Many TV viewers in France awoke to a shock on Thursday morning, belatedly discovering that the world champions had lost 1-0 Tunisia having turned off thinking that Antoine Griezmann had levelled the game. The broadcaster TF1 cut to an advert break after Griezmann’s shot deep into stoppage time crossed the line, believing the final whistle had sounded in the aftermath, and prompting millions of viewers to switch off.
Instead the referee, Matthew Conger, was belatedly called to consult the pitchside monitor by VAR and contentiously ruled out the late strike because of Griezmann’s offside position earlier in play. But TF1 had left its audience with footage of France celebrations and Tunisian heartbreak, continuing tournament coverage with its World Cup Mag show rather than returning to the stadium.
Ultimately, the 1-0 defeat did not change much because France still finished top of Group D and a Tunisia victory was not enough for the north African side to overtake Australia in second place. However a much-changed France losing their unbeaten record in Qatar still came as a surprise to many fans.
TF1 issued an apology for its hasty exit on social media, and on the Mag show the journalist Grégoire Margotton explained the channel’s error to the viewers that remained. “We were convinced that it was over, everyone was going back to the locker room,” Margotton said. “It took a long, long time and Mr Conger, the New Zealand referee, went to consult the VAR. He was told after a very long time that there was an offside by Antoine Griezmann and that goal was therefore disallowed.”
However this may not be the end of the story, with the French Football Federation saying it is ready to file a complaint to Fifa on the grounds that the last-gasp equaliser had been incorrectly ruled out.
The FFF said in a statement: “We are writing a complaint after Antoine Griezmann’s goal was, in our opinion, wrongly disallowed. This complaint has to be filed within 24 hours after the final whistle.”
The FFF did not elaborate on its complaint, but there are two points of contention. Griezmann was clearly offside when Aurélien Tchouaméni crossed but latched on to ball only after the Tunisia defender Montassar Talbi’s attempted clearance, by which point he was onside. Also the game had restarted from kick-off, with the referee then appearing to blow for full time, before Conger went to review the footage. Ifab, football’s law-making body, states that if a game has been restarted after a goal is given VAR cannot intervene, so there was an error in procedure.
France salvaging a 1-1 draw would not have changed the group standings, with Tunisia still finishing third and the world champions top and facing Poland in the last 16.