Why Portugal’s VAR handball penalty was the wrong decision

We’re analyzing every VAR decision made throughout all 64 games at the 2022 World Cup. Portugal were awarded a late penalty by the VAR against Uruguay on Monday, but why was it such a controversial decision?

After each game, we take a look at the major incidents to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.

– World Cup VAR review in full: Every decision analysed

VAR overturn: Penalty for handball by Gimenez

What happened: In the 89th minute, Bruno Fernandes attempted to work the ball into the area. Jose Maria Gimenez slipped in to make a challenge and the ball came off his arm that was going to the ground as he was falling backwards. The move broke down and Fernandes appealed for handball, but referee Alireza Faghani of Iran ignored the claims. When the ball eventually went out for a Portugal corner, the VAR, Abdullah Al Marri of Qatar, advised a review for a penalty.

VAR decision: Penalty, scored by Fernandes.

VAR review: A remarkable decision, which goes against the official guidance on exceptions to the handball issued by The IFAB when the law was last clarified in 2021.

The IFAB stripped back the handball last year, removing much of the wording to make it less complicated. But with it came a long presentation to set out when a player should not be penalized for handball — even if their arm is away from the body.

One of those specific examples covers when “arm position is for support when falling or when getting up from the ground.” It doesn’t matter if the ball hits the hand before it touches the ground.

Gimenez is very clearly using his left arm for support as he falls to challenge Fernandes, and this has to be covered by the exception. It is almost identical to the example The IFAB issued.

The only justification for this to be a penalty is if the defender placed his arm in a specific place to deliberately stop the ball, it’s the only explanation the officials have. But Gimenez places his arm in a natural position to support his body, and it just so happened that’s where the ball went.

This shouldn’t have been a penalty, and the extra goal against could still have repercussions on Uruguay’s hopes of getting out of the group.

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