We’re analysing every VAR decision made throughout all 64 games at the 2022 World Cup. The final between Argentina and France was packed with penalty drama — but were the correct decisions made?

After each game, we take a look at the major incidents to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.

– World Cup VAR review in full: Every decision analysed

Possible VAR overturn: Penalty for foul by Dembele on Di Maria

What happened: Argentina were awarded a penalty in the 21st minute. Angel Di Maria had skipped past Ousmane Dembele into the box, and went to ground under an apparent trip. Polish referee Szymon Marcinik pointed to the penalty spot.

VAR decision: Penalty stands, scored by Lionel Messi.

VAR review: This was certainly a soft penalty, but it’s not one the VAR, Tomasz Kwiatkowski, would ever look to overturn. The decision of the referee carries most weight, and as soon as the VAR could identify contact leading to the trip it wouldn’t be overturned. It may well not have been a penalty through VAR had Marcinik not awarded it himself.

Arguably Dembele doesn’t really even make a challenge for the ball, but intent isn’t relevant when judging penalty situations.

In chasing Di Maria and getting so close to his opponent, it effectively resulted in Dembele running into Di Maria’s leg and causing the Argentina forward to clip his own feet together, causing him to go to ground.


Possible penalty: Foul by Upamecano on Mac Allister

What happened: In the 62nd minute, Alexis Mac Allister appealed for a penalty after being pushed off the ball by Dayot Upamecano. The referee waved play on.

VAR decision: No penalty.

VAR review: Is a shoulder charge allowed in football? It is, but it comes down to what is considered to be a “fair charge.”

It must be shoulder to shoulder (or side on side, contact doesn’t have to be directly shoulder upon shoulder), without the use of arms or elbows. It cannot be in the back, which was the case with the VAR penalty awarded to England against France in the quarterfinals when Theo Hernandez knocked Mason Mount to the ground.

Upamecano’s challenge was just the right side of the law for what would be considered a legal charge.


Possible red card: Penalty conceded by Otamendi

What happened: France got back into the game in the 79th minute when Randal Kolo Muani was bundled to the ground by Nicolas Otamendi. There was no question about the decision to award the penalty, but should it have been a red card?

VAR decision: No red card.

VAR review: Remarkably, Otamendi didn’t even receive a yellow card, and there are many arguments for it being a red.

The law covering double jeopardy, which prevents a red card for denying a goal-scoring opportunity when a penalty has been conceded, only applies to genuine attempts to win the ball. Pulling back an opponent, or an unintentional trip, would still result in a player being sent off.

Kolo Muani had beaten Otamendi and was then both pulled back and tripped. Was the Argentina defender ever making a genuine attempt to play the ball?

You could formulate some kind of argument for this not to be a red card — such as Kolo Muani being wide in the area and not fully in control of the ball, which is probably why the VAR didn’t intervene — but referee Marcinik clearly wasn’t even considering the DOGSO aspect as there was no caution.

Probably the only misstep by the referee in this game, with the VAR unable to advise a missed yellow card, only a red.


Possible penalty: Foul by Fernandez on Thuram

What happened: Marcus Thuram wanted a penalty in the 87th minute when he claimed he had been tripped by Enzo Fernandez. Referee Marcinik was having none of it, and immediately booked Thuram for simulation.

VAR decision: No penalty.

VAR review: A classic case of an attacker trying to win a penalty by initiating contact, and a brilliant spot by Marcinik.

Thuram looks to go past Fernandez but then places his right foot into the Argentina player after he had withdrawn from the challenge.


Possible offside: Martinez on Messi goal

What happened: Argentina went 3-2 up in the 108th minute, but there was a question of offside in the buildup against Lautaro Martinez, who had the first shot before Messi scored.

VAR decision: Goal stands.

VAR review: Something of a confusing situation, because after the referee signalled the ball had crossed the line for Messi’s goal, the assistant appeared to raise his flag for offside against Martinez. However, Marcinik continued to point back to the centre circle for the goal.

There’s no evidence the goal was actually disallowed and then awarded after a VAR intervention. FIFA showed the 3D animation a few minutes later to prove Martinez was indeed clearly onside, thanks to the defender’s backside.


Penalty: Handball by Montiel

What happened: Gonzalo Montiel had only been on the pitch for 12 minutes when he conceded the 114th-minute penalty which sent the World Cup final to a shootout.

VAR decision: Penalty stands, scored by Mbappe.

VAR review: A textbook example of a modern handball penalty.

Montiel turns and makes his body bigger with his arm away from his body, creating an obvious barrier to goal for a shot by Mbappe.

Another excellent spot by referee Marcinik, this time coming with the requisite yellow card.



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