KAZAN, Russian Federation, Jun 17 – Australia captain Mile Jedinak put on a brave face but admitted the frustration was palpable a day after the Socceroos’ World Cup campaign was compounded by a historic but controversial VAR decision.
Making its World Cup debut at Russia 2018, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is the latest technological measure introduced into the ‘beautiful game’ in a bid to eliminate the grey areas surrounding key refereeing decisions.
But Australia were beaten 2-1 by France after finding themselves on the wrong end of Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha’s decision to award the French a penalty just before the hour mark.
Cunha appeared to wave play on after a tackle by Australia defender Josh Risdon brought down Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann early in the second half.
After being informed by the assistant referee that the incident merited a review, he consulted video footage of the incident before pointing to the penalty spot.
Griezmann went on to score the first VAR-assisted goal in World Cup history.
Jedinak pulled the Socceroos back into the game with a penalty of his own but an 81st-minute Aziz Behich own goal gave France a scrappy victory.
– ‘Hard done by’ –
Australia’s players claim they are ready to “move on” and are focusing on trying to beat Denmark on Thursday in a bid to reignite their bid for a place in the last 16.
But Aston Villa midfielder Jedinak admitted: “If I said I wasn’t frustrated by this decision, I wouldn’t be lying.”
He added: “But we can’t change it now. The score says 2-1, penalty to Griezmann and yellow card for Risdon. It is what it is.”
“I feel hard done by,” said Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan, who was powerless against Griezmann’s well-struck spot kick.
“I don’t feel we were beaten by a better team but almost by technology a little bit.”
Roared on by a sizeable support at Kazan Arena, it is likely many of the fans wearing Australia’s green and gold were left feeling the same.
For France coach Didier Deschamps, there were — not surprisingly — no complaints: “I’m not going to complain about the use of video today, because it went in our favour.
“The referee saw there had been an error, and recitifed it because there was a foul.
“We’ve already been on the wrong end of it (VAR) in the past. That’s how it is, so you have to get used to it.
“Even with the video (VAR), decisions are still open to interpretation. The referee is alerted, but in the end it’s him who decides.”
VAR focuses on four key areas: goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents and mistaken identity.
Specifically, when it comes to penalty decisions, FIFA’s rules state: “The role of the VAR is to ensure that no clearly wrong decisions are made in conjunction with the award or non-award of a penalty kick.”
Jedinak said the issue of whether the penalty was valid could be “debated for as long as we’re here, and beyond”.
But he reasoned: “It’s here and it’s here to stay. I think we just have to move on.
“People could debate it for as long as we’re here, and beyond. But you know what, it is what it is now and we have to move forward, as harsh as it may be.”