On Friday in Paris, the United States and France squared off in a Women’s World Cup quarterfinal that lived up to the pregame hype. Both teams played hard, and both teams played with verve and skill and tenacity in the U.S.’s eventual 2–1 victory. The officials did … less well.
In what’s been a recurring theme at this World Cup, the refs made a couple of odd decisions that had an enormous impact on the outcome. The first came in the 75th minute, with the U.S. holding a 2–0 lead. Alex Morgan linked up beautifully with Crystal Dunn, who then played the ball across to Tobin Heath, who slotted it in with her left foot for what appeared to be the Americans’ third goal. The assistant referee’s flag was up, though: Dunn had been called offside.
Except she wasn’t.
At the very least it was close enough that the assistant referee should’ve kept her flag down and allowed the play to proceed. Since the referee did raise her flag, play should’ve been stopped for a replay review, as the video assistant referee (for all its flaws) is a thing that exists to be called upon in moments such as this one. Except, in this case, it wasn’t called upon. Here’s what the New York Times’ live blog had to say: “The replay appeared to show Dunn was onside, but play had restarted, so there will be no VAR on that one. That’s not how the system is supposed to work, but once the ball returns to play, it’s too late.” Oh, well.
A little more than six minutes after Heath’s nongoal, France’s Wendie Renard headed in France’s first of the day. Then, in the 86th minute, Kelley O’Hara blocked a cross with her left arm.
O’Hara (and her arm) were in the penalty area, which meant a hand ball would give France a chance to tie the game from the penalty spot.
O’Hara clearly didn’t have time to move her arm, and she didn’t extend her limb intentionally. A recent change to the hand ball rule, however, has made intentionality largely irrelevant. The new rule states that a nondeliberate hand ball is still an offense if the “ball touches a player’s hand/arm which has made their body unnaturally bigger.” In this case, it’s inarguable that O’Hara’s arm made her body bigger. And as fans of Japan’s women’s national team will note, referees at this tournament haven’t typically been generous to defenders whose limbs make contact with the ball in the box.
And yet, in this case, referee Kateryna Monzul called nothing. And as you’ll see in the photo at the top of this post, Monzul was outraged—outraged!—at the mere suggestion that she’d gotten this call wrong.* Also, as with the Dunn (non)offside, this noncall wasn’t reviewed with VAR. Maybe the monitors were broken?
At times, replay reviews have turned the Women’s World Cup into a slog. As a spectator, I must confess that I appreciated that the tension in Friday’s game didn’t abate thanks to interminable consultations with television monitors. It would’ve been far better, though, if the refs got the calls right in the first place.
Correction, July 1, 2019: Due to a photo provider error, this article misidentified the referee in the Women’s World Cup match between France and the United States. She was Kateryna Monzul, not Maryna Striletska.