Two penalty claims.
Almost identical in nature.
Both reviewed by VAR.
Completely different outcomes.
Technology is only as good as the people using it.
The backlash against the use of VAR at this World Cup is understandable when you compare two incidents like the twin penalty claims in Denmark v Australia and Nigeria v Argentina.
Last Thursday, Yussef Poulsen was penalised for handball by the referee following a VAR review.
The ball cannoned off the Danish forward’s arm as he jumped to compete at a corner.
The referee initially allowed play to continue but, after reviewing the pitchside screen, he awarded a spot-kick to Australia.
Poulsen certainly didn’t handle the ball deliberately and his arm was only outstretched because he used it for momentum in the act of jumping, as all players do.
The Danes felt hard done by, and with some justification.
Now, to Nigeria’s crunch match with Argentina.
After going 1-0 down to a wonderful Lionel Messi strike, the Super Eagles equalised from the penalty spot through Victor Moses in a tournament-shaping fixture.
The Chelsea wing-back calmly converted after the error-prone Javier Mascherano was the latest player to be punished for holding an opponent at a corner.
Soon after, Nigeria thought they deserved a second penalty when Marcos Rojo headed the ball onto his arm in the box.
Just as in the Denmark/Australia game, the referee did not award a penalty and subsequently consulted the footage at pitchside.
Unlike the Denmark/Australia game however, the referee decided to uphold his original decision.
Both incidents featured an outstretched arm significantly impacting the ball immediately after a header.
Australia were awarded a penalty, Nigeria were not.
It’s not that the referee in the Group D fixture made a glaring error in failing to reverse his decision, it’s simply the stark inconsistency that may leave Nigeria fans feeling aggrieved.
The African side were then dealt a particularly cruel blow when Rojo popped up in their box to score a dramatic winner for Argentina, confirming Nigeria’s exit.
Disagreements about VAR will inevitably last the duration of this tournament and beyond.
Quite entertaining though, isn’t it?