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France are world champions, but all the headlines are about VAR

VAR worked perfectly at the World Cup - why not in the A-League? (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Expert
15th July, 2018
121

There was only one team in the World Cup final and they lost, as France recorded a barely deserved 4-2 win over Croatia thanks to a helping hand from the VAR.

The glaring flaw with Video Assistant Referee technology is that it’s used one minute to decide a subjective decision, only to go missing in action for the next.

So it was that Antoine Griezmann conned referee Nestor Pitana with a blatant dive that led to France’s opening goal from a free-kick, before Les Bleus were then awarded a dubious penalty for Ivan Perišić’s handball from a corner.

There’s no way that penalty is given in pre-VAR days, but now that FIFA have decided that football is to be re-refereed in slow motion, what was once a simple sport is now stuck with a technological problem entirely of its own making.

And the seemingly inexorable march of big teams enjoying one-sided decision-making goes on.

Not that it seems to bother Gianni Infantino. The FIFA president – who was pictured on screen almost as frequently as the players this World Cup – campaigned on a platform of change, but has only offered more of the same in his self-glorifying stint in charge of the gravy train.

And you have to wonder whether FIFA would have been so quick to introduce VAR technology, had they not been looking to steer media headlines away from countless corruption charges.

At any rate, Croatia deserve credit for taking the game to France, and Perišić’s superbly-taken first half equaliser threatened to blow the game wide open.

But he went from hero to villain in quick succession, even if his handball from a corner – which seemed to take an eternity to make – was a ridiculously harsh decision.

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Danijel Subašić didn’t exactly have his best game in a Croatian jersey, and it’s always surprising to see how often goalkeepers dive to their left at penalties.

Had Subašić gone the other way he would have easily saved Griezmann’s tame spot-kick – which was carbon copy of the penalty he scored against Argentina.

It was always going to be a tough ask to come back from a 2-1 half-time deficit, and when Croatia found themselves stretched as they chased the game in the second half, the French were clinical enough to score a couple of insurance goals.

Perhaps there was some justice in the fact that Mario Mandžukić was then gifted a consolation thanks to Hugo Lloris’ goalkeeping blunder, given that it was Mandžukić who inadvertently opened the scoring with his unfortunate own goal.

And the French lifted the World Cup trophy despite having flattered to deceive for much of the final.

France World Cup

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Kudos to Didier Deschamps, who became just the third man after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer to win the World Cup as both a player and coach.

In doing so, Deschamps went some way to exorcising the demons of losing the final of Euro 2016 to Portugal on home soil.

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And in teenager Kylian Mbappe – who scored France’s third goal – Deschamps unleashed on international football a player who is clearly destined for stardom.

It’s just a shame the VAR decision will dominate the headlines today – not least because the World Cup as a whole was outstanding.

Just when football looked to be sinking into a mire of predictability – with the same teams winning the same trophies year after year – the World Cup breathed new life into the international game.

It was ably hosted by a Russia that surprised many with its charm and cheer, although you probably wouldn’t want to be those pitch invaders right about now.

And France – despite getting a huge leg-up in the final – were just about the best team in the tournament.

Congratulations to Les Bleus. They’re the new world champions, despite the best efforts of a Croatian side that was truly gallant in defeat.