Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic stated outright what he felt regarding the controversial penalty call following his side’s 4-2 defeat to France in Sunday’s World Cup final, saying : “You don't give a penalty like that in a World Cup final.”
A debatable penalty awarded with the use of FIFA's new video replay system proved a turning point in the World Cup final on Sunday as debate focused on erronous referee calls.
France and Croatia were level at 1-1 in an evenly contested match when Argentine referee Nestor Pitana was alerted to a possible handball ten minutes from half time and, after checking the off-field screen, he decided Croatia's Ivan Perisic had handled. While there is no doubt that the ball did hit the Croatian’s hand, the focus will remain on whether the handling of the ball was intentional.
Antoine Griezmann converted the penalty and France went on to win 4-2. Even after the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, it remained a highly contentious call. Many former players called the awarding of the penalty a dubious decision with former England and Liverpool defender perhaps rightly suggesting that ‘It’s the referee’s mistake, not VAR! VAR is just the replay of an incident.’
The decisions proved to be a turning point in the match as France’s influence grew following their second goal. Dalic said he thought such a decision had no place in a game of such magnitude.
“We played well but the penalty knocked the wind out of us and after that it was very difficult," Dalic said after congratulating France on their victory. "I just want to say one sentence about that penalty: You don't give a penalty like that in a World Cup final.”
The Croatia coach conceded that his team had let in two ‘soft goals’ but lamented the fact that things did not go their way when they were in a good position to fight for the match.
“We wanted to win the World Cup so much, but that's football," he said. "The French did not surprise us; we let in two soft goals coupled with an own goal and a penalty.
“What we had in terms of luck in this tournament, we lacked today. When you concede four goals, you cannot expect to win the game.”
Neverthless, Dalic went on to congratulate France and praised his team’s effort after they gave a vastly talented French side a run for their money.
“I congratulate France on their title. We played well in the first 20 minutes, we controlled the game. Then there was an own goal from a set play. We came back to life, dominated and then the penalty was given,” Dalic said.
“I have to congratulate my players, it was maybe the best game we played in this tournament; we controlled the match but we conceded. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad, but we have to be proud as well for what we’ve done.”