Chiamaka Nnadozie did nearly everything perfectly to best Wendie Renard on a penalty in the 77th minute. Renard built up slowly on her attempt and Nnadozie hesitated long enough to make a decision. Renard picked out the bottom left corner of the net and Nnadozie guessed correctly. The goalkeeper dove to her right as the center back’s shot dribbled toward the post. Although Nnadozie didn’t get a hand on the shot, Renard pushed her attempt a bit too wide and it bounced off the outside of the post. Nigeria exploded in excitement as a scoreless draw remained within reach in its final game of Group A play at the Women’s World Cup in France.
Nigeria’s celebration could only last so long, though. The referee quickly went to the video assistant referee, which slowed down and zoomed in on Nnadozie’s play in a way no human ever could. The replay showed just a sliver of space between her left heel and the goal line, and those inches — maybe not even an inch, actually — of green space were enough to grant France another chance at a penalty kick. Renard took advantage of her second chance, went to the bottom right corner of the net and sent her shot past Nnadozie for the only goal in host France’s 1-0 win in Rennes.
A draw would have clinched Nigeria a spot in the knockout stage. After the loss at Roazhon Park, Nigeria now has to wait on the rest of the group stage to play out to see if its one win and negative-two goal differential will be enough to make it one of four third-place teams to qualify for the final 16.
This particular call has now made for two of the most controversial decisions of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. On Thursday, Jamaica was also victimized by a similar call, albeit in a 5-0 loss to Italy. It was frustrating for Jamaica, but certainly not backbreaking. The call Monday might have cost Nigeria any real chance at advancing, although it is not mathematically eliminated.
Unfortunately, VAR has been one of the defining story lines of the World Cup. It doesn’t seem bound to change anytime soon.