In the 73rd minute of a scoreless group-stage match between Nigeria and France earlier in this month’s World Cup, the French forward Viviane Asseyi was undercut by a Nigerian defender in the penalty area, drawing a foul. The ruling—confirmed by the replay system known as video assistant referee, or VAR—set up a tense scenario. If the penalty kick, taken by Wendie Renard, went in, France would head to the knockout round with an undefeated record, keeping its standing as one of the tournament’s favorites. If the goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie managed to fend it off, an ascendant Nigerian squad in pursuit of its first knockout-round berth in two decades would have a chance to leave with a win or draw.
Renard stood over the ball, Nnadozie got up on her toes, the crowd held its breath. Renard’s shot went to the low-left corner, but too far, banging off the post. A penalty kick provides a moment of clarity in an otherwise complex game—in this case, squandered opportunity on one side and massive relief on the other. But then the referee signaled for another review. Nnadozie had come marginally unattached from the goal line as Renard shot—an offense, strictly speaking, but one that only the most stringent disciplinarian could have noticed in real time, and that even a smaller subset of viewers would have felt influenced the play. Over the protestations of Nigerian players and coaches alike, the penalty was retaken and made, and France wrapped up the win 20 minutes later.