Croatia’s heartbreaking final loss to France was marred by a contentious handball decision that arguably tilted the game in France’s favour.
The controversial VAR call followed a devastating own-goal for Croatia, and just as their luck was turning around following an Ivan Perisic equaliser, it all came crashing back down.
Antoine Griezmann whipped in a dangerous ball from the corner that struck the hand of Croatia’s Perisic, leading to an outcry of appeal from the French players.
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Occurring in the 33rd minute of play, the referee decided to award the handball in the penalty area after a lengthy review of the incident.
The decision was gifted on the basis of a deliberate handling of the ball, and it received widespread criticism by football fans from around the world, including the Croatian coach.
“We dominated and then the penalty was given,” Zlatko Dalic said in the post-match conference.
“I never comment on referees, but let me say one thing: in a World Cup final you don’t give such a penalty, but it in no way diminished France’s win.
“With respect to VAR, when it’s in your favour it’s good, when it isn’t its bad.”
Well done France 2-1 up – The Laws of the game say Handball has to be deliberate!!!!! VAR a success so far ? Do be a favour
— Chris Kamara (@chris_kammy) July 15, 2018
Reminder that whatever you think of VAR, the bigger problem is the handball rule is intentionally vague so no one actually knows what a handball is
— Ryan Rosenblatt (@RyanRosenblatt) July 15, 2018
So first French goal was a dive and Pogba standing offside and we got no VAR, now an absolute 50/50 handball (if that) gets given by VAR to give France a pen #WorldCupFinal
— Ryan Clarke (@ryanmclarke95) July 15, 2018
— Asad Merchant (@AsadMerchant33) July 15, 2018
VAR review of a handball…please don't give a pen for that. Impossible to be deliberate #WorldCupFinal
— ⚽️442oons⚽️ (@442oons) July 15, 2018
Controversial VAR decision aside, France eventuated as 4-2 victors over Croatia in one of the most entertaining and action-packed finals for decades.
France’s big guns delivered on the biggest stage of all as Antoine Griezmann – with a penalty awarded after a VAR review – Paul Pogba and teenage tyro Kylian Mbappe hit the target on Sunday.
Ivan Perisic and Mandzukic replied for Croatia, who ended beaten but unbowed after making much of the running in their first appearance in the final.
It was the highest-scoring decider since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in 1966 and the most goals in normal time since Brazil defeated Sweden 5-2 60 years ago.
There were as many goals in 90 action-packed Moscow minutes as in the last four finals combined, and three of those went to extra time.