Well, I was going to avoid blogging about this ... but why not. It seems there is more uproar in the world than I thought would happen. I am pretty stoic about this, as most Aussies are. I think the only time we get annoyed is when someone tries to justify the decision as it's obvious they're not being very impartial.
Controversy is not uncommon at World Cups. So, Australia losing to an obvious dive shouldn't surprise anyone. There were obviously going to be bad decisions. Let's face it though, when Australia plays, the decisions are mostly against Australia.
Some Italian fans have tried to justify it, and others have watched it and just plain admitted it was a dive. Don't believe me?
This is what Grosso claimed happened:
"I tried to avoid contact, I got past one defender but then my leg got stuck in between the other defender's legs
and I had no option but to go down."
Funny thing was, he wasn't anywhere NEAR Lucas Neil's legs. In fact, his leg didn't get stuck anywhere. A lot of people are questioning if there was any contact at all ... if there was, it was pretty minimal.
When asked about it, apparently Lippi, rather than give a direct answer, asked if anyone doubted it was a penalty. The room full of Italian and Australian press apparently murmured to each other ... to answer Lippi's question, the rest of the world, including a lot of Italian supports say, 'There is nothing to doubt, as it was plainly NOT
Anyway, it's obvious from Lippi's response that he didn't want to answer the question directly. He knows it wasn't a penalty. As for everyone else, I've read newspapers form other countries and I've heard the comments of other coaches/soccer analysts etc from countries and it seems pretty unanimous that it wasn't a penalty.
Still, Australia might have been hard done by, but, like I said, most of us are being stoic about it.
Though Melbourne was filled with the chanting of 'B*llsh*t! B*llsh*t!' last night, the chanting will not change the decision.
The first thing I did this morning was contact one of my friends who is a HUGE Italia fan, and congratulate her on the fact her team is going through to the next round.
You see, we're not upset at the Italians, nor the Italian fans.
She later contacted me to give her commiserations. She wasn't happy with the way Italy had made it through. After all, she still believed Italy could have won ligitimately in extra time or with the penalty shoot out.
Of course, a lot of other people are not as optimistic as she was. Extra time probably would have resulted in a 0-0 draw. If it went to penalties, well, Italy has a 4-5 record of losing those in world cups. I think if Italy had of won the extra time or even the shoot out, then Australia would have been happy. At present, we're bascially sad, angry and a gamut of other emotions.
People keep pointing to the Materazzi send off as some sort of justification for the penalty. Like it was some sort of retribution being reaped on Australia for ... what?
The yellow carding of Tim Cahill one minute earlier instead of Materazzi probably was more of the cause, as the Referee obviously chose the wrong person to yellow card. Watching the match, you get to the 49th minute, and you can clearly see that Materazzi came from behind Cahill, and leapt into him. He even bent his neck in Cahills direction in order to deliberately head butt Cahill. A definite yellow carding for Materazzi that he got away with.
So, 49th minute, Minus one to the referee, still nill all to Australia and Italy.
5oth minute, the referee red cards Materazzi in what would normally have been a yellow carding offence. He obviously sent him off to make up for his earlier mistake of yellow cardin Cahill ... still, another minus one to the referee.
95th minute. [Officially 8 seconds from the end of the match], Grosso takes a dive in the box and is rewarded. Another Minus one to the referee. Official score Minus Three Luis Medina Cantalejo, Australia Nil, Italy Nil. As said in newspapers around the world, it's Grosso who should have been given a yellow card, and the Australians a free kick ... but, alas, not so.
First thing I did after congratulatin my friend (The HUGE Italy fan), was to check the reaction from the rest of the world. I knew my opinion, I knew Australia's opinion. I even knew the opinion of many peopel from around the globe who were not Australian supports (such as the English commentator, and some foreign soccer analysts), but what was the reaction in the press.
I was happy to report most of them felt the same way.
Really, FIFA keep bringing the game into disrepute. They don't have a method of overturning bad decisions.
Acutally, many years ago, I stopped playing soccer for exactly that reason. There were some methods of disputing some match results, but normally, regardless of how bias, a ref is, or how bad they are (let's face it, they're human and make mistakes), a referees decision will always stand.
