Lionel Messi and Argentina’s World Cup will continue following a hard-fought 2-1 win over Nigeria in their final group stage clash on Tuesday. But it could all have gone very differently, had referee Cuneyt Cakir not handed the Argentines a favorable decision with just 15 minutes remaining on the clock.
After having already given away the penalty that allowed Nigeria to equalize, Argentina was fortunate to not give away a second penalty when Marcos Rojo appeared to handle the ball in the box.
Seriously, check it out.
Yes, that’s right, the ball clearly came off the player’s head and onto his extended arm while he was defending in the penalty box. In the face of pleas from incensed Nigeria players, the referee took the decision to VAR.
But after a brief pause for the video review, the decision was made not to award the penalty.
Did Argentina get away with one? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time, considering Argentina’s most famous World Cup moment to date remains Diego Maradona’s infamous “hand of God” handball against England in 1986.
Rojo’s play was also remarkably similar to one that resulted in Iran being awarded a penalty against Portugal on Monday, a penalty that the Iranians converted.
Conspiracy theorists may cry foul, but Argentina will move on nonetheless. Thanks to Rojo.
Not only was he fortunate that the ref was unmoved by Nigeria’s pleas and what he saw on the video monitor, but a few minutes later, he netted the goal that punched Argentina’s ticket to the knockout stages.
Alex Baker,FC Yahoo