DOHA (VG) (Belgium – Canada 1-0) It ended in a recipe-winning favorite victory, but could have ended completely differently. At the center was a judge who started the year with unwanted attention.
Referee Janny Sikazwe has become an internet phenomenon after missing an Africa Cup of Nations game after just 85 minutes in January – then again after 89 minutes. Afterwards, he claimed that heatstroke had caused him to hallucinate during the game between Tunisia and Mali – and thought he might have died.
– I think God asked me to stop the fight. He saved me, Sikazwe said after the game, according to the Kenyan Mozart Sports.
Refereeing also came into focus when World Cup underdogs Belgium met energetic and well-played Canada, who surprised by taking the initiative and controlling the game at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium – right next to the lavish, flashy and brand-new Mall of Qatar, dominated by luxury brands in a city known for its huge social differences.
It all started with Canadian Tajon Buchanan’s shot hitting Yannick Carrasco’s arm. The match continued, but during the next stoppage Sikazwe was asked to take a look at the VAR screen.
It ended in a penalty, but Bayern star Alphonso Davies kicked in a far too loose and misplaced penalty, which Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois easily saved.
But Canada again demanded a penalty. A Davies shot was blocked and in the aftermath Buchanan collected the ball and went to ground after being stomped on by Jan Vertonghen.
Instead of a penalty he was declared offside, there was only one problem: the pass came from a Belgian player, and therefore the game should not have been called off – but rather controlled by VAR.
– It was a bad decision by both the referee and the VAR. Canada should have been awarded another penalty, football analyst Stu Holden says in Fox.
And about seven minutes before halftime, Canada called for a penalty again. This time there was a half-length break after Richie Laryea claimed to have been taken down by Axel Witsel.
The outnumbered Canadian crowd tactfully chanted “WAR, VAR, VAR”, in typical North American style, followed by “PE-NAL-TY, PE-NAL-TY, PE-NAL-TY”, but the conclusion was not a penalty.
– That there will be no penalty, despite the help we have with the video images. I have a hard time understanding it. For me, it’s a breakdown of FIFA and the VAR protocol. For me as a judge, it’s crystal clear, says former chief justice Jonas Eriksson SVT.
– This is, hopefully, his last game in the World Cup, he continues.
So it probably looked even sourer when Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi stormed in and scored 1-0 in the absence of injured Romelu Lukaku.
The organizer did their part to lift the spirits of the crowd by putting on a half-time show with an indoor track studio and a light show from the supporters’ mobiles – of course to the sound of “Blinding Lights” by Canadian The Weeknd.
The Canadians attempted to call for an equalizer, mostly shouting “oh ha, Canada” or “let’s go, Canada” for much of the game, but were unsuccessful.
After the loss, Canada’s coach brought the team together in a circle on the field.
– I told them they deserved to be here and we’re going to go ‘f’ Croatia, it’s as simple as that, Herdman said according to Athleticism.
Canada is participating in its second World Cup (the first in 1986), they have yet to score a goal in the tournament.
– I’m proud of the performance. These boys showed they could handle this stage and I think they made the fans proud, he continued.
During the match, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib could also be seen wearing a rainbow-coloured captain’s armband, as she stood and spoke to FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
Belgium, who have been barred by FIFA from playing in rainbow-coloured kits, thus top the group after Morocco and Croatia went 0-0 earlier in the day.
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