Nigeria stars claim referee robbed them of World Cup last 16 spot as ‘big country bias’ sees Lionel Messi and Argentina through

(Evening Standard)

Victor Moses has accused referee Cuneyt Cakir and VAR of robbing Nigeria of a place in the last 16 at the World Cup.

Nigeria lost 2-1 to Argentina on Tuesday as they were eliminted at the group stage by Marcos Rojo’s late winner.

But Moses was left furious after Gernot Rohr’s side didn’t get a second penalty when Rojo headed the ball against his own arm in the area.

The game was tied 1-1 at the time, but after Cakir reviewed the incident as part of the VAR process, the Turkish match official decided not to award the spot-kick.

Captain Mikel John Obi appeared to suggest afterwards that Cakir didn’t give it because Argentina are one of the more fancied teams in the competition and Moses was in agreement.

When asked by Standard Sport if he felt Nigeria missed out because they’re not as big a team as Argentina, he replied: “Yes. Obviously It was (Lionel) Messi’s day! If you look at it again, we all thought it was a penalty.

“He (Cakir) went to have a look at it again just to confirm it and he came back saying it was not a penalty. But if you look at the replay, it was totally a penalty.

“To have VAR you have to get decisions right and if you’re not getting things right, there is no point having it. Then there is also the playing and stopping the game again for two or three minutes, it’s just got to be right.

“It was definitely a penalty. I think the same decision was given in the Iran vs Portugal game. It was totally the same situation. The referee should have given it.”

When it was put to him that another sign of favouritism came the night before when Cristiano Ronaldo only received a yellow card following a VAR review despite being seen to elbow Iran’s Morteza Pouraliganji, he added: “To me it is kind of getting out of hand. They need to get it right.”

Mikel was seen remonstrating with Cakir on the pitch soon after the decision not to penalise Rojo and following the match, he also questioned how VAR is being used.

The former Chelsea midfielder said: “For big countries it goes their way, small countries? I don’t want to comment about it. You can come to your own opinion yourself – that’s all I can say about it.

“I think the most obvious one was the second penalty – I don’t understand how that is not a penalty. I asked the referee ‘did it touch the hand?’ and he said ‘yes’.

“I said ‘why don’t you give the penalty?’ and he said he ‘doesn’t know’. I’m like ‘You don’t know? But you’re the referee, you need to give the penalty’.

“This is a game we should win, we could have scored another penalty, but this is what happens with VAR.”

Argentina took the lead through Messi, but struggled after Moses equalised from the spot in the 51st minute.

The Chelsea right-wing-back does not think Argentina are good enough to win the competition.

France are their next opponents and Moses said: “They’re a good team but it’s not like they beat us 4-0 or 5-0. They will find it hard. It is not going to be easy who they play next. They’re (France) going to be strong.”

Barcelona and Argentina defender Javier Mascherano though feels everyone in the camp has been given a much needed dramatic lift by the victory.

It is believed a rift had grown between some of the players and coach Jorge Sampaoli after they’d picked up just one point from their opening two matches.

Mascherano said: “We did not start the World Cup in the best way, that is clear. We got into a mess, but against Nigeria we were able to clean up the mess a bit. We will see how it continues (against France) on Saturday in Kazan.

“The main thing was to go through. We would have liked to go through first in the group but it was not to be and now we have to face what is coming.

“France are a great team, one of the favourites to win the World Cup. We are not favourites, we are here to fight and to see if it works for us. Hopefully it will be enough.

“Obviously after our failures before there are still a lot of things to put right, but fighting to the end is what earned us the reward. We never backed down.

“Many times this team could have fallen into frustration but against Nigeria we were not frustrated, we fought back and it is a joy that we have been able to take that step forward mentally.”

Meanwhile, Moses admitted immediately after the game he had no idea when Chelsea want him to report back for pre-season training.

Those not involved in the World Cup are due to start preparing for the next campaign on July 9, but obviously those participating in Russia will be given extended time off – the length of which depends on how far their side progresses.

There is a lot of uncertainty at Stamford Bridge right now with the club set to appoint Maurizio Sarri as their new coach, but they have yet to dismiss Antonio Conte.

When asked by Standard Sport when he would start training with Chelsea again, he replied: “I don’t know yet to be honest. I might get a call later on tonight and will find out how long I’ve got off.” And pressed on who will tell him, he added: “I don’t know.”

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