It is a matter of public record that the process & decision to give the 22nd FIFA World Cup to Qatar was the most corrupt in modern football history & it is clear that off-pitch culture of scandal & dodgy dealings now extends to the World Cup football pitches:
The Qatar World Cup was long-tarnished off the pitch but hopes that once the football kicked off, the purity of the beautiful game would shine on the pitch were dashed when transparent game-rigging in the Quarter-Finals of the tournament left football fans worldwide - and more revelatory, participating players - aghast at the disgraceful officiating and match-fixing happening in plain sight on the world stage.
I blogged before the tournament began that England would win the World Cup unless it was fixed and while I suspected Argentina to win it due to it being fixed for Lionel Messi, just like in Russia 2018, France have had a shedload of help from officials to progress to the Semi-Final stages where they'll play Morrocco as Argentina face Croatia tonight.
A growing belief among football fans that the Qatari and FIFA Powers-That-Be - Qataris own Paris St Germain whom Messi now plays - want the golden boy of Adidas and popular fans' favourite to win the World Cup with Argentina has gathered pace as the World Cup has progressed and a fairy tale made in SponsorLand gains momentum.
Instantly, the signs were there in Argentina's opening game against Saudi Arabia when his side were given the softest penalty for a holding offence in the area so Messi had a gift-wrapped opportunity to get off the mark on the World Cup stage where he has struggled to perform until Qatar - just 24 hours after England had been denied a very similar penalty appeal for holding in The Three Lions' opening game against Iran:
Saudi Arabian won that game against all the odds in one of the great World Cup upsets of all-time yet the direction of travel for officiating was set early on - Argentina favoured, England actively discriminated again and lets not forget why - the English are the country whose leaders, journalists & FA stood up for or attempted to stand up for moral right in the voting process for The World Cup and hoped to land the 2018 tournament.
Argentina then overcame Poland, Mexico and Australia before a bad-tempered battle against Holland descended into chaos in a game that is now being investigated yet it was the officiating that was the most disturbing aspect of the whole affair with Messi clearly handling the ball deliberately twice & he didn't get booked never mind sent off:
So despite his best impression of his hero Diego Maradona and the Hand of a Rascal to use Sir Bobby Robson's phrase to describe the Argentine cheat, Messi lines up today against Croatia and if the dodgy decisions that characterised the 2018 World Cup Final at the Croatians' expense are anything to go by, Argentina and Messi will be waved through tonight by the officials and more blatant bending of the football rules.
France, meanwhile, play Morocco amid accusations by Portugal players that the referee and officials in their Quarter-Final - 5 of the 8 officials including the referee and VAR were Argentinian - were actively ensuring that Morrocco went through at the Portuguese' expense with Pepe and Bruno Fernandes leading the charge after several penalty appeals were turned down including, curiously, no replays shown by World Cup TV broadcasters of a potential Morrocco handball in the latter stages of the game.
ViVAR La France Part Deux?
Back at The World Cup in Russia 2018, it was France who benefitted from dodgy VAR decisions in the tournament's first use of video replay technology - fully 32 years after Maradona had punched a ball into the net - from the first game of the tournament against Australia when they needed the softest of penalties to beat The Socceroos...
...to the final game when another harsh penalty for handball gave France an undeserved 2-1 lead in a very tight game until that point 1-1 to France in the World Cup Final against Croatia when Argentine referee Nestor Pitana strangely changed his mind & gave it:
Are FIFA still grateful for the role that the disgraced Michel Platini played alongside the disgraced Sepp Blatter in landing the World Cup for Russia & Qatar in the most corrupt circumstances in the history of the beautiful game that France are favoured?
It certainly seemed that way in The World Cup Quarter-Final on Saturday night when England faced the most biased referee performance certainly in the 2022 tournament so far and possibly in the history of The World Cup by Brazil referee Wilton Sampaio, whose performance was disgraceful making dreadful key decisions throughout that changed the game and serious questions must be asked about his integrity and neutrality and whether FIFA World Cup football is a level playing field or totally corrupt like the process that ensured the tournament was played in Qatar in the first instance.
Here's a quick video of just some of the game-changing decisions that Sampaio made 'missing' foul after foul by the English while continually and nakedly favouring France:
England's chief danger man on the night Bukayo Saka was constantly fouled by the France defenders including, crucially, in the 17th minute when Dayot Upamecano clearly trips the Englishman on one of his many roving attacks down the right side but, unbelievably, to Saka and the watching billions around the world, no free kick is given and 27 seconds later, France counter & capitalise when Aurelien Tchouameni scored.
Less than 30 seconds in a World Cup Quarter-Final is not an unreasonable time for VAR to go back and chalk the goal off for the clear and obvious error of referee Sampaio missing / deliberately not awarding the foul against Saka and its bordering on criminal that neither the referee nor the linesman see or award the foul and free-kick.
In all football matches but especially higher-level games, the first goal is of critical importance and France brazenly get away with taking an illegal lead hacking Saka then going up the pitch to score and then in the 25th minute, Harry Kane surges into the France past Upamecano, who clearly fouls him for what should be a penalty kick but astonishingly, again the referee and linesman do not even acknowledge the foul:
This double whammy in France's favour and against England should raise alarm bells - once is a mistake but twice is a pattern and direction tilting the match in France's favour and it is one that would continue throughout the game with Saka receiving little from the officials until something was clearly said to them at half-time after which he received a penalty kick, as did substitute Mason Mount when he came on although, again, the referee errs by not sending off French defender Hernandez who made no attempt to play the ball although did show a yellow after Jude Bellingham advised him about cards.
Bellingham, England's stand-out player in the tournament, also had a penalty appeal turned down after Upamecano upended him in the area and it was a miracle the Frenchman was still on the pitch after a string of fouls throughout the game, ditto Antoine Griezemann, for constantly cynical fouls throughout the match.
England's players - like Portugal's before them after the Morrocco game - were unusually outspoken which indicates the clear sense of injustice they felt on the night with Manchester United's Harry Maguire the most outspoken against the officials:
Yet the machinery of injustice and corruption rolls on unabated like it did with the scandalous award of The World Cups to Russia and Qatar and it's no surprised that a competition uprooted from its summer schedule and artificially organised in Winter for the first time is heading towards a manufactured ending unless Croatia or Morrocco - assuming the elimination of Portugal aided by Argentine referees was to avoid a repeat of France losing at the hands of Ronaldo & Co a la Euro 2016 & set up a 'dream' final - can overcome the dark forces arraying against them and win it against all the odds.
Football Used To Be A Game...