France was the first nation to win both the European Championship, the World Cup and the UEFA Nations League. France won Sunday's final 2-1 victory against Spain thanks to Kylian Mbappe scoring the winning goal.
Les Bleus had to come from behind when Spain's Mikel Oyarzabal gave Spain the lead shortly after the hour mark at San Siro in Milan. This lead lasted just two minutes, before KarimBenzema made a remarkable effort from distance to equalize for France. He floated a 20-yard strike that smashed Unai Simon's goalkeeper and into the corner.
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This was the situation until the 80th minute when Mbappe broke through the Spanish defense to score what would prove to be the winning goal.
The goal was controversial because Mbappe seemed to be offside for a few paces when Theo Hernandez played him through. After the goal was reviewed by VAR referee Anthony Taylor allowed it to stand, sparking angry protests from Spain.
Taylor stated that Eric Garcia, Spain's defender, had deliberately touched the ball with his leg as it passed through to Mbappe. This made everything else after that point an entirely new phase. Mbappe was onside, and the goal was legitimate.
However, viewers continued to call the play on social media. Many were unable to comprehend how Paris Saint-Germain's star got away with it.
How can I explain to my children that Mane was ruled offside, but Mbappe ruled onside? pic.twitter.com/P48NSwK0NU Daniel van Buyten (@DanielVanBuytem) October 10, 2021
VAR checking whether Mbappe's goal was offside pic.twitter.com/dLorkCVVkh CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) October 10, 2021
How on earth was Mbappe deemed to be onside? Mbappe was clearly offside when Hernandez passed the ball to Mbappe. Spain's centre-back Garcia thought otherwise. The offside law does not set the positions of players relative to one another, but Hernandez did pass the ball. Mbappe is only considered active for offside when he participates in the play or challenges another player.
Garcia reached for the ball to try to prevent it from reaching Mbappe. This is considered a deliberate play and resets the offside phase. It also plays Mbappe sideways. Mbappe was not close to Garcia and had no direct influence on Garcia's unsuccessful interception. Therefore, he is not considered as challenging Garcia.
This is because Mbappe would have been offside if Garcia had completely missed it. Garcia made contact and the PSG striker is now onside.
L'Equipe, a French sports newspaper, chose not to mention VAR on its front page. Instead, they celebrated the national team's continued success.
The Spanish press went crazy, with Diario Sport using their headline to denounce the "Injustice" behind it all.
Marca had similar scenes. They splashed Mbappe’s image across the front page and exclaimed: "They are ruining football."
Mundo Deportivo urged VAR to "beat" it while also pointing out the daylight between Mbappe & Garcia at the time the decisive pass was made.
Manolo Lama, a COPE radio presenter, was among many Spanish media personalities to voice their disgust at the incident.
Lama tweeted, "Accordingly to Taylor Eric Garca tried the ball," "Conclusion: The referee has NO BLOODY IDEAS ABOUT FOOTBALL."
Segn el rbitro Taylor dice que Eric Garca trata de jugar el baln.
Conclusin el rbitro no tiene NI PUETERA IDEA DE FTBOL pic.twitter.com/HfAHuBLib2 Manolo Lama (@lamacope) October 10, 2021
As you can imagine, the studio "El Chiringuito", exploded into a lively and passionate debate about VAR implementation and whether or not it is "anti-football".
We checked in quickly to see how El Chiringuito has handled the Mbapp offside decisions...
Oh... pic.twitter.com/e2F1LwAnEa El Chiringuito in English (@ElChiringuitoEN) October 10, 2021
Josep Pedrerol, "El Chiringuito", presenter, also tweeted his thoughts: "Injustice. Period."
Injusticia y punto Josep Pedrerol (@jpedrerol) October 10, 2021
Onda Cero radio was trembling with anger after the final. Cayetano Ross, a journalist and contributor to the magazine, rant that Mbappe’s goal "goes against football's essence." Ros called the 2021 Nations League final the "biggest scandal in football history since the 1966 World Cup."
Eduardo Garca, Onda Cero's presenter, said that Mbappe’s goal was "one the most shameful moments of VAR." This is the biggest error made since VAR was established."
Diario AS, an alternative newspaper, decided to hide Spain's defeat in order to focus on the promising performances by Luis Enrique's young side during the Nations League. Its front page stated: "No title, but a bright tomorrow"
AS columnist Tomas Roncero did not follow suit and wrote: "We are left without the Nations League due to an absurd decision, an absurd VAR. Eric Garca touching or not touching the ball is something I won't discuss with you. Mbappe is offside. It is an invalid goal.
"We are back in those days when Spain was viewed as a joke. It is inexplicable that VAR allows you to win a trophy even though your beloved Mbappe scored. They have robbed Spain of the Nations League."
Spain's captain Sergio Busquets was a little more gracious in defeat. He praised France's performance and congratulated Didier Deschamps on their win after the final whistle. The Barcelona veteran openly questioned Mbappe’s goal.
Busquets stated, "It's shame." "I believe we did enough to win, but in two similar moves, we conceded, even though the goals were different. For us, the second one looked offside.
"Mbappe was offside, and the referee stated that Eric went to play the ball, which means that it's not offside. This doesn't make any sense. Eric tried to play the ball like a defender, but he didn’t miscontrol.
Busquets has a point. But unfortunately for Busquets, and all of the Spanish football community, the law is still in force.