The rules are clear, World Cup final ref was right to award penalty

A frantic World Cup final provided plenty of memorable moments, but one major source of controversy was the VAR decision to award a French penalty...


What always baffles is how many pundits try to use their own warped logic – usually a combination of their own creativity and personal feelings about the game – to craft an opinion on an in-game issue regarding the laws of the sport.

There are literally rules written in black and white for you to consult and to work backwards from. If you have an issue with the rules, that’s an entirely different matter completely.

Nestor Pitana has held a variety of jobs throughout his life – actor, lifeguard and now referee. He was slammed yesterday for his decision to award France a penalty at 1-1, but unfortunately for the mass outrage brigade, he was completely correct.

during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.

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When the cross came in, Blaise Matuidi flicked the ball goalwards, only for it to deflect of Ivan Perisic and go for a corner. But the ball hit his hand.

Now, let’s consult the rule book:

Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration:

• the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
• the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
• the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
• touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement
• hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement.

Okay, we need to establish the above condition in the incident.

The hand moves, very visibly towards the ball, in a slapping motion that doesn’t correlate with the movement of the rest of his body.

The second part is more difficult to establish, but considering he is challenging Matuidi and has seen that he is in direct line of the cross, he expects him to get a touch.

The third part is quite a common misconception. If his arm is an unnatural position, it doesn’t really matter – it’s about the intent.

during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.

There’s a slapping motion. It’s deliberate. The ball goes towards goal and it would likely be on target and causing Subasic trouble if Perisic doesn’t divert it.

Should he have been red-carded?

There are circumstances when a caution for unsporting behaviour is required when a player deliberately handles the ball, e.g. when a player:

• deliberately and blatantly handles the ball to prevent an opponent gaining possession
• attempts to score a goal by deliberately handling the ball

A player is sent off, however, if he prevents a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball. This punishment arises not from the act of the player deliberately handling the ball but from the unacceptable and unfair intervention that prevented a goal being scored.

Based on that, probably not. Was it a clear goalscoring opportunity? Probably not. The flick on was directed goalwards and while it was certainly in the danger area, by definition, that’s not obvious.

I understand Croatia played well and you had them in your office sweepstake but come off it. France were the better side and the penalty decision was absolutely spot on.

VAR slowing the call down doesn’t work in this instance because it takes away the context of the arm being intentionally used to block the ball, but overall – VAR has worked and it will eventually be quality controlled to a level where it works consistently and more efficiently in football.

The real controversy here is that FIFA seem to be going against their own rules, if what Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr says is true. Oh FIFA, you never fail to cause controversy even when your officials are correct.

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What do you think?