I'll bring up two little stories from my childhood, both of whcih broke my heart a little, even though in one decision I was on the winning side.
FIRST: Perth, Australia, Under Eights side:
We were winning the league. We were in the middle of a game (and I can't remember who we were playing against). We had a big problem. The referee (as in most junior matches) was the father of one of the other teams players.
This guy was ULTRA BIASED. He was forever giving them free kicks, and all sorts of other things. In spite of this, my side scored! BANG! Yes, we had beaten the other side and the referee and actually put it in the back of the net. ONE NIL!
About a mintue or two from full time, the guy suddenly gave his team a penalty. The question was asked WHY??? He just said, 'Don't argue with the referee!'
Anyway, his team now had a penalty they didn't deserve.
The striker ran up, kicked the ball, and miraculously our keeper SAVED THE BALL!!!! Yes, he stopped it going into the goal!
Then, something which will remain in my memory for the rest of my life happened!
Even though the ball had NEVER crossed the line, the referee awarded a GOAL!!! WHAT????
Yes, a goal!!!!! It was now 1-1.
Our coach was furious. There was an uproar from our sides parents ... but the other side didn't care! Result, we drew.
There is a happy ending though. We were able to contest the match result. A report was place into the soccer association and a rematch was scheduled. With an impartial referee we beat them two nil. YEah!
Second, Adelaide, Australia. Year Nine (I think I was 14):
My team was playing in the inter-school sports carnival. Our soccer team (which I was a memeber of) played quite well, and we got to the final. We were playing against the team from Elizabeth West.
Really, it was a difficult match, and neither team looked likely to score. One of the teachers from my school was refereeing the match (how that happened I'd never know. You'd think they'd use someone impartial).
Anyway, about ten minutes from time, the ball was kicked, and was bouncing towards the Elizabeth West goalkeeper. Not a difficult save at all. He grabbed it, and suddenly the whistle blew. Penalty!
Yes, our teacher had given our side a penalty ... what for? He never said. Not one word.
So, our team took the penalty. Scored!
We ended up winning the match ONE NIL.
As I knew the the penalty was unfounded, I went and apologised to the other team afterwards.
Their basic attitude to me was, 'Go get bent.'
I also tried to get the players on my team to admit we didn't deserve the penalty. Not one of them knew WHY we were awarded a penalty. In fact, their general attitude was, 'Who cares, we won!'
I then went and complained to some of the other teachers who basically didn't want to know about it.
End result, my team won by the referee cheating! This time there was no way the other team could appeal.
I was pretty upset when they hailed the school soccer team as heroes. Let's face it, we weren't, and no one really cared.
I wonder if the other team grew up to be bitter old men!
Anyway, FIFA and soccer in general needs to have some sort of appeals committee. There has to be some way to undo the istakes the referees make.
In Australian rules they can do it. They recently had a result where the full time siren sounded, and the Fremantle Dockers stopped playing thinking they'd won. The referee however awarded a free kick to the other team (even though the Dockers were walking off the field) and the other team scored, making them the winners. Of course, there was uproar. Not just from Dockers supporteres, but from many other clubs.
Result, the AFL reviewed the decision and awarded it to the Dockers.
With the technology we have today, I'm surprised more Video referees aren't used in more sports and I'm surprised they're not developing computer systems in order to help with the decision making.
With the video evidence we have, it's obvious that Grosso took a dive. His version of getting his foot caught in Neil's legs is so obviously a pack of piled elephant dung that it isn't funny.
Anyway, some points I think Australia can be happy about.
- We're no longer going to be treated with disrespect as a soccer nation.
- Neil and others will be getting good soccer positions with clubs such as Barcelona.
- We no longer have the most difficult path to the world cup, we'll be playing in the Asian group from now on.
- The whole world witnessed what happened, so they know we were hard done by.
- We'll be coming back stronger than ever.
- World class coaches are queueing up in order to coach our team.
I think most of us are happy we can honestly say we didn't lose to Italy.