Spain’s first-ever game with VAR came in March 2017 against France. Then, they won 2-0 with France having two goals ruled out by the technology. On Sunday, though, it became their enemy as their lost the Nations League final to the world champions.
Kylian Mbappe scored a goal that, to most of the watching world, looked offside. Theo Hernandez’s through ball aimed at the Paris Saint-Germain striker was almost intercepted by Eric Garcia, with the Barcelona defender sliding and stretching to get a leg to it, but he was only able to knock it into Mbappe’s path anyway. The Frenchman then went through to face Unai Simon and finish.
Because Eric Garcia’s touch was deliberate, the goal was valid and stood, despite the protestations of Spain’s players. Referee Anthony Taylor spoke to Stuart Attwell in the VAR room to confirm his decision.
But that wasn’t the only decision the Englishman made that caused controversy in the Spain camp. In the first half, a handball from Jules Kounde in the French area went unpunished after a consultation with VAR.
“The referee said I intended to play the ball,” Eric Garcia explained. “He said that I should have moved out of the way and let Mbappe control the ball, because that’s the rule.
“I think that’s what makes it hurt more. Hopefully they can change it.”
Sergio Busquets joined in with the complaints, expressing his frustration with the rule.
“The referee said that Eric plays the ball so the offside is cancelled,” Busquets said. “That’s not explained to us. You have to want to play the ball, but Eric only wanted to intercept.”
Mikel Oyarzabal was the most blunt with his comments, ridiculing the rule as it stands.
“Everyone who plays football knows that that’s offside,” Oyarzabal said. “Whoever made this law has never played football.
“Eric’s not trying to play the ball, he’s trying to intercept it.”