There have been a plethora of questionable calls made this season with the help of soccer’s Video Assistant Referee (VAR), but the decision not to award a penalty to Ukraine in the dying seconds of its crucial Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy on Tuesday is arguably one of the most controversial.
With the score still 0-0 in the third minute of additional time, Italy midfielder Bryan Cristante seemingly tripped Mykhailo Mudryk inside the penalty area, but referee Jesús Gil Manzano, who had a clear view from just 10 yards away, didn’t give the foul.
Stranger still, it appears as though VAR didn’t even review the challenge.
CNN has reached out to European football’s governing body UEFA and the Ukraine football federation for comment.
Ukraine needed to win to finish second in the group and qualify automatically for Euro 2024, but a draw was enough for Italy to go through as runners-up to England. The match finished 0-0, meaning Ukraine will now take part in the Euro playoffs in March next year.
The mood in the Ukrainian media after the match was understandably one of frustration.
Outlet UkrFootball called the decision a “scandalous situation.”
Speaking to UkrFootball, Ukrainian former FIFA referee Miroslav Stupar said: “It seems that there was no VAR in this game.
“I have one question: why did the VAR referee keep silent at the moment with Mudryk?” Stupar added. “The head referee saw this episode clearly, but was afraid to take responsibility and give a penalty. Even VAR did not go to watch [the foul].
“If he had watched it, he would definitely have given a penalty because there was contact. The referee didn’t want to expose himself.
“If he had gone to watch VAR, it would have been a self-inflicted wound for him. But if he didn’t give a penalty, then he should have given Mudryk a yellow card for simulation.”
Outlet TSN called it an “an erroneous decision.”
“Not only the fans agreed that Ukraine had been ‘robbed’ but also the global media, which actively responded to the high-profile episode on social media.”
Football24, another Ukrainian outlet wrote: “For some reason, the referee did not award a penalty, and VAR decided not to correct the referee’s mistake.”