ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – After going out of the World Cup, Nigeria complained about not being awarded a second penalty in a 2-1 defeat to Argentina on Tuesday.
There were about 15 minutes of a tense game remaining, and Nigeria was enjoying a strong spell of pressure at St. Petersburg Stadium, when the latest video review talking point of the tournament came.
Marcos Rojo was the only Argentina defender in the penalty box, and under pressure from striker Odion Ighalo lurking behind him, when he jumped high to head Ahmed Musa’s deflected cross away from danger.
He didn’t succeed.
Instead, the Manchester United defender completely mistimed the header and the ball ended up glancing off his left arm, and then falling invitingly to Ighalo near the penalty spot. Ighalo had lots of time to pick his spot, but blazed the ball wide of the left post.
Nigeria’s players were sure it was a penalty, however, and Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir – who awarded Nigeria a penalty early in the second half – used video to review this one and stood by his initial decision not to award a spot kick, much to the frustration of Nigeria’s players.
“I don’t understand how that was not a penalty,” captain John Obi Mikel said. “It was a clear handball. If you look at this game yesterday against Portugal, this was even worse.”
Mikel was referring to Iran’s late penalty against Portugal in a 1-1 draw on Monday – awarded for a handball after a video review – and he felt Rojo got away with it. Rojo went on to score Argentina’s late winner to send his side through, and put Nigeria out.
“He (Rojo) had the ball and it hit his hand and it was open. Maybe the referee didn’t want to give a second penalty,” Mikel said. “For us, we’ve seen the replay, it was a clear handball. He looked at the VAR, the ball hit the hand.”
Mikel added: “I asked him for explanation, did the ball hit the hand? He said ‘Yes.’ Why is it not a penalty? He did not know.”
But video replays suggested that there was no intent from Rojo to move his arm anywhere near the ball, as he was looking in a different direction when he headed it sideways. It thus appeared unintentional as Rojo headed the ball inadvertently down onto his arm.
While Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr also believed the penalty should have been awarded, he was more understanding of Cakir’s position.
“I believe it was a hand,” he said. “I didn’t see the video. It is difficult for a referee to make a good interpretation.”
But aside from blaming video review, the Super Eagles may also want to look at their own poor finishing at the end.
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