Fallout Over Perisic’s Handball Continues As Wenger And Mourinho Slam Penalty Decision

It’s not going to change anything, but this is still an important discussion to have with regards to VAR.

Croatia players and manager Zlatko Dalic were gracious in defeat yesterday, admitting that France deserved the victory following second half goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe. However, the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic still left traces of disgust and defiance in their words when discussing the final’s turning points, particularly the VAR-assisted handball call against Ivan Perisic that sent Antoine Griezmann to the spot in the 38th minute. 

“I didn’t see, but everyone said it was unintentional and in a game of this magnitude you cannot give these kind of penalties,” said Modric, the Golden Ball winner. “That was a turning point of the game. When we play the best football, we dominate the game and he gives a penalty, it kills you.

“We were surprised especially because first goal he gave the foul, which wasn’t in my opinion and they scored from that. It’s not easy again always to come back but in the end we tried, we fought until the end and we have to be proud of what we did, how we did today, but it wasn’t enough to win it.”

His midfield partner Rakitic echoed those sentiments by saying, “There was no foul when the first goal was scored and the penalty was very, very questionable.”

Croatian manager Zlatko Dalic had this to say: “I never comment on refereeing but let me say one sentence: in a World Cup final, you do not give such a penalty. … We played well but the penalty knocked the wind out of us and after that it was very difficult.”

If you believe these points of view to be very biased and very Croatian, here’s Arsene Wenger (exceedingly French) doing some commentary for beIN SPORTS. The former Arsenal manager didn’t think it was a penalty either.  

Perhaps the two most vehement criticisms of the call came from Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Republic of Ireland assistant Roy Keane. 

“I am for the VAR system, but not in this form,” Mourinho said. “I supported the introduction of the system of video replay when it clearly tracks serious errors so that they do not exist, but now this is another concept, some may think that there is a reason for a penalty, and others — no. 

“Now it was not clearly visible that there was a mistake. How could Perisic jump while holding his hands at the seams? How could he react when a meter from him was a French player? This is the final, not an ordinary match, and a solution based on VAR can affect the game. After such a penalty, I do not think this is my sport. France wins the match and for me, this World Cup will remain in memory as the World Championship named after VAR.”

Roy Keane was his usual self on ITV, full of rage, bluster and the word "disgraceful." 

“Football is a great game, the greatest game on the planet, but that decision there disgusts me, absolutely disgusts me,” Keane said. “The Croatian players deserve better than that. It’s a ridiculous decision. I’m fuming, disgraceful decision. That referee has never played football, I bet you he has never played football.

“Where is the common sense? We end up talking about the referee. You are not supposed to be talking about referees. We should talk about the players, the quality and we end up talking about this idiot. It’s a crazy decision.”

Former USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann was in agreement, saying: “When you are not sure, you don’t give it. It was the wrong decision.”

Social media provided some more withering assessments of the decision: 

I think that the most sensible take was provided by Australian legend Tim Cahill, who said that by the Laws of the Game it’s a penalty, but it’s never really a penalty. 

I enjoy that take because that’s the sort of absurdity that VAR has introduced into the game: it's a handball, but it's not a penalty. That kind of take will piss a lot of people off, but we saw that sort of thing earlier in the tournament. For me, the best example of VAR being sensible and not ruining everything came during the Brazil vs. Belgium game. 

I don’t think this was a penalty (@BBadss was just tired of seeing South America get dumped out): Gabriel Jesus megs Jan Vertonghen and then takes an extremely heavy touch to send the ball out of bounds. Common sense says there’s nothing there — there was no way Jesus was doing anything. VAR was right not to ask for a check.

However, with the use of VAR, you could use slo-mo and pause the play right here — the ball is still in play and Jesus is getting taken out by Kompany. Just like Cahill said with regards to the handball, the Laws of the Game — with the aid of slo-mo — dictate that there’s a foul here.

But this can’t be a penalty! It would be a preposterous decision to give. 

Ivan Perisic Handball

Although one’s a handball and this one's a tackle, I think there are a lot of similarities between the two. If common sense prevails, neither are penalties. Within the parameters of the game, both of these situations are fairly innocuous.   

If soccer in now the NFL (where the infamous "catch rule" is calling into question microscopic movements and no one really understands what a catch is anymore), they're both penalties.

VAR is here to stay, and that's a great thing. We just have to be aware of the fact that it certainly has the power to dangerously bastardize play in the box.  

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