Wales decision to agree with French VAR wish backfires as Neco Williams sees red

Neco Williams is set to miss Wales’ final Euro 2020 warm-up game after the Dragons’ decision to agree with French wishes for VAR to be used in their Nice friendly backfired.

Williams was sent off for handball after just 25 minutes of France’s 3-0 victory on Wednesday following a VAR check – the first time the system had ever been used at a Wales game.

The Liverpool defender is now suspended for Saturday’s friendly with Albania in Cardiff, although interim manager Robert Page says Wales will try to get the red card overturned for Williams to build up match fitness ahead of their European Championship opener against Switzerland on June 12.

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Wales captain Gareth Bale, third left, leads the protests in Nice after Neco Williams is sent off following a VAR check (Daniel Cole/AP)

On the unexpected use of VAR in Nice, a Football Association of Wales statement said: “The French Federation made us aware of their plans to use it and we had no objections.”

VAR will be used at Euro 2020, but it is up to national federations to decide whether it is operated in friendlies and then they inform FIFA accordingly.

Any Wales appeal against Williams’ red card will be considered by FIFA.

France wanted VAR to be used at the Allianz Riviera, while it was not in operation for England’s game with Austria in Middlesbrough or other friendlies played around Europe.

The PA news agency understands there are large costs involved in setting up VAR, and there was no major desire from the England set-up for it to be installed for Euro 2020 warm-up games.

England boss Gareth Southgate was no doubt grateful VAR was not at the Riverside as Tyrone Mings went unpunished for what looked like a foul in the first half.

Mings appeared to drive his arm straight into Austria striker Sasa Kalajdzic in the area, flattening him in an incident that was missed by Belgian referee Lawrence Visser.

But Williams was not so fortunate in the south of France as his block on Karim Benzema’s shot was picked up by the cameras.

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England’s Tyrone Mings escaped apparent foul play against Austria with no VAR in operation (Lindsey Parnaby/PA)

Williams was only a few feet away from Benzema but both his arms were away from his body and he diverted the goalbound shot around a post.

Portuguese referee Luis Godinho was asked to check the incident by the VAR official, studying the footage for some time before awarding France a penalty and sending Williams off.

Former Wales defender Danny Gabbidon told Sky Sports: “I was initially surprised there was actually VAR in a friendly game.

“But once it went to VAR you kind of know what’s coming.

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“It wasn’t deliberate. It’s acceptable to give the penalty, but to give the red card as well was very harsh.”

The game was goalless at the time of Williams’ dismissal, but France eventually won 3-0 through goals from Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele.

Wales were, however, boosted by the return from injury of Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Joe Allen.

Ramsey and Davies both came on as second-half substitutes, while Allen, who had not played for over two months after calf and hamstring problems, started and managed nearly an hour.

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Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey impressed after coming on as a substitute for Wales in Nice (Daniel Cole/AP)

“He looked bright when he came on,” Page said of Juventus playmaker Ramsey.

“One pass in particular to get through to the (second-half) chance that we had, was just like Aaron.

“It’s building him back up with minutes on the pitch to get the best Aaron Ramsey that we can possibly have.

“That was a box ticked for him. The plan was to come for 30 minutes and he ended up playing nearer 40, so that was a definite positive.

“It will be the same on Saturday, getting players on the pitch to have minutes to be ready for Switzerland.”