While Video Assistant Referee’s role at this Women’s World Cup has been a big talking point, generally there hasn’t been much disagreement over the validity of the calls made.
In that light, try this on for size.
Cameroon’s Ngo Mbeleck received a yellow card for this high challenge that nearly caught the Netherlands’ Jackie Groenen in the head:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2019
Mbeleck clearly beats Groenen to the ball and kicks it away; that’s not at issue. Her follow through, however, is clearly dangerous, even though Mbeleck’s cleat studs make contact with Groenen’s arm and not her head.
But VAR didn’t determine Mbeleck should have been sent off, partially because intent is difficult to legislate and also because referee Casey Reibelt gave her a yellow card. According to FIFA’s official bylaws, VAR is only applicable to “direct red card incidents” and intended “to ensure that no clearly wrong decisions are made in conjunction with sending off or not sending off a player.” So that wonderfully nebulous language appears to indicate red cards can only be upheld, not retroactively given.
In any event, the card is consistent with similar incidents we’ve already seen this World Cup. South Africa’s Nothando Vilakazi earned a second yellow and sending off for her dangerous follow through against Spain, and Norway’s Ingrid Engen conceded a penalty against France for a similar offense.
The Netherlands ultimately won 3-1, too, as Vivianne Miedema scored twice to become her country’s all-time leading scorer with 60 goals at just 22 years old. So all’s well that ends well.
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