World Cup controversy as hosts France robbed
A WOMEN'S World Cup plagued by refereeing blunders plunged further into controversy after host France was denied what would have been a game-tying penalty in the 85th minute of its 2-1 quarter-final to USA on Saturday morning (AEST).
With the locals down 2-0 with 10 minutes to play, their hopes were revived when Wendie Renard pulled back a goal to set up a tense finish.
The French poured on the pressure - and appeared to strike gold when US defender Kelley O'Hara blocked a cross with her arm.
There was clear space between her right hand and her body when the ball struck, but the referee waved of France's penalty claims and the VAR chose not to intervene.
"It wasn't like I was making my body big or anything," O'Hara said.
"You never know, though, because it's a little sketchy sometimes but thankfully they called it the right way."
It appeared far more clear-cut than the penalty awarded to the Netherlands that knocked Japan out of the tournament earlier this week.
Megan Rapinoe stole the headlines as her brace punctured the hopes of the host nation.
Rapinoe's free kick five minutes into the match evaded a sea of bodies in the penalty box on its way into the net to stun the home crowd at the Parc des Princes.
The USA then soaked up pressure before delivering the knockout blow midway through the second half when Rapinoe turned in Tobin Heath's low centre.
Jill Ellis's team held on and they go through to a semi-final showdown with England in Lyon next Tuesday as they seek to retain their crown and win a fourth World Cup in eight editions.
"We'd have loved to play nicer, but we now have England and we move on," said Rapinoe.
"This is so special to beat the host nation in the Parc des Princes. You can't ask for any more than this."
They certainly couldn't have asked for more from the referees - with even US fans conceding they'd made a lucky escape.
What a game....but I’m sorry that should have been a France PK...that was a handball...VAR being inconsistent. Congrats to the US, showing why they are #1. Sad to see France out, such a joy to watch❤️❤️— Lauren Sesselmann (@lsesselmann) June 28, 2019
France will leave their own tournament with more than a few regrets. They were the only team to defeat the USA in the two years leading up to the World Cup and they did not really do themselves justice here before an expectant crowd, at least until it was too late.
Coach Corinne Diacre had been set the target of going all the way to the final on home soil, but that always looked a tall order from the moment the draw was made last December and they were set on a quarter-final collision course with the best team in the world.
Only once before had they even made it to the semi-finals, and for the second World Cup running their adventure ends in the last eight, the same stage at which they went out of the 2016 Olympics and the last three European Championships.
Having started this tournament with a first-half blitz against South Korea in the opening game, Les Bleues never really reached the same heights again.
Pink-haired Rapinoe has been crucial on the field in this USA run, while dominating headlines off it thanks to her spat with President Donald Trump over her refusal to attend any post-tournament reception at the White House.
The 33-year-old had already scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Spain in the last round. Here, she took her tally for the tournament to five goals on the occasion of her 157th cap.
By today's handball standards, I think the US just got away with one. #WomensWorldCup2019— Dave Kerner (@DaveKerner) June 28, 2019
Best non call on a handball in US history— Brody Logan (@BrodyLogan) June 28, 2019
Referee denying penalty to France for a handball. We really need male referees.— Shabana (@shabanais) June 28, 2019
Shouldn't ideally be a penalty but going by the current interpretation of handball, France should have had one there. The Kumagai handball that knocked Japan out was far more difficult to avoid than this. #FRAUSA— Bhargab Sarmah (@BhargabSarmah) June 28, 2019