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SportWomen's World Cup: Was VAR wrong to award France penalty against Norway?

11:45  13 june  2019
11:45  13 june  2019 Source:

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Women's World Cup: Was VAR wrong to award France penalty against Norway? © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

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Having made it two wins from two with a 2-1 victory against Norway, France are building up a head of steam at a home World Cup which many have backed them to win.

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A VAR penalty was the difference as France beat Norway despite conceding a calamitous own goal in their Group A fixture of the Women ' s World Cup . Highlights: France 2-1 Norway .

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Goals from Valerie Gauvin and Eugenie Le Sommer were enough to overturn a disastrous own goal from Wendie Renard and give Les Bleues all three points in Nice. Le Sommer's winner was not without controversy, however, given that it came from a penalty which many felt was wrongly awarded.

Women's World Cup: Was VAR wrong to award France penalty against Norway? © Reuters REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

The penalty was given with the help of VAR after referee Bibiana Steinhaus decided to review a coming together between Ingrid Syrstad Engen and Marion Torrent in the box. In an attempt to clear a loose ball, Engen appeared to follow through on the onrushing Torrent and catch her just above the knee with her studs.

This was the penalty that was given using VAR with the game at 1-1.Penalty or no penalty?#FIFAWWC on @BBCFOUR.#ChangeTheGame

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France scored a controversial VAR - awarded second-half penalty to defeat Norway 2-1 and all but confirm their spot in the last-16 of the Women ' s World Cup . France now top Group A with six points from two games, three clear of Norway and third-placed Nigeria, who they play in their final group

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After several viewings, Steinhaus pointed to the spot and booked Engen. Le Sommer smashed the ball into the back of the net from 12 yards in what proved to be the decisive moment of the game.

"VAR now giving softer than soft penalties," tweeted former England star Eniola Aluko. She was certainly not the only one who disagreed with Steinhaus' decision.

Controversial call

There were several arguments made against the penalty: that Torrent's momentum took her into Engen's boot, that Torrent had actually got the ball first and that, given that Steinhaus hadn't awarded a penalty initially, she should have stuck with her original decision.

Speaking at full time, BBC pundit and West Ham star Claire Rafferty said: "For me, instantly, I went for 'no penalty'. I think, potentially, yes she did follow through, but the initial jump into the challenge from Torrent was a definite sign that she couldn't really have stopped the momentum of the kick. For me, no, and the referee took a long time to make the decision as well. I think if you have that amount of doubt you should probably give the defender the benefit."

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Watch France 's Wendie Renard score an "incredible" own goal against Norway to leave the score 1-1 in the Women ' s World Cup . Watch: Fifa Women ' s World Cup - France re-take lead through VAR - awarded penalty .

France ’s Eugenie Le Sommer celebrates scoring from the penalty spot in the Women ’ s World Cup Group A game against Norway at the Allianz Riviera stadium in It went to a VAR review, before Le Sommer stepped up to render her Lyon team-mate’s error meaningless. France passed the test, just.

Women's World Cup: Was VAR wrong to award France penalty against Norway? © Getty (CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

Fellow pundit and former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis addressed the Laws of the Game more directly, saying: "When you look at the actual letter of the law and the fact that Bibiana Steinhaus booked her, that means she's deemed it reckless which then equates to a yellow card [for] endangering a player. But if we're looking at this particular incident, Torrent comes in and jumps in two-footed. I mean, who's endangering who?"

The Laws of the Game state that a foul should be awarded if a player commits any of the following offences in a manner considered by the referee to be "careless, reckless or using excessive force":

Torrent could certainly have been pinged for jumping at an opponent, so there is a degree of ambiguity to the situation. As for whether Engen got the ball first, that's not directly relevant to the criteria for the foul: the key information is whether or not she kicked Torrent.

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Television footage shows a fairly clear connection between her boot and Torrent's lower thigh, so the answer seems to be in the affirmative. Likewise, Engen's momentum going into the challenge is not a mitigating factor so much as a guide as to whether her kick should be judged to be careless, reckless or excessive.

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Former Premier League and FIFA referee Mark Halsey has told Yahoo Sport that Argentine referee Nestor Pitana made the wrong decision when he handed France a controversial penalty in Sunday’ s World Cup final against Croatia in Moscow.

While Steinhaus might, on another day, have awarded a free kick to Norway on account of Torrent jumping into the challenge, she clearly deemed Engen's follow through to be the only clear foul. Given that Torrent made no connection with Engen while Engen planted her boot studs up on Torrent's leg, it's not hard to see how Steinhaus decided she needed to award a penalty.

Women's World Cup: Was VAR wrong to award France penalty against Norway? © Getty (Photo by Hannah Peters - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Deeming Engen to be reckless as opposed to careless seems harsh, given that the two came to the ball almost simultaneously and any follow through was clearly accidental. Evidently, Steinhaus felt that the momentum behind the tackle warranted a caution.

Norway fans will certainly feel hard done by and, while the final call lies with the ref, the decision could well have gone the other way. While France now face Nigeria, Norway go up against Group A's bottom side in South Korea and will have to hope there are no more controversial penalties lying in wait.

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