Fair or foul? Examining 3 first-half decisions that tormented Croatia
Stanislav Krasilnikov / TASS / Getty

Before France turned on the style with a series of effective second-half counter-attacks and slick individual moments, the drama of the 2018 World Cup final was bound up with a trio of referee decisions that went against a spirited Croatia side.

France's opener and Antoine Greizmann's spot-kick seven minutes before the break combined with calls from match official Nestor Pitana in favour of Les Bleus.

Here's a look at the controversial incidents that were rendered moot by France's second-half showing.

France's opener

Griezmann swivelled toward goal. As the attacker's right foot slipped, Marcelo Brozovic's attempt to dispossess the No. 7 saw his right leg make contact with Griezmann's left. Match official Pitana immediately whistled for a free-kick.

Griezmann fired a whipping set-piece delivery into the area following the foul by Brozovic. Paul Pogba made a darting run for the ball with Domagoj Vida marking him, and the Manchester United star appeared narrowly offside.

Semi-final hero Mario Mandzukic backpedalled to meet the ball aimed at Pogba, heading it into his own net to become the first player to score an own goal in a World Cup final.

The Perisic penalty

Ten minutes after cancelling out Mandzukic's gaffe with a dazzling bit of individual skill, Ivan Perisic went from hero to zero when VAR adjudged the Croatia winger had handled the ball in the area. Griezmann's cross eluded a leaping Blaise Matuidi to strike Perisic's dangling appendage.

Perisic's outstretched arm impeded a ball that would have perilously flashed across the face of goal and potentially met one of two French players making a run at the far post, or a well-positioned Kylian Mbappe.

Olivier Giroud led the charge of those petitioning Pitana for a penalty. VAR intervened, and the Argentinian referee opted to check the pitchside video footage himself. FIFA's handball rule states: "Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm." While Perisic's offence does not appear deliberate, an argument can be made that his arm was in an "unnatural position."

After four minutes and change, Pitana pointed to the spot, and Griezmann calmly slotted his fourth goal of the tournament beyond a lunging Danijel Subasic.

France went on to capture its second World Cup by a 4-2 scoreline courtesy of two goals in six second-half minutes from Pogba and Mbappe.

(Photos courtesy: TSN)

Fair or foul? Examining 3 first-half decisions that tormented Croatia
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