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Good on ya, mate. June 27, 2006

Posted by Abhishek in Abhishek, Football WC.

I am writing this after watching the Aussies go out to due to an extremely hopeless decision for a penalty in the dying seconds of their game against Italy. Agreed, the decision was hopeless and completely wrong, but even though I was strongly strongly rooting for the Aussies (reasons for which might come later someday) I will not criticize the referee.

In fact I will remind the Italians of the events of KJ – 2002, when the Ecuadorian referee who made some really appalling decisions against them, sending Korea into the semi-finals. The fact remains that, that experience has still not been erased out of the Italian public’s mind. They cried hoarse for retribution against another Guus Hiddink side, the burly Gold and Green clad Australia. If victory was what they cried for, then they got it – but retribution? far from it.

At the end of the game, a victory in such a manner was poor revenge indeed. Outplayed and maybe outclassed, the Italians had nothing to offer, apart from a few tresses to the ogling teenage girls across the world. Del Piero, not even that, courtesy a brutally shaven head. The Aussies harried and they hustled, and in the end, did not even complain. The irrepressible Lucas Neill, one of Australia’s best players of the tournament, and the rock in defence unfortunately would be the one who would give away the penalty. Even he, only had a mild chat with the referee at the end of the game.

What, I want to say to the Italians is this. Sport is indeed much more than winning. Its being graceful in victory and even more graceful in defeat. That is why the Courbetin Medal is worth more than the gold medal in the Olympic Games. The Italians I am afraid do not understand this. The recent allegations of match-fixing (which might lead to an unthinkable relegation for the top clubs like Juventus & AC Milan ) in the Serie A are testament to this fact that Italians are good at the game, not at the sport. Daniele De Rossi’s ban for his horrible elbow on USA’s Brain McBride is another example to justify this fact.

It’s time, the Italians realize that, in sport, sometimes decisions go your way, sometimes they don’t. Whatever the stakes, this does not mean one has the license to masquerade around like nine-pins going down at the slightest push, or for that matter push and stamp opponents behind the referee’s back. You might get away with it sometimes, but the sport will catch up one day, and then there will be no place to hide.

As for the game, any neutral observer will point out that it will be the Aussies who will walk out the side with their heads held higher, under a coach, who could well go on to write another fable-story with his next employers. Far from the sunny Bondi beach, in the cold and shivering climes of Russia.



1. samratsengupta - June 27, 2006

I think there was some merit in the penalty, it wasnt that he was lying there injured or tired, he had come for a tackle and had been fooled completely by Grosso’s dribble, and laid sprawling in his path, obstructing him from getting to the ball doesnt matter intentionally or unintentionally, he even lifted his head and hand up. Poor Grosso had no way to go. So penalty.

Italy showed lots of grit with their ten men in holding the Aussies at bay, and even tried to attack at times, rather than just shutting shop and waiting for the penalties, where they had an edge courtesy Buffon.
I believe Italy deserved the luck following the injustice done to them last time.

But Aussies must hold their head high, they showed that they can compete with the best. Their behavior at the end was impeccable considering the tragic end. I even saw Neill going up to the referee shaking his hand and exchanging a few polite words (hopefully).
How different from their Cricketing brethren.

2. Abhishek - June 27, 2006

i really really disagree. Gross “fell over” the hapless Neill. In fact he was trying his best to get out of the way after a failed tackle attempt. Grosso made the most of this and went down. And really Samrat for a team of Italy’s calibre, there were quite hopeless even when they had 11 men on the team. Agreed that they created the best chances early on, but then, there was no crisp passing nor anything really notable to write home about.

“Italy deserved the luck following the injustice done to them last time.”

exactly. That happens all the time in sport, things even out, maybe the Aussie will get some lucky decisions in future. All I am saying is that the Italians should not cry foul, esp. as vigorously as they did last time (with Parma firing Ang Jung etc.) – they need to become good sportspersons, not just good players.

3. The Piker - June 27, 2006

Correction: It’s Daniele De Rossi not Paolo.
About the penalty: you could see the smile on Grosso’s face and even
pumping of fists as if saying,”Yes! Ive Done it!” .

“Italy deserved the luck following the injustice done to them last time.”
that is the most ridculous thing to say. Justice may be done in some cases and it may not be. But it cannot be said to justify the penalty.
On hindsight we could say that italy were hard done by the harsh red card decision and in a way they could have felt justice, but barring 5-6 good chances blown away to poor finishing a 0-0 result at full time could have been a fair result to Aus. the manner of the aussie exit is the most saddening thing, giving them no chance of getting back in the game.

