VAR controversy as Netherlands and France draw 0-0; wins for Austria and Ukraine

France vs Netherlands, Euro 2024
France vs Netherlands, Euro 2024 (PC: X)

Euro 2024 saw its first Video Assistant Referee (VAR) controversy on Friday night when the Netherlands were denied what looked like a perfectly good goal in their match against France. The subsequent 0-0 draw ensured that both sides should make the last 16, while Austria produced a thrilling attacking display to win 3-1 and dump Poland out of the tournament. In the early kick-off, Ukraine came from behind to claim a deserved, and emotional, 2-1 win over Slovakia.

In the 69th minute in Leipzig, Memphis Depay unleashed a shot from the left of the area which Mike Maignan in the French goal saved brilliantly. But the rebound fell to Xavi Simons, whose low left-footer was precisely placed into the far corner. Even as the Dutch celebrated, Anthony Taylor, the English referee, consulted with the linesman and ruled it out.

Denzil Dumfries was in an offside position, but clearly not impeding Maignan’s view of the shot. The officiating team seemed to base their decision on the fact that his position prevented Maignan from making a dive that might have stopped the ball. But most replays suggested that Maignan’s body shape was such that there was no way he would have stopped it anyaway.

It was otherwise a game of few clear-cut chances, with Kylian Mbappe watching on from the bench after suffering a broken nose against Australia. The Netherlands should have led in the opening people when Jeremie Frimpong was slipped though, but a weak shot was pushed wide by Maignan’s fingertip save. Soon after, Antoine Griezmann forced Bart Verbruggen into a diving save, and in the 15th minute, he couldn’t find the finish after Adrian Rabiot had sliced through the heart of the Dutch defence.

A Cody Gakpo curler alos elicited a fine diving save from Maignan, but by and large, this was a match missing the clinical finishing that one would associate with both French and Dutch strikers down the years.

Austria dump Poland out of the tournament

The Austrians, now third in the group, showed how it should be done with a superb display. Gernot Trauner’s superb glancing header from a left-wing cross gave them a 9th-minute lead, and though Krzysztof Piatek levelled with a smart finish on the half hour, after a succession of ricochets in the area, the Austrians’ second-half display more than merited the points.

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Robert Lewandoski
Robert Lewandowski (PC: X)

Christoph Baumgartner ghosted into space in the 66th minute and applied an unerring finish from the edge of the box to put Austria in front. And after Patrick Pentz had produced a splendid save to keep out Robert Lewandowski, on as a second-half substitute, Marko Arnautovic guaranteed Austria the points by tucking away the penalty after Wojciech Szczesny had brought down Marcel Sabitzer. Ralf Rangnick’s men created more chances while Poland were left to reflect on the wreckage of another major campaign.

Sublime Yaremchuk finish highlight of emotional Ukraine win

Ukraine needed a stirring second-half fightback to keep their hopes alive after Slovakia had followed up their upset win over Belgium with an assured first-half performance. Ivan Schranz had already forced Anatoliy Trubin into a point-blank save, but the Ukraine keeper could do little about the downward header from a Lukas Haraslin cross in the 17th minute.

Martin Dubravka’s full-length dive to push Oleksandr Tymchyk’s right-footed drive on to the post preserved the lead, and while Mykhailo Mudryk’s pace on the break was a threat, the Chelsea man lacked composure in the final third. Artem Dovbyk fluffed a header early in the second half, but Mykolo Shaparenko made no mistake from near the penalty spot with a driven, left-footed finish after Oleksandr Zinchenko’s cut-back found him in space.

Mudryk hit the post in the 74th minute after he and Roman Yaremchuk had streaked clear of the Slovak defence, but there was no reprieve five minutes later. Shaparenko’s lobbed pass into the area was beautifully by Yaremchuk, and the second touch squeezed the ball under Dubravka’s body and into the net. It was a sublime bit of skill, and the celebrations from Serhiy Rebrov and the bench, after the goal and then the final whistle, epitomised what this victory meant to the war-torn nation.

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