The 2018 World Cup Final between France and Croatia didn't take long to throw up some controversy. The French scored in the 18th minute, thanks to a Mandzukic own-goal, but it came directly from a very questionable free-kick.
Griezmann dive leads to goal
Croatia came out of the blocks quickly in the nation's first ever Fifa showpiece final. The first 15 minutes saw much of the play towards the Hugo Lloris' area with Les Bleus only mustering a few breakaway opportunities. Then came the moment when Griezmann went down.
About half-way inside the Croatian half, a challenge looked as though it was coming in to the Atlético man, but before any hint of contact was made, he flicked back his leg and fell to the turf. That was enough for referee Néstor Pitana to give the dead ball situation. Griezmann took the free-kick himself, sent it into the crowded penalty area, and the unlucky Mandzukic directed it off his head and past his own keeper. AS' resident referee, Iturralde González, was in absolutely no doubt that his colleague had made a big mistake.
Another element of that opening goal that has been questioned is that French player Paul Pogba appeared to be standing in an offside position as the free-kick was struck, and then clearly interfered with the jumping players.
France penalty correctly given
There was more intrigue before half-time as VAR came into play. A French corner was delivered to the near post where the ball hit the arm of Perisic, the Croatian who had brought his side level with a wonderful strike. At first Pitana did not award a spot-kick, however, after being called to review the incident by his team in the monitor room, he gave Griezmann the chance to put his team ahead again. He duly did. Former official González had a good look at this case as well, deeming it a correct decision by the man in the middle, and another win for VAR.
Twitter was quick to have its say...
Sinceramente, no entiendo muy bien el uso del VAR. El árbitro señala una falta que no es a Griezman. Gol de Francia en esa acción. No pasa nada.— Iker Casillas (@IkerCasillas) 15 July 2018
VAR got the penalty call right. Unfortunate that VAR couldn’t review the dive that led to France’s first goal.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) 15 July 2018
So France might win a World Cup because the ref fell for a dive. Gotta have replay challenges on fouls that lead to free kicks. The game just became a sham. A very French way to win.— Graham Couch (@Graham_Couch) 15 July 2018
And there we go..how hasn’t VAR said dive before free kick taken— Jody Morris (@morriskid) 15 July 2018