Gary Neville and Ian Wright in on-air disagreement as England penalty debate rages

Gary Neville and Ian Wright
-Credit: (Image: ITV)

Gary Neville and Ian Wright locked horns on the hotly debated VAR decision that led to England being awarded a controversial penalty in their Euro 2024 semi-final clash with the Netherlands.

Despite a strong start from the Netherlands, which saw them take the lead through a thunderous effort from Xavi Simons, England were handed a lifeline when Harry Kane hit the ground under a challenge from Denzel Dumfries. Kane confidently converted the penalty to level the scores at 1-1.

The England captain could've doubled his tally had he not fired over the bar shortly afterwards. The incident that sparked the debate followed as Dumfries' high boot caught Kane, prompting appeals for another penalty.

The on-field referee was initially hesitant, but upon reviewing the VAR footage at the sidelines, he concluded a foul had occurred.

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During the half-time analysis on ITV, Gary Neville didn't mince words, expressing his dismay: "As a defender, I think it's an absolutely disgraceful decision. There's no way that was a penalty. He just goes in naturally to block the shot. It's not a penalty for me. You have to take your luck though."

In contrast, Ian Wright took the stance that Dumfries' tackle was indeed "reckless" arguing that in today's game, such actions are often punished with penalties, irrespective of intent, and would likely be penalised elsewhere on the pitch.

Caught between the differing viewpoints, Lee Dixon observed that the penalty award would be surprising, echoing during ITVs commentary, "I would be astonished if this was given."

Ally McCoist then interjected, hinting at the inevitability of the VAR-driven decision: "The fact he's running over, I'll be astonished if it isn't given."

ITV's refereeing expert Christina Unkel expressed her amazement, stating: "I am [astonished]. So one of the surprising things here is, yes, is there a studs contact from Dumfries onto the top of the boot from Kane? Correct. However, Kane is getting the shot off completely, his momentum is going through."

England were awarded a penalty for Denzel Dumfries' challenge on Harry Kane
England were awarded a penalty for Denzel Dumfries' challenge on Harry Kane -Credit:ITV

Unkel continued with her perspective on the incident: "I am quite surprised that this is being sent [to the pitchside respot monitor] because it is not a clear and obvious error and in fact the preferred recommendation is for this not to be a penalty."

Lee Dixon, weighing in on the situation, remarked: "I'm pleased, don't get me wrong. But from a defenders' point of view, you have to challenge for the ball. They both go in for the ball. It's a split second. I don't think that's a penalty, but I don't care. I really don't care."

Jamie Carragher, speaking to The Telegraph, was unequivocal about his opinion: "That was never a pen. I can't believe the referee was asked by the VAR to look at it. And then I can't believe he gave it. If England go on to win this game, they have luck on their side."