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France players were ‘up in arms’ during the World Cup final against Argentina. Les Bleus felt Lionel Messi was over-protected by the referee in the first half of the match at the Lusail Stadium.
It was Messi’s day of destiny as he attempted to win the World Cup for the first time in his final appearance at the tournament. For many, victory would have been the crowning glory to his career.
The 35-year-old had been in sublime form heading into the tournament. And he scored his sixth goal in Qatar when he slotted home a penalty after Angel Di Maria was brought down by Ousmane Dembele midway through the opening 45 minutes.
He became the first player to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final in a single World Cup. So France didn’t need the referee to be on Messi’s side too.
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But that is exactly what they thought. According to the Evening Standard, the French players and bench were furious that Messi was being over-protected after an aerial collision with Theo Hernandez.
Messi was given the free kick despite it appearing to be a 50-50 incident. France players protested to referee Szymon Marciniak, while the fourth official got it in the ear from the bench and coaching staff.
The Argentina bench were protecting Messi and the decision. The superstar was down briefly before returning to his feet after not requiring treatment from the medical staff.
France were also not happy with the earlier decision to give Argentina a penalty. There was minimal contact between Dembele and Di Maria but Marciniak was quick to point to the spot.
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VAR did not recommend a review of the decision on the pitchside monitor. Former Premier League referee Peter Walton explained why the original decision was stuck with.
Walton said on ITV: “The VAR clearly looked at it but what he’s looking for is the evidence to give to the referee to say he’s made a clear and obvious error. We can all see there is contact, whether or not there’s enough to send the player over is up to the referee and that’s a subjective view.
“That is why the VAR hasn’t got involved because there is contact and therefore doesn’t have the evidence to show the contrary to the referee. VAR would’ve looked at it (if it wasn’t given) and asked the referee what he’d seen and the referee would’ve said ‘probably not enough to send him over’ therefore the VAR would not send it to the monitor.”
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