidence?

It was similar to what Germany's Thomas Muller, Nigeria's William Ekong and Tunisia's Ferjani Sassi and Yassine Meria had done — wrapped up opponents with their arms or tackled them to the ground in rugby fashion.

It was sad to see the Nigerians eventually stoop to Croatia's level to the extent where they felt they needed to up the physicality stakes to be competitive. The Africans' frustration was obvious as they fell on the ball, following tackles from behind, to appeal for redress which fell on deaf ears.

"That looks like a tackle in another sport [rugby/rugby league]," a commentator remarked after a Croat crudely dived on to his opponent in full cry of the goalmouth.

Read British newspapers on the website and you'll find a lack of sympathy for Brazil and a groundswell of support for the Zuber types, as if fouling liberally is some sort of initiation to separate the boys from men. Would they have felt the same after rugger tackles on captain Harry Kane had England drawn or lost?

It's amazing to find scribes espousing the belief that teams who don't measure up to the European physicality somehow lack mental fortitude.

Some commentators are openly stating that rugby-tackling is now a prerequisite to cup success.

The deliberate elbowing of players' neck and head in aerial battles also is getting out of hand. Surely VARs can also monitor concussion and put a stopwatch on substitutes taking their time to leave the field during substitutions (akin to PGA golfers on time required to putt).

For me, any game is about exhibiting flair and imagination, not players who foul then raise their hands in surrender-like fashion or fans (Denmark) holding officials at ransom for a penalty-kick decision.

The Costa Rica v Serbia game was no different. It was a persistent whistle-blowing, stop-start affair.

No doubt, it's highly political on what constitutes dexterity in the sport. Youngsters watching cup matches on TV will take the undesirable aspects of the game to their neighbourhood parks in the belief they're acceptable skills. They're not.

Offenders are openly chastising referees for pinging them despite grabbing opponents around their waist and chest, especially in set-piece plays, but can you blame them when they have been allowed to do that for four years leading to the cup?

Parent body Fifa seems to be on a mission to find some sort of parity between physicality and flair for fear of upsetting a fair chunk of the world.

The biggest casualties in the political football are the Asians (South Korea, Japan) who bring a level of discipline that should be championed.

Japan and Senegal winning aren't upsets but more snapshots of prejudices against acknowledging a more seductive type of play.

Is Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf a bully or simply a disciple of NZ Football's religious belief that teams can only succeed if they adopt the European way? Photo/Photosport
Is Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf a bully or simply a disciple of NZ Football's religious belief that teams can only succeed if they adopt the European way? Photo/Photosport

To throw in a more pertinent analogy here, is Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf, of Austria, a bully or simply a snapshot of NZ Football's mindset on why it recruited a mentor who exemplifies its edict that it is the only way to succeed in a code Europe dominates off the park?

Are Football Ferns or All Whites, for that matter, playing a brand of footy akin to Europe?

If the answer is no then NZ Football's blueprint is totally flawed and its protagonists should do the noble thing and resign with Heraf.

But I digress. Talks of boosting the number of cup teams is myopic because Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Poland are evidence enough that parity for the sake of growing a truly global sport is baseless if Fifa sacrifices tourney standards to boost its fan base.

Actually it's not the number of penalty kicks awarded that forms scary statistics but the number that hasn't been, as well as yellow and red cards not flashed or overturned.

If VARs counter player appeals for fouls then why aren't the appellants punished for deception (Hollywood auditioning)?

Actors on the Fifa World Cup stage are wantonly breaching the rules. Fix it or face a farcical end to the tournament.