Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Australia didn't earn a win

We were robbed. It was an unfair decision that saw Totti handed an almost unmissable penalty goal. Italy were also robbed, if you look at it that way: Materazzi did not deserve his red card any more than Totti deserved a reward for diving.

And we had 45 minutes in which to score a goal against an Italian team that was missing a key defender. Despite that disadvantage, they defended exceptionally well, and while we showed a fair whack of spirit our attack was blunt when it counted. Cahill had a lousy night and Kewell was missed, but it wasn't just the strikers- most passes into the goal area went over or wide of their targets. *

You can argue the toss. The decision against Neill looked pretty unfair, but would we have won if it went into extra time, or a penalty shoot against 'the most expensive goalie in the world'? Would we have won if you undid both bad decisions, so that Australia faced a full Italian team for the entire second half?

We can be very biased, as can all nations. Seen from a third party viewpoint, things can look rather different. Extracts from the UK Guardian:

There seemed little danger however, until Lucas Neill slid in idiotically to challenge - at which point Grosso needed no prompting to throw himself over the prone Australia defender and claim the penalty, which despite intense pressure Totti coolly slammed high and hard past Mark Schwarzer.

Totti's redemption was a dramatic end to a disappointingly slow-paced, slow-witted game, the only other notable feature of which was the ridiculous dismissal of Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

It was certainly a foul alright - Materazzi's clumsy challenge was late and two-footed - but it wasn't malicious and Fabio Cannavaro was covering. Inexplicably, however, Spanish referee L Medina Cantalejo brandished a straight red.

Australia may have enjoyed a numerical advantage, but it quickly became clear they were still trailing in terms of quality: while the Italians were failing to get their act together in the penalty box, they were still enjoying the lion's share of possession.
And we were off-target when it counted. So let's celebrate an incredible effort from an underdog team and remember that, when it comes to lousy refereeing, what goes around more often comes back around and goes rocketing past the goalie in the final few seconds.

UPDATE: What others are saying...

Crazy Brave:
Sadly it seems no more of these are available. Could've come in handy.
C8TO at Catallaxy:
ridiculous referee decisions deciding progressions is a tarnish on the beautiful game.
My Canadian workmate:
You remind me of when my wife or grandma tries to talk about sport.
Touche, I guess!

(* Lingo updated, lucky I have an Englishman sitting opposite.)


Anonymous said...

Stick to something you might have a slight clue about. This quote is an instant giveaway that you have never watched a game of football in your life.

"it wasn't just the front strikers- most kicks into the front line"

Armagnac Esq. said...

Watched about 20 all up, and I don't hide it.

By the way, was anything I said incorrect, or are you just having an arbitrary anonymous flame?

I'll ignore the insult, take the tip and go fix up my lingo...

Guy said...

I think the Guardian quotes ring painfully true. It was a mistake from Neill - he should have known that Italy were desperate for an opportunity to swan dive in the box at that stage of the match.

Boysenberry said...

Saddest part was explaining to my daughter that sometimes you have to assume that the other side will cheat, and change your game plan. :(

russ said...

Lingo aside, your analysis is correct Armaniac.

That Guardian article is a fine example of why you shouldn't trust what a columnist says about the second half of a game, they are too busy typing to actually watch it properly. Italy didn't have a possession advantage for any of the game; nor was the slow pace necessarily disappointing, both coaches chose to play that way, Italy because it suited their game plan, Australia because they lack a midfielder who can control the pace of the game.

As for the refereeing. I think he did well. The odd decision was wrong, but in the context of this tournament, both the red card and the penalty were justifiable. Materazzi should know better, and Neill shouldn't have left his feet. Spare the plucky underdog tag though, Australia should be worrying about taking their chances, not patting themselves on the back.