France wins second World Cup following VAR “failure” !


Author: Mark Szczuka

Photos: Stephen Gormley (Red Eye)

France lifted their second World Cup in the rain in Moscow on Sunday evening by defeating Croatia 4-2. This was a very entertaining and open final, especially when compared with the previous three finals that had all dragged on into extra time, and was a fitting end to an excellent tournament.

France took the lead after 18 minutes through an own goal by Mario Mandžukić. This was cancelled out by a goal from Ivan Perišić for Croatia 10 minutes later. Another 10 minutes later France re-took the lead just before half-time following a controversial VAR decision by Argentinean referee Néstor Pitana. Many pundits disagreed with the referee’s interpretation that Ivan Perisic had deliberately handled the ball in the box.

Those who also dislike VAR have highlighted this to be a good example of why they believe VAR doesn’t work and should be discontinued following its first use at a World Cup. They have moaned that France’s second goal was a key turning point in the game and that the use of VAR has wrongly influenced the outcome of the Final. However, people need to understand that VAR will never be able to solve all contentious issues and there will still remain subjectivity in certain situations – in this case the referee viewed the incident several times and in his opinion (which is the one that matters) it was a deliberate handball and a penalty was therefore awarded to France. It doesn’t mean that VAR got it wrong. At very best it can be argued that the referee made a mistake but this isn’t the fault of VAR. It also doesn’t devalue the numerous other key decisions throughout the World Cup that were made correctly only because VAR was used.

In the second half France strengthened their lead with goals from Paul Pogba  and Kylian Mbappé before Mario Mandžukić got one back for Croatia a few minutes later after a dreadful mistake from French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris when he tried to take the ball around the Croatian player. Suddenly Croatia had some belief and they fought hard in the remaining 20 minutes to get a 3rd goal which really would have meant “game on”! France held on and, after a long delay looking for an umbrella for Putin to present the trophy in the rain on the pitch, Captain Lloris stepped up to lift the World Cup for worthy winners France.

In a World Cup dominated by surprises and victories for the underdogs, it was a surprise in itself that Croatia didn’t overcome the odds to beat France. France were 3rd favourites before the tournament started a month ago on 14 June at odds of 7-1 to lift the trophy ahead of the other 31 participating teams. Meanwhile Croatia were 11th favourites with odds of 30-1 to become World Champions for the first time in their short history (having only joined FIFA in 1993 following the break-up of Yugoslavia). Perhaps it was a lot to expect from Croatia, whose players had endured 30 minutes of extra time in each of their three previous knock-out matches in the tournament against Denmark, Russia and England.

The footballing world now looks forward to the next World Cup in four years and four months’ time in Qatar in November 2022…


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