Australians need to get over the Italian dive of 2006

Adrian Musolino Columnist

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    Australia's Lucas Neill, bottom, trips Italy's Fabio Grosso in the penalty box during the last minutes of the Australia vs Italy Round of 16 World Cup soccer match at Fritz Walter Stadium in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Monday, June 26, 2006. Italy was awarded a penalty and won the match 1-0. AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

    Four years on, and with another World Cup on the horizon, Australia’s indignation over Fabio Grosso’s dive to send Italy to the quarters in Germany at the expense of the Socceroos still cuts deep.

    The controversy has reignited as a topic of debate as a result of Grosso’s admission that he “accentuated” his fall over the grounded Lucas Neill in the final minutes of the Round of 16 match in Kaiserslautern.

    (Accentuated, in case you were wondering, means “to make more noticeable or prominent”, according to my Mac’s dictionary.)

    Grosso, speaking to The Roar’s own Davidde Corran in the Football + World Cup preview magazine, said, “In this instance when Neill slid in, maybe I accentuated it a little bit. However you must remember it was the last minute of an extremely difficult game and everyone was tired.

    “I felt the contact so I went down. Therefore, I say again, I didn’t initiate it … it’s true that I felt the touch and didn’t have the strength to go forward. Some people believe me, and some don’t. However for me, even after seeing the video images, it’s a penalty.

    “I admit that it wasn’t glamorous but it wasn’t a scandal,” he said.

    Maybe not a scandal for Grosso and the triumphant Italians, but a huge scandal that still lingers with Socceroos fans.

    Listening and reading the responses to the debate four years on presents a fascinating portrait of Australia’s naivety when it comes to the nuances of the world game.

    Australia was undoubtedly the victim of gamesmanship by Grosso – an unsightly and unfortunate aspect of the game that can decide matches due to its low scoring nature – but Australia needs to move on from this feeling of being a victim of a conspiracy that still remains.

    Ask the English, who still lament the “Hand of God” 24 years after the fact, about being cheated at a World Cup and you’ll learn this isn’t a new phenomenon unique to us.

    It’s these controversial moments that have helped create World Cup folklore and build anticipation for the next rendition.

    The sooner we embrace this, the sooner we will appreciate the uniqueness of the game.

    The impact diving has on the game’s popularity and acceptance within Australia has been hotly debated here on The Roar of late, and Grosso’s dive undoubtedly did some damage to the perception of football in the country. Diving and other forms of simulation may be un-Australian, but they shouldn’t preclude Australians from embracing the game, and perhaps part of that process is putting Grosso’s dive behind us and moving on.

    The controversy lingers not just because of its controversial nature but also due to the fact it was such a bitter way for the Soccroos’ dream run to end.

    There was a sense of disbelief that the run, which saw the Socceroos defeat Uruguay in such dramatic circumstances, perform such an incredible comeback against Japan and survive the nail bitter against Croatia should have been ended by a cheat.

    Destiny was unjustly deprived, and listen to the masses and you would assume World Cup glory was ours for the taking. After all, Italy went all the way. That could have been us, they say.

    But let’s not allow the passage of time to cloud our view of reality.

    The Socceroos played a man up on the Italians for the majority of the second half following Marco Materazzi’s straight red card in the 50th minute and were unable to breakdown the Italian defense.

    This was an Italian team, let’s not forget, that only conceded twice in the whole tournament – an own goal against the United States of America in the group stages and a penalty in the final against France.

    Guus Hiddink’s decision to hold off on his two remaining substitutes, waiting for extra-time, proved one gamble too many for the Dutchman.

    Particularly flawed is the assumption that had Australia overcome Italy in extra-time or penalties, they would have waltzed past Ukraine in the quarter-final – Italy having defeated them 3-0 – and set up an incredible semi-final match with hosts Germany.

    Once again, Australia demonstrates its naivety for the game.

    The best and most deserving teams don’t always win in tournament football, so moments of genius and lunacy, mistakes, referee misjudgements and the like can often decide World Cups.

    Fairness and logic don’t always win out.

    Football is far from Utopian.

    It’s time for Australia to move on from the dive of 2006 and embrace whatever is in store for the Socceroos in South Africa.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (75)

    • April 18th 2010 @ 12:50am
      The Pom said | April 18th 2010 @ 12:50am | ! Report

      In my opinion, Australia are the current world champions- at being sore losers and whining. pathetic Aussies at their best !!