4. Bharat Maheshwari - June 27, 2006

Mate, from where I saw..I think it was a penalty. And I also read from a few aussie fans on BBC Sport blog that they agree with it. Its harsh yo got out on a penalty…but its the rule and you go by it.
Italians are rusty, as you say. But you must also agree that crisp passing and beautiful game has never been Italy’s game. You are expecting Argentinian game from Italy then you are mistaken. Historically, they have played the game of defensive ‘catenaccio’ system. One chance and they are off.
By the way, that Ang Jung firing, there is a story behind it. This guy Ahn was in Palermo (not Parma) on loan from his Asian side and his loan was expiring. He was about to go back to his side anyways. But the devious Palermo chairman, who was not doing too well, decided to cash in some cheap publicity to boost this business. So he said that he has fired Ahn, when for a start Ahn was not their player at all !! At best, he could teminate the loan deal prematurely…no more. The stories of this chairman in Italy are legendary. When Lazio win their League in 1999 or something, Juventus needed only a draw on last game against Palermo to win the title. So this chairman/owner called his squad and told them that he does most of his business in Rome (where Lazio is) and does not wish to displease them. So he told them to better win against Juve or be sent to pre-season training in China with no summer vacation. Guess who won!! 😉

5. Bharat Maheshwari - June 27, 2006

Sorry, Perugia, not Palermo…

6. samratsengupta - June 27, 2006

Nice insights Bharat. Didnt know all this stuff.
Just goes to show the murky world of Italian soccer, as Abhishek had also mentioned.

Regarding my statement “Italy deserved the luck following the injustice done to them last time.”
it is not justifying the penalty, for that I gave other reasons. It was just a follow up on Abhishek’s statements about revenge retribution etc. it is a generic statement on Italy’s fate in the last few WCs.
Italy has had a raw deal
in 90 going out on penalties to a pathetic Argentina
94, losing again on penalties
98 – guess what!!
02 – as mentioned
so guess finally some luck running their way. therefore the statement.
So kindly do not ridicule it.

7. The Piker - June 27, 2006

I am sorry about using the word ridiculous in conjunction with your comments. Its got more to do with what i had told a friend of mine when I had a similar argument when he said that hiddink deserved it.
Though losing on penalty shootouts is not injustice as is a refereeing error to which they were victims in the Korea Japan WC – the Italians were hard done by the sending off of totti in that game. Just one occasion in recent times. Yes, losing in penalty shootouts consistently amounts to bad luck probably, more than injustice, but also poses serious questions on their abilities to finish off opponents in normal time. With all their fancied might and flair their commitment to the catenaccio style worked for them for many years primarily due to the presence of good finishers, something which they lacked in this world cup(Inzaghi didnt play in the Aus game and was coming back from injury). In pressure situations and when a team has to attack from the very go it becomes hard to change a style that was built on the having a well organized and strong defence.
For teams like Brazil Argentina the Dutch and even England, traditionally, their instinct has been to attack. Whereas for the Italians the emphasis lies on organizing their defence first and hitting teams on the break. They are pastmasters of scoring with minimum opportunities and then shutting the doors.

However, this strategy becomes difficult when faced with defensively strong teams, which they eventually face as they progress in the tournament. Inspite of the presence of creative players the mentality stifles them. A case in point was Rivaldo’s failure to cope with the Serie A when he moved to AC Milan.

Anyways, thats a longish comment that could have been a post… though inspite of supporting Australia I donot grudge the progress of the Italians in the WC. They deserve something after a turbulent few weeks preceding the WC.

8. samratsengupta - June 27, 2006

It is fine Piker. No offence taken. All part of a healthy discussion we are having.

Yes I agree with the point that Italians, find it difficult to finish off opponents due to their style of play, and also though they have lost in the penalty shoot-outs of so many cups, they actually did not look like the best team on display,except in the 1990 WC, where a Italy-Germany final would have been a classic.

This year Italy started off decently, Lippi is more attack minded, but are finding it tough in the later rounds, because of deficient strike power, also playmakers like Totti and Del Piero are past their prime now. Still they should reach the semis and then hope to play defensively and eke out a stalemate and hope their luck changes finally in the shootout.
Though I sincerely hope it should not happen this way.

9. Anonymous - June 27, 2006
10. Abhishek - June 27, 2006

change made. (Daniele De Rossi)

and thanks Bharat for that quite wonderful story.

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