Yokohama, Japan – Fifa called it a “revolution” but without a Geoff Hurst moment, goalline technology's grand introduction to football passed almost unnoticed – and with few clues of success or failure.
After years of clamour for modern technology, there were no obligingly close calls to be made in Thursday's Club World Cup opener in Japan, when one of two rival systems was tested for the first time in a competitive match.
The system, which uses a microchip implanted in a ball and low magnetic waves around the goal, will detect if the ball has crossed the line and send an immediate message to the wrist watch worn by the referee. Credit: REUTERS
Indeed, when Sanfrecce Hiroshima's Toshihiro Aoyama walloped the ball past Auckland City 'keeper Tamati Williams in the game's only goal, no scientific help was needed to tell it had crossed the line.
World body Fifa gave away little about the first test, but as officials are expected only to give details if something goes wrong, it was a case of no news is good news for the GoalRef system's providers.
“Fifa can confirm the pre-match referee test, conducted in both goals 100 mins before kick-off, were successfully passed,” a spokesman told AFP in a brief statement.
“This enabled goalline technology to be used for the first time by match officials, providing an additional aid, in the event of a contentious 'ghost goal'.”
GoalRef's magnetic field system, using a special ball fitted with a chip, is on trial at games at Yokohama International Stadium, which hosted the 2002 World Cup final and is being used for four of the Club World Cup's eight games.
Hawkeye, which is familiar from tennis and cricket and uses cameras to track a ball's position and trajectory, will be tested at the competition's other matches in Toyota.
Results from the trials at the Club World Cup, featuring European champions Chelsea amongst others, will not be announced until next year, when one of the systems will be picked for the Confederations Cup in Brazil.
The trials, hailed as a “kind of revolution” by Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke, represent a huge step forward for football whose fans have long clamoured for technology to come in to line with other sports.
England forward Hurst provided a memorably contentious moment when his strike bounced off the crossbar and on or near the line – and was given as a goal – in the 1966 World Cup final against Germany.
But it was Frank Lampard's similar, but disallowed, long-range effort against the same opponents at the 2010 World Cup which finally galvanised Fifa into action.
Unconvinced by regional body Uefa's test of goalline referees at Euro 2012, Fifa, after a testing process of about two years, gave licences to Germany's GoalRef and Britain-based, Sony-owned Hawk-Eye.
Both systems transmit their findings to devices that are worn on officials' wrists within a second of the goal being scored.
The referee has the final decision and there are no replays on big screens showing the decision or replays, as in tennis, cricket and rugby.
Following GoalRef's debut, Hawk-Eye will get its first official try-out when Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea play Mexico's Monterrey on Sunday.
GoalRef will be back in action on December 13 when Chelsea – Lampard's team – enter the tournament at the semi-final stage. – Sapa-AFP