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If your hands are just felt, when you touch me I’ll fall down: A look at the Rachel Corsie penalty call

Did the referee make the right call? Was VAR needed?

Japan v Scotland: Group D - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

We’re now 20 matches into the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and I finally have a call that I don’t necessarily agree with, and it just so happened to go against one of my favorite Utah Royals FC players! For the most part, I think that’s a good thing, but I do think it’s worth a quick deep dive.

First, a disclaimer:

I am not a PRO referee nor a professional referee. I primarily referee adult recreational and youth leagues and write software as my primary function in society. On average, I am involved in around 150 games a season, most of them U-16 and older. My goal for this next year is to make my way up to a grade 6 in the USSF system. I have yet to be the center official in a professional level match. It is my goal here to look at the cards/incidents, and how I feel the Laws of the Game apply to them and how I interpret those laws based on information I receive in my annual re-certifications through USSF.

If you’re interested in becoming a referee, please check this link for information on how to locate your state officiating group.

Let’s talk about VAR

There has been a lot of scrutiny of VAR so far this tournament. For the most part, I disagree with it, but I understand that it’s a different look on the game for everyone. There have been some wild penalties given and some crazy goals brought back, but for the most part, it’s been a pretty even look into what can happen if you add the ability to double check.

That being said, Rachel Corsie was on the receiving end of a VAR miss in Scotland’s matchup with Japan this morning.

I don’t know if this is necessarily the best replay to use, but I think it’s the one that everyone is going to use to make the point that it shouldn’t have been a penalty. Let’s set that aside though and just talk about what’s happening.

The Japanese forward, Yuika Sugasawa, is running towards the goal and crosses in front of Corsie. Corsie’s outstretched arm comes across the back of Sugasawa, and Sugasawa goes down.

Was there a grab? I don’t think so.

Was there enough force to bring the player down? I’m also unsure about that as well.

However, from the referees position directly behind the play, there is no way to determine that. The referee would have probably seen an outstretched arm come across the back, and the player go down in that direction. Since it’s a straight shot on goal, it falls under DOGSO and ends with a converted PK for Japan and a yellow for Corsie. In the pre-VAR world, this is a relatively straight forward call. Yeah, everyone can be upset when viewing the replay, but there’s an intrinsic understanding that the referee doesn’t have the replay.

So how does this get through VAR?

Well, here’s the thing. VAR has to be able to identify a clear and obvious error made by the official before they can recommend a review. They would have undoubtedly looked at it, but based off of the televised replays, I don’t believe there was a definitive angle that says the referee made the wrong decision. There was contact, and the player went down, all in the box. The only way they could overturn this or, at least, have the referee review it would be to have a clear shot that shows there was no contact at all, which I don’t believe they could have found.

This was a real bummer end to the half for Rachel Corsie and the Scotland National Team, but even if I don’t like it, I think it was the correct call to be made with the information available.

Scotland have one more chance on Wednesday, June 19th to try and make it into the knockout round. Hopefully, they’ll find the better side of VAR.

(The title from this post is inspired by the song “Heartbeat in the Brain” by The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die)