It pays off to try and cheat in football matches. It doesn’t mean that Rafa Marquez didn’t foul Arjen Robben in that highly controversial decision deep into injury time that won the match for the Netherlands against Mexico. What it does mean that if you want to do well in the World Cup, having someone who isn’t shy of diving and attempting to cheat on the team doesn’t hurt.
We’ve seen plenty of officiating mistakes in this tournament, but I don’t think Pedro Proenca was wrong when he called for a penalty kick in the 93rd minute, as Marquez slightly stepped on a twisting and turning Robben in the penalty box. Robben was looking for contact. A tackle missed him a second earlier. He knew there wasn’t enough there to dive and win a penalty. So he waited for contact and leaped into the air.
Mexico are claiming they were robbed. The decision coming so late in the match after Mexico led for almost the entire second half magnifies the pain and feeling of justice not being dealt. However, if it comes down to being fair, Robben was fouled twice in the first half in a manner that should have awarded the Dutch with a penalty kick. In the second half he gave another one of his embarrassing dives twice as two defenders took the ball away from him on the edge of the box.
Referees who make mistakes early on shouldn’t compensate for them later in the match. We never know what is the decision process inside a referees head. They are human beings, and it’s only natural to assume that if they’re aware of making a mistake, there’s a good chance they’ll try and rectify it a bit later on. That’s not good officiating, but that’s how it works too many times.
So whatever the reason for it – actually seeing a foul or simply feeling like he needed to make things right, Proenca called for the penalty kick, Huntelaar converted, the rest is history. Mexico can complain all the want. The truth is that falling back in the final 30 minutes of the match instead of keeping up their attacking attitude from most of the match was just as costly. But it’s easier to blame the official.
And Robben? He dives whenever he can. Officials seem to be hesitant for booking players when it comes to diving in this World Cup. Maybe a directive from their FIFA overlords. It pays off to dive and make the most of even the slightest touch. It might not be manly, fair or a good example, but it wins matches, which is what these players are on the pitch for.