VAR once again had a major influence at the Women’s World Cup as Germany beat Nigeria 3-0 to reach the last eight.
Alexandra Popp’s 20th-minute headed goal was allowed to stand by referee Yoshimi Yamashita after she deemed Svenja Huth was not interfering in play while in an offside position.
Then, following another VAR check, she awarded a penalty having ruled that Evelyn Nwabuoku had fouled Lina Magull.
Sara Dabritz converted from the spot and Lea Schuller fired in a late third.
Either Sweden or Canada stand between the two-time winners and a place in the semi-finals.
Referee under the spotlight
The use of VAR and referees’ judgements have come under scrutiny at this tournament.
Criticism has been directed at the new directive saying punishments should be issued for goalkeepers who come off their line for penalties, which had an impact on both Scotland and Nigeria’s results in France.
However, during Saturday’s first quarter-final in Grenoble, it was the Japanese official’s interpretations that raised debate.
Popp’s opener from Magull’s corner appeared good until VAR alerted Yamashita to a possible issue over Huth’s offside position in front of keeper Chiamaka Nnadozie. After a check, the referee allowed the goal to stand.
Moments after the restart, Magull hit the deck when Nwabuoku unintentionally caught her in an attempt to clear the ball. Yamashita signalled a throw-in but once more received a message from the VAR team.
It was three minutes before Yamashita changed her decision to a spot-kick, which Dabritz put away to give the Germans a 2-0 lead.
The second half was less eventful. Had Desire Oparanozie timed her stretch to turn in substitute Rasheedat Ajibade’s low cross then it would have set up a far more tense finish.
Instead, SGS Essen forward Schuller put the game beyond the reach of the Super Falcons with an angled strike that nestled in Nnadozie’s right-hand corner.
‘I am questioning the ability of the officials’
Former England defender Casey Stoney speaking on BBC Two about the opening goal: “I genuinely cannot understand what is going on in this tournament. When Popp makes contact, Huth is in line with the keeper’s vision – that has to be offside. How can we not deem that offside?
On the penalty from which Germany scored:”The referee had to see this. If you are in a good position, you see that it is a penalty. You should not need to go to VAR for that to be given and waste even more time. So I am questioning the ability of the officials at this tournament.”
Former England defender Laura Bassett on BBC Two: “The referees are using VAR as a comfort blanket – ‘Please back me up, I don’t want to get this wrong’. But that’s not good enough. That’s not what it is there for.”
Popp makes it to 100 – stats
- Germany have now reached the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup every time since the competition began in 1991.
- This was the first ever knockout stage meeting between an African side and a European side; indeed, Germany have now won each of their five matches in the competition against African opposition with an aggregate score of 22-0.
- Only Australia vs Italy (39) has seen more fouls conceded in a 2019 Women’s World Cup match than Germany’s victory over Nigeria (31).
- Nigeria defender Onome Ebi played in her 14th Women’s World Cup match, the most appearances in the competition by a Super Falcons player.
- In what was her 14th World Cup match for Germany, striker Popp made her 100th appearance for her country.
BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.