History made as VAR used for first time in World Cup match

Posted at 7:25 AM, Jun 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-16 09:25:56-04

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — There was a moment of history at Russia 2018 on Saturday as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used for the first time to reverse a decision in a World Cup match.

With France’s Group C match against Australia deadlocked, Paul Pogba threaded a pinpoint pass to Antoine Griezmann, who went down in the box following Joshua Risdon’s challenge.

Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha initially waved away Griezmann’s protests and play went on … until VAR took center stage.

After reviewing the footage pitchside for little more than 30 seconds, Cunha overturned his original decision and awarded France a penalty, much to the fury of the Australian players.

Up stepped Griezmann to confidently tuck the controversial penalty into the corner.

It wasn’t the final say technology would have in this game.

Australia equalized through Mile Jedinak with a penalty of their own following Samuel Umtiti’s inexplicable decision to handle a cross, but soon afterwards it was the turn of goal-line technology to steal the show.

In Brazil four years ago, France became the first team in World Cup history to be awarded a goal using goal-line technology and they again had it to thank in Russia.

Pogba’s deflected shot towards goal cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and bounced out into Mat Ryan’s arms, but Cunha’s watch buzzed to indicate the ball had crossed the line and France held on to secure a 2-1 win.

At the World Cup, VAR technology is only used to correct “clear and obvious mistakes” — to allow or disallow goals, award or deny penalties, show or rescind red cards, or correct instances of mistaken identity when a referee disciplines the wrong player.

Emulating the class of 1998

The man sat in France’s dugout knows a thing or two about winning a World Cup.

Deschamps, the captain and leader of France’s victorious 1998 “Rainbow team,” has again been given the responsibility of bringing football’s greatest prize back to France.

Despite his place in French football folklore, Deschamps’ position at the helm of the national team doesn’t come without pressure.

Leading arguably the most gifted generation of French footballers since that class of 1998, Russia 2018 may be Deschamp’s final chance to win a major trophy as manager after the crushing Euro 2016 final defeat on home soil.

“In Didier Deschamps we have got a manager who was in the dressing room in 1998,” Griezmann told reporters before the game. “He was even the captain, so he’ll take us to the right path.

“It makes you want to copy it and bring this World Cup back to France. That is the dream.”

There were early warning signs that this could be a walk in the park for France in Kazan — and a long afternoon for Australia — as Benjamin Pavard released Kylian Mbappe, who brought a sharp early save from Ryan.

The Socceroos goalkeeper was by far the busiest player on the pitch in the opening five minutes, stopping a Pogba free-kick, before getting down well to save a long distance strike from Griezmann.

But after 15 minutes of solid defending, Australia grew into the game and conjured up the best chance so far.

Aaron Mooy’s free-kick into the box was inadvertently prodded towards his own goal by Corentin Tolisso, but his blushes were spared by captain Hugo Lloris who made brilliant, low save.

After what proved to be an even first half, the controversy began 10 minutes into the second.

First came that VAR decision and then Hawk-Eye confirmed France’s second goal as Australia were floored by football’s use of technology

The Socceroos will undoubtedly leave frustrated having come away with nothing after performing so well, but know easier tests lie ahead in Peru and Denmark, who face each other in Group C’s second match.