World Cup Day 3: ‘A Computer’s Given Us The Lead’

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From here on out, Day 3 will be known as the day VAR entered the 2018 World Cup conversation. The controversial video review system raised its head in both Group C matches, overturning a referees’ decision and awarding penalties against Australia and Denmark.

The Wrap
France 2 Australia 1
Argentina 1 Iceland 1
Peru 0 Denmark 1
Croatia 2 Nigeria 0

The Good

Australia: This wasn’t the tentative, reactive Socceroos’ squad we saw in so many qualifiers. After surviving an early French onslaught, Bert Van Marwijk’s men were confident and composed, only falling victim to a late Paul Pogba goal that just crossed the line by the barest of margins. They were unlucky not to get a point out of the game, but put the rest of the group on notice.

Bert Van Marwijk: Had the game plan to upend the French (or at least earn a draw), resisted the urge to bring on Tim Cahill, instead opting for youngster Daniel Arzani and in his post-match press conference gave us more honesty in two minutes than Ange Postecoglou did in three and a half years.

Iceland: Not all draws are created equal. In fact a draw with Argentina is almost cause for a national holiday in Iceland, the smallest nation to ever compete at a World Cup. Hannes Halldorsson saved a penalty on Lionel Messi and Iceland now knows a win over Nigeria in their next match and they’re a possibility of getting out of the group.

The Bad

VAR: There’s no doubt video helps correct blatant errors, but on lineball calls like the Josh Risdon penalty last night? Basically VAR took one controversial decision and turned it into another controversial decision.

Brave losses: It’s almost become a mantra for the Socceroos over the years and while last night’s effort was undeniably courageous, the bottom line is we lost.

African teams: For many reasons – geographical, political among them – African football tends to be inconsistent on the international stage. The continent that Pele once predicted would produce a World Cup champion sooner rather than later is 0-3 after Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria were beaten.

The Ugly

Lucas Hernandez: The French midfielder earned the wrath of Australian fans who watched him writhe around on the pitch in an Academy Award-winning performance. It was the epitome of the onerous play-acting that fuels the fires of the anti-soccer brigade.

Penalty-takers: As good as some have been (Griezmann, Jedinak, Modric) others have been dreadful. After a fortunate VAR reversal, Peru’s Christian Cueva skyrocketed his penalty over the bar, while Messi’s miss against Iceland was a disappointing effort from the superstar.

First-up losses: Losing your first game at a World Cup is close to a death sentence and can undo years of preparation. Morocco, a dark horse for some pundits, is all but gone after losing to Iran and still having to face Spain and Portugal. The Socceroos are in a similar boat needing at least a draw (but probably a win) against Denmark to have a decent shot at advancing.

What do you think?