      • April 18th 2010 @ 10:37am
        Mr Cheese said | April 18th 2010 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Steady on, old bean.

        They don’t even have paella in England ! No paella !!!!!!!!!

      • April 18th 2010 @ 10:35pm
        Chris K said | April 18th 2010 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

        Well we learn from the best i.e England

    • April 18th 2010 @ 1:12am
      Dan said | April 18th 2010 @ 1:12am | ! Report

      I don’t like soccer/football much, but I agree. Gamesmanship happens in all sports, just ask All Blacks supporters about their thoughts on the French victory in 2007 and you’ll still hear cries about the unjustness of the forward pass that led to the try (and while I agree it was forward the all blacks ought to know you play to the whistle). I suppose with soccer it’s simply that the role of the referee feels so much greater because of how hard it can often be to score. In other sports the referee makes mistakes, but their influence on the game often seems to even out. In soccer however, if the referee makes one mistake that leads to a goal it can often be game over, and the instant replays immediately highlight whether or not he was right so his presence and influence feels much more significant.

    • April 18th 2010 @ 2:02am
      cruyff turn said | April 18th 2010 @ 2:02am | ! Report

      Adrian, I have to disagree with you here.

      I’m a strong supporter of our national team, and I’ve well and truly moved on from that game. S**t happens.

      Of course, it was heartbreaking at the time, but the disappointment gave way to extreme pride for the way we played in that tournament. I remember walking the streets of Brisbane early that morning, after shouting myself hoarse at the Normamby Hotel, proudly wearing my beer-soaked, cigarette-smelling Socceroo shirt. We as a footballing nation had finally won some respect.

      • April 18th 2010 @ 9:26pm
        Gaz said | April 18th 2010 @ 9:26pm | ! Report

        “…proudly wearing my beer-soaked, cigarette-smelling Socceroo shirt. We as a footballing nation had finally won some respect.”

        Interesting how you link those images.

    • April 18th 2010 @ 6:49am
      GG said | April 18th 2010 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      At least you admit Australia didn’t deserve to win the game but why not be completely honest and point it that it wasn’t actually a dive anyway AND Materazzi’s sending off was a disgrace.

      • April 19th 2010 @ 11:29am
        apaway said | April 19th 2010 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Because it WAS a dive and the send-off WASN’T a disgrace.

    • April 18th 2010 @ 8:08am
      Joe FC said | April 18th 2010 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Adrian what are you on about?

    • April 18th 2010 @ 8:19am
      hammer said | April 18th 2010 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      What no comment on the dumb defending from Neill ? Get in the real world – the challenge was reckless and contact was made – there’s no conspiracy and Aust weren’t hard done by

      • April 18th 2010 @ 9:08am
        clayton said | April 18th 2010 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Everybody forgives Neill for laying on the ground in his penalty box. There was contact. Grosso didn`t change direction. I don`t think it was a dive.

        • April 18th 2010 @ 1:29pm
          DERBY COUNTY FC said | April 18th 2010 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

          Anyone that dives in like that on an Italian deserves to go out of the WC whether they make contact or not.

          It’s just plain stupid and so predictable as to what was going to happen next.

      • April 18th 2010 @ 2:33pm
        Sam said | April 18th 2010 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

        Yeah it was an average tackle. When you attempt a tackle like that in the box you can’t cry when things don’t go your way. Grosso didn’t need to throw himself to the ground, but he should never have been given the opportunity to do so. Normally the ref gives the benefit of the doubt to the defending team in the box, but you can’t assume that they always will.

      • April 18th 2010 @ 9:32pm
        Gaz said | April 18th 2010 @ 9:32pm | ! Report

        Reminds me of a few fine defensive tackles by Gold Coast’s Bas Van Den Brink last season, actually. He was universally condemned for even attempting such tackles in the box, and yet replays showed he did everything right. Sadly, he copped penalties that cost us points, and everyone said you should never even attempt such tackles in the box.

        Well, you would hope a World Cup referee might be able to appreciate the finer points of the game. Alas, not true.

        But of course the ref was under all kinds of invisible pressure to ensure the Italians went through – any other result was almost unthinkable, and that was our biggest problem, but also our greatest asset.

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