Gary Neville clash with former referee as Argentina beat Croatia to progress to World Cup final

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Gary Neville clashed with former Premier League referee Peter Walton over the penalty Argentina were awarded during their World Cup semi-final win over Croatia.

Argentina booked their place in Sunday’s World Cup final with an impressive 3-0 win over 2018 runners-up Croatia.

Argentina took the lead after Lionel Messi scored from the penalty spot after they were awarded a penalty as Julian Alvarez collided with Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

Neville, Wright and Roy Keane all criticised the decision to award Argentina a spot-kick, suggesting Alvarez instigated the collision and gave Livakovic no choice but to make contact.

But former referee Walton insisted awarding the penalty to Argentina was the right call.

Mark Pougatch on ITV: “It’s 2-0 to Argentina at half-time. Let’s go straight to possibly the pivotal moment in the whole match. In your opinion, Gary, should this have been a penalty?”

Gary Neville: “No, not at all. I didn’t think it was a penalty at the time, we’re right behind it here [in the studio]. The keeper comes out and stops himself before the shot, he stops himself and Alvarez just runs straight into him and takes his leg away. That is not a penalty. He has to make that motion to try and save the ball. If he had carried on running towards Alvarez and taken him out then fair enough but he doesn’t. I don’t know how that’s a penalty.”

Ian Wright: “Honestly, when you look at it again, the forward has actually miss-kicked it. He doesn’t get good contact. The goalkeeper can’t do anything but stand his ground. Alvarez has just run into him. The referee didn’t even have another look, I can’t understand it.”

Roy Keane: “It’s poor defending overall to let him get a run at goal but I agree with the lads, I don’t think it’s a penalty. Where else is he supposed to go?”

Mark Pougatch: “Let’s bring in Peter Walton. It’s a fairly simply question from the boys in the studio, what else is the goalkeeper meant to do?”

Peter Walton: “Well win the ball. If he’s challenging for the ball, misses the ball completely and catches the player, it has to be a foul. He’s in the path of the forward so he’s impeded his progress. I understand what they’re saying in terms of ‘where is he supposed to go?’ But if you think of an outfield player who slides in to make a challenge, if he misses the ball and catches the man, it’s always a foul.”

Ian Wright: “No, no.”

Gary Neville: “Peter, are you suggesting a goalkeeper who comes out in the line of the ball needs to move out the way to allow a player to have a free shot?”

Peter Walton: “No, he doesn’t need to move out the way but he needs to make sure he gets some contact on the ball.”

Gary Neville: “Does he?!”

Peter Walton: “Otherwise he will be classed as impeding the progress of the player coming towards him.”

Mark Pougatch: “But Peter, what you’re saying is the ball needs to hit him otherwise it’s construed as a foul?”

Peter Walton: “No, but his forward motion there has meant that a collision has happened. If that’s the case he’s been careless in his approach.”

Ian Wright: “Wow.”

Peter Walton: “It’s a foul. It may seem harsh but it’s a foul. If you turn it on its head and say it’s not a foul, can you imagine the commotion now? It was a foul.”

Ian Wright: “It wasn’t a foul.”

Gary Neville: “If I’m a defender and a striker is about to have a shot and I go to block it with my leg, if he goes past me and just runs into me, that can’t be a foul. You’ve got to try and block the shot!”

Was the penalty to Argentina the right call?

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic played 90 minutes for Croatia in the 3-0 defeat to Argentina.