'Ref doubted himself': Socceroos react to VAR controversy

Socceroos boss Bert van Marwijk believes World Cup referee Andres Cunha was undone by the pressure of VAR but Josh Risdon says the penalty he conceded wasn’t a “clear-cut wrong decision”.

Australia were undone by the first video controversy of the tournament – a coincidence not lost on football fans who watched the VAR disrupt the recent A-League season – in their 2-1 loss to France on Saturday night.

Risdon tackled French star Antoine Griezmann just inside the box midway through the second half but the referee initially let play continue, seemingly deciding the Australian had touched enough of the ball before his rival went to ground.

Cunha, however, made history when he overturned the decision based on a VAR replay.

“I was pretty confident, to be fair,” Risdon said.

“I knew I had clipped the ball and I thought that was going to be enough but obviously it wasn’t. I haven’t really seen the replays but I think he clipped my trailing leg.

“But there’s not much we can do about it, just focus on the positives. I don’t think that it was a clear-cut wrong decision, so it seems to be a bit of a grey area there but we can’t do much about it now.”

The tackle. Pic: Getty

The penalty was cancelled out when the Socceroos scored their own goal from the spot four minutes later after French defender Samuel Umtiti’s blatant handball.

The European side went on to take out a 2-1 win when Paul Pogba scored late with the help of a lucky deflection that looped the ball over Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan.

The Australian gloveman, who had collected the ball after the Risdon tackle on Griezmann, remained as frustrated with VAR as a system as he did with the eventual decision.

“I feel hard done by. I feel like we were beaten by a better team and almost by technology a little bit,” he said.

“I thought I saw a little deviation as he’s gone to ground, meaning that (Risdon) touched the ball and it was play on.

“I think the referee took the right decision, then we played on and he obviously made the decision to go and check it and I was pretty sure from what I’d seen that it wasn’t going to be (a penalty) but it was given.

“On the replays I have seen it didn’t look conclusive. You hear that technology was brought in to take out clear-cut errors and all this in the game but that’s the grey area: what’s a clear-cut error and what’s not? What’s conclusive and what’s not?

Australia protested immediately. Pic: Getty

“I’m looking for a better explanation of it but I don’t want to take anything away from the game and the beautiful game that it is and what we’ve done today.”

An explanation has not been forthcoming and the referee does not necessarily need to detail his thinking.

Van Marwijk, though, believes Cunha felt more comfortable with his original decision than he did when he reviewed the play.

“I hoped that maybe there will be a very honest referee,” the Dutchman said.

“When he went to the touchline his body language was that he didn’t know. Then he has to make a decision, France or Australia. I have a lot of reactions. From 10 people, some will say ‘penalty’ and some will say ‘not’.

“It’s difficult, particularly when the referee has 50,000 people on his back when he is doubting. I think he was standing very close to incident and he directly said, ‘no penalty’. He said go on. He is a human being so we all make mistakes.”

In an interesting twist, Griezmann and France coach Didier Deschamps were satisfied to have won the penalty but suggested they were relatively unfazed by the initial call – one of many would-be fouls in a 90-minute game of football.

“First of all, I felt the contact and for me it was a penalty,” man of the match Griezmann told reporters.

“But there was no whistle so I thought about other things. I saw the referee went to review and felt he would give a penalty and so I started to think about how to handle it.”

Deschamps hinted at an understanding of the 50-50 nature of VAR allowing for referees to overrule their own decisions.

“I’m not going to complain about VAR because it was in our favour obviously,” he said.

“The referee didn’t see that there was a foul and he was able to correct when he reviewed it, so he was able to correct a mistake. It’s not easy with VAR, but we saw it was not in our favour (in real time). It will be useful in some situations.”

with Omnisport