Refereeing decisions change the game completely in Nice
Thursday, 3rd Jun 2021 08:00 by Gruff Stephens
It was referee Luis Godinho who took the headlines in Nice as Wales took on France in a pre Euro friendly. Up until Mbappe put France one up before half time Wales we’re managing well against a star packed French side. That was, until the referee got involved.
Okay, it’s fine, it was a handball by Neco Williams from point blank range in the 20th minute. Give the home side a penalty, they are after all world champions. But then to send Williams off for the infringement, especially under the term of a friendly game raised numerous eyebrows. Even the French TV commentary team were pretty surprised at the decision. Staying they wanted France to have a proper run out, hence the reason Wales were selected to play in this game, the general observation was it ruined the game. Danny Ward saved the spot kick but being a man down was only going to last for so long. Benzema fluffed his lines ? No, Ward saved superbly down to his right to keep him out.
France did score but not before the usual theatrics with Pogba throwing himself to the ground in front of Rodon, which went unnoticed. Set pieces are where France assimilate best, and just before the break they were again screaming for a penalty after the invisible man nudged Griezmann. It’s such a shame that a team as packed with talent as France have, they still want to cheat to obtain an advantage, having already been awarded an extremely questionable advantage already.
The invisible man is clearly seen here fouling Pogba in the penalty box
Mbappe scored the first half goal which saw France go in one up after a shot wrong footed award who saved but Mbappe followed up to score. In the half time summing up the fair French commentary team pointed out when the initial shot was taken by France Mbappe could have been judged offside, but as expected it wasn’t reviewed. And the score was one nil.
The movement before Mbappe scored, offside ref ?
Mbappe scores the opening goal
It was a great shame for Wales, especially Ward after his earlier heroics, the North Wales born keeper was desperately unlucky.
Tactically relying on Robert Page to manage matters against the World Champions is a huge ask. He didn’t expect to be in this position, much the same as Ryan Giggs didn’t either. However then being down to ten men the inevitable happened shortly after the break. France, for once relying on their football ability passed their way through the Wales midfield finding Griezman in space who directed a lovely curling shot in to the Wales net. The tactic clearly from Page was to defend in numbers and hope that something materialises on the break. This was going to be a long forty five minutes.
Griezmann after his spectacular effort for France
Wales were always on the back foot until changes were made on 60 minutes. Kieffer Moore, Aaron Ramsey, Levitt and Ben Davies came on for Gareth Bale, Wilson, Allen, Mepham. A change of tactic saw Ramsey push forwards and within minutes a threaded pass to Dan James saw a superb save from Lloris. The follow up shot from Wales hit the back of the hand of a French defender, however no referral was made by VAR. Ben Davies gave the Wales defence more assurance too as the half wore on, Surprisingly with Chris Gunter still on the pitch as the game reached the last fifteen minutes another substitution saw Dan James taken off for David Brooks.
The game was clearly over as a contest after twenty minutes but Wales didn’t give in, a free kick effort from Ramsey was inches away from clearing the French defensive wall. However, the pressure on the Wales defence finally broke on 78 minutes when a Benzema shot was saved by Ward but Dembélé gratefully passed the ball in to the back of the net to make it 3-0. Surprisingly at 27 years of age Danny Ward has only played 72 competitive league games in a very long career to date. If there is any question mark on his ability it will be his handling and retention of the ball when blocking shots. Two of the home sides goals came from Danny Ward saves that went back out to French players.
Dembélé nets the rebound after Benzema hit the post
After the third goal it became exhibition football from France, playing against a depleted side who had their game plan destroyed in the first half, tired legs and concentration were very evident. Wales still managed the game well on the touch and there is little to complain about. As we saw against Mexico there is a fighting spirit in the side, but when the odds are stacked against you it’s virtually impossible. It could well be France would have won the game in any event but it would have been nice to see eleven against eleven in a more fairly refereed game.
On Saturday Albania are the visitors to Wales in the final game before the Euro tournament starts six days later.
France: Lloris; Pavard (Kounde 45), Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez (Digne 45); Pogba (Coman 62), Tolisso (Sissoko 62), Rabiot; Griezmann, Benzema, Mbappe (Dembele 73)
Subs: Mandanda, Maignan, Lenglet, Ben Yedder, Dubois, Thuram
Wales: Ward; Roberts, Mepham (B. Davies 59) Rodon, Gunter; Morrell, N.Williams, Allen (Levitt 59), Wilson (Ramsey 59); Bale (Moore 59) James (Brooks 73)
Subs: Hennesey, Davies, T. Roberts, Norrington-Davies, J. Williams, Cabango, Colwill
Photographs licensed from Reuters
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