The 2019 Women’s World Cup moved into the knockout round this weekend. While there were no major upsets, there was a good mixture of intrigue and quality, physical play.
Unfortunately, almost every game was overshadowed by VAR controversies.
Norway defeats Australia on pks in a thriller
Norway and Australia played an exhilarating, open and hard fought match on Saturday. It was one of the best games of the tournament to date.
Despite missing Ballon D’or winner Ada Hegerberg (sitting out the tournament in protest of wage / treatment inequity), Norway generated a ton of offensive opportunities–creating 27 total shots with 8 on target.
The pace of the game was frenetic, with counter-attacks being met by counter-attacks.
Unfortunately, as would be the theme this weekend, there was VAR controversy. Five minutes before half, a ball bounced off Maria Thorisdottir’s shoulder in the box and Australia was awarded a penalty. However, the penalty was overturned after a three-minute review.
The game ended 1-1 in regular play. Two 15-minute extra time periods were played. Neither team could breakthrough. By the second extra time, both squads were noticeably gassed. The score ended 1-1 after 120 minutes.
From there, the game progressed to a penalty shootout. Australia’s superstar striker, Sam Kerr, launched her opening kick into the stands. You could see the wind just come out of the Matilda’s sails–as they missed their next shot too. Norway cruised to a 4-1 shootout win.
Germany handles Nigeria
The Germans continued what now feels like an inevitable march to the finals, defeating Nigeria 3-0.
While the game was never in question, Germany didn’t necessarily run over Nigeria. The Germans converted 3 of their 4 shots on target and only outshot Nigeria 12 to 9. Possession was close too, as Germany held a 60-40% advantage.
Germany awaits the winner of Sweden vs Canada in the quarterfinals.
England and Cameroon play a sloppy, VAR-ridden game
Wtf was up with England vs Cameroon?
This was a tough game to watch. Sloppy play, defensive breakdowns, and continued breaks in play hampered the match.
While England ultimately won handily 3-0, it could’ve been closer. Two VAR incidents played huge role in the final result.
In the first half, Lucy Bronze played a through ball to Ellen White who fired home a goal. A VAR review on whether White was off-sides upheld the goal.
However, when the goal was replayed inside the stadium on the big screen, Cameroon players saw there was an England player off-sides, just not White. This led to an awkward, vociferous protest by Cameroon, delaying the game for minutes.
In the second half, Cameroon had a goal inexplicably called back after a VAR off-sides ruling on Ajara Nchout. This led to more protesting, particularly by Nchout–who if she was off-sides, it was not clear or obvious.
Cameroon also missed an easy 1vs1 conversion a few minutes later.
Fortunately for England, they’ll lace up against an exhausted Norwegian team in the quarterfinals.
France wins grueling match after more VAR controversy
As we wrote, host nation France has the most difficult draw of any team of any team who advanced to the knockout rounds.
This proved itself out in a grueling, chippy round of 16 match against Brazil.
The quality of play and though was yet again over-shadowed by the poor implementation of VAR.
Valérie Gauvin scored a goal in the first half in a mini-collision with Brazil’s goalkeeper, Bárbara. Both players went down after the collision. While they were on the ground, the refs used the time to use VAR. They inexplicably ruled interference by Gauvin and disallowed the goal.
Another game, another VAR controversy!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 23, 2019
France believe they have a 1-0 lead as Gauvin and Barbara collide. But after a lengthy review, VAR decides it was a foul. No goal! #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/3MLaF9RQdI
Gauvin ended up getting her goal though in the 52nd minute. The game was leveled by Thaisa in the 63rd. After 90 minutes, the game was square 1-1.
On to extra time, the game opened up more as both teams pressed for victory. Debinha was denied a goal in the 105th minute by a brilliant Griedge Mbock Bathy block inches from the goal line. The first period of extra time ended 1-1.
MBOCK BATHY SAVES FRANCE! 😱😱— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 23, 2019
Debinha has the potential game-winner on the breakaway but Mbock slides in and France survive! pic.twitter.com/2o2OwxHJvD
Early in the second extra period, Amandine Henry buried a great strike for a goal that VAR actually didn’t over-turn. France held on for a hard fought 2-1 victory.
Given the physical toll France took in this game, the USWNT may be catching a welcome break against a battered and exhausted quarterfinal opponent.