The 2018 World Cup finished off with a bang, leaving us with great memories of a well-organized, highly entertaining, and controversial (on the pitch) tournament that will go down as one of the best in World Cup history.
This was the tournament in which the phrase ‘It’s coming home‘ was immortalized, most games had spectators on the edge of seats, powerhouses fell like flies, and underdogs rose to the occasion. Germany, Spain, Argentina hardly made an impression, while the highly overrated British… well, let’s just say the only thing they brought home was shame.
Belgium had an unforgettable, nail-biting run, climaxing with an epic comeback against Japan. Relative underdog Croatia flew under the radar, blowing all challengers aside with determination, resilience and confidence. Considering how many times their matches went into overtime, no other team spent as much time on the pitch and it’s remarkable that they made it as far as they did.
Of course, France triumphed over Croatia to lift the World Cup trophy for the second time, the last being in 2018 with the likes of Zidane and Thuram. Les Bleus started off on a slow foot, but, unlike most other teams, seemed to only better as the competition wore on. Once Brazil got knocked out by a momentous Belgium, they ecame one of the favorites to win, the other being Belgium, of course.
There were those that sincerely thought Britain would beat Croatia to land a spot in the finals, but the truth was that “It was never coming home.” I was completely confident that they wouldn’t beat the Croats in the semifinal, let alone France or Belgium in the final.
Of the major controversial calls the refs made throughout the tournament, none stood out as much as the penalty awarded to France when Croatia’s Ivan Perisic was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball inside the penalty following Antoine Griezmann’s corner. Not only was it the first-ever VAR penalty in World Cup final history, but many fans and critics alike (just ask any Croat) believe it was downright erroneous and the turning point of the match.
Referee Nestor Pitana, because of VAR, got it wrong, they say, but I for one believe he made the the right call. With penalties, VAR is intended to ensure that the correct decision was made regarding the award or non-award of one, and that’s exactly what it did. Exhibit A:
The biggest augment touted by the deniers is that the ball was traveling too fast for Perisic to react — that is, to move his hand out of the ball’s way — but as you can see, he clearly moved his hand towards (not away) the ball. Not only that, but you can also see his head turn towards the ball during the act. The man was obviously trying to stop the ball whatever way he can and succeeded.
Perisic is an intelligent player that surely knew he was risking a penalty. It all happened so fast that, I would wager, he did it unconsciously, unable to will his body not to do it. There is nothing more powerful than a person’s subconscious, which always gives us what we truly want despite the mind’s deliberate intentions
Needless to say, an infraction such as this, whether intentional or unintentional, consciously or otherwise, is nearly always going to be a penalty. The ref got it right, so stop busting his balls!