AL RAYYAN, Qatar, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri said his heart sank as the referee was called over to consult the VAR screen on Tuesday, in the closing stages of their opening World Cup clash against Denmark, with the possibility of a penalty being awarded against his team.
But Mexican referee Cesar Ramos bucked the usual inclination to change his call after consulting the screen and stuck with his decision to turn down Denmark’s stoppage-time penalty appeal, much to the relief of the north Africans.
It ensured a goalless draw in the opening Group D clash and a valuable point in their quest to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in six attempts.
“I can’t put into words my feelings at that moment but you can imagine it well. I thought we would get that penalty given against us and the VAR has every right to intervene,” he told a news conference.
“But today it was in our favor and this is what football is all about. VAR decisions have to be respected,” Kadri added.
Video showed the ball striking the hand of center back Yassine Meriah as he attempted to clear a corner but also that there was a push in the back of a team mate as the ball came over. Ramos awarded a free kick to the Tunisians, to the relief of a stunned crowd who had roared on the North Africans.
The majority of the 42,925 spectators at the Education City Stadium were Tunisians, who provided a rollicking atmosphere that lifted the performance of a side that had been expected to struggle against the heavily fancied Danes.
“The fan factor was very positive for us. It mentally gave us a great lift and we are looking forward to seeing the fans continue to do that for us,” Kadri said.
“It really helped us in the game, but tactically and physically we did well too.”
Next for Tunisia are Australia on Saturday before they face world champions France.
“We are in a strong group and today we have one point. This will give us energy for the next game,” Kadri said.
Writing by Mark Gleeson in Doha; Editing by Ed Osmond
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