The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup will definitely be remembered for its excessive use of VAR. It was however -- and rather surprisingly -- not consulted during the second quarter-final fixture of the tournament which opposed mighty defending champions USA against the highly spirited hosts, France.
In the match, Megan Rapinoe's 5th minute free-kick set the tone for the Americans to impose themselves in the first period. When the playmaker grabbed her brace in the 65th minute with a clinical tap-in, it looked like Les Bleues had been annihilated… until defender Wendie Renard knocked in her fourth goal in five matches with nine minutes of normal time remaining.
From there, the home crowd was on its toes at every new occasion created. Then Kelley O'Hara appeared to have used her arm to block one good chance for the French in the 85th minute. Like some fans who believe it was a "ball-to-hand" situation and not a hand ball, O'Hara dismissed claims of robbery, arguing:
"It wasn't like I was making my body big or anything. You never know, though, because it's a little sketchy sometimes but thankfully they called it the right way."
Either way, the surprising factor was not the referee's decision to order the play to go on, but the fact that at no point was VAR consulted to examine the protests of Corinne Diacre's players.
No review of the handball? Shocking #WWC2019— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) June 28, 2019
That wasn't a handball - but it would be in the Champions League...— Christian Radnedge (@ChristianRad) June 28, 2019
"It was a close game. I saw the replays [of the penalty call]. It's true that it could have been a penalty," France's only goalscorer on the night declared.
"I remember, four years ago, Amel [Majri] was whistled against for less than that," Renard noted as she referred to France's 2015 Women's World Cup quarter-final encounter against Germany in which the latter got a late equalizer through a penalty before eliminating Les Bleues via spotkicks.
"Even at this current tournament, there've been instances where penalties were awarded for softer incidents. In the previous round, they [USA] got favored with two penalty calls. And tonight, I have no idea why VAR did not function.
"So I don't know what to say.
"You don't know how little details could have changed the game; the penalty call and the fact that they were struggling to get hold of the game again [in the dying minutes]. But football is like that. We would have to recover and move on."
Renard also conceded that Les Bleues were not the tie's favorites whilst admitting that titleholders USA were efficient when it mattered in front of goal. She further asserted that tactical changes might have completed the comeback. "But I'm not the one who decides," the 28-year-old Olympique Lyonnais Feminine superstar center-back cheekily added.
The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup thus continues without Wendie Renard and Les Bleues. It is the USA that will clash against Phil Neville's England in the semi-finals in Lyon on July 2.