Football

Mexico blame Robben and referee for exit

Coach Herrera slams referee for exit, Robben admits to diving in the first half but insists he was fouled for the winning penalty

ROUND OF 16

HOLLAND 2

(Wesley Sneijder 88, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar 90+4-pen)

MEXICO 1

(Giovanni dos Santos 48)

Arjen Robben won a controversial late penalty, as Holland staged an incredible last-gasp fightback to beat Mexico 2-1 and advance to the quarter-finals this morning (Singapore time).

Bayern Munich star Robben - regularly accused of going to ground too easily throughout his career - tumbled to the turf in injury time after making contact with Mexico defender Rafael Marquez.

Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca pointed to the spot and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar stepped up to bury the winning penalty.

It came just moments after Wesley Sneijder had scored an 88th-minute equaliser to cancel out Giovani dos Santos' superb goal for Mexico in the 48th minute.

The epic finale settled a second-round battle played in furnace-like conditions at Fortaleza's Castelao Arena.

Mexico coach Miguel Herrera lashed out at referee Proenca for awarding the penalty.

"It seems to me the reason (we lost) was the referee, the man with the whistle. He left us outside the next stage of the World Cup," Herrera (above) said after the match.

"If the referee starts marking fouls that don't exist, you leave the World Cup due to circumstances out of your hands. We expect the referee committee to take a look at that and that this gentleman goes home, just like us."

Robben, however, insisted Proenca had been right to award the penalty, telling Dutch broadcaster NOS: "I was fouled."

But the Dutch forward did admit to a dive in an unsuccessful attempt to win a penalty earlier in the first half.

"I really have to say and, at the same time, apologise in the first half I took a dive and I really shouldn't do that," Robben said.

"That was a stupid, stupid thing to do but, sometimes, you're expecting to be struck and then they pull their leg away at the last minute."

With victory in their grasp on a scorching afternoon at the Castelao Arena, the defeat was a particularly sore one for Mexico.

"It's a World Cup where everything was against Mexico... Out of the four matches that we had, three of them were referee disasters... Unfortunately, we didn't achieve what we wanted," Herrera said.

PRICKLY

The Mexico boss was perhaps understandably prickly about the officiating going into the game, after his side had two goals harshly disallowed in their opening match against Cameroon, and a strong penalty appeal turned down against Croatia.

He said the spot-kick for the Dutch could also have been avoided had Robben been booked for diving earlier in the game, suggesting the winger may not have risked going down so easily under the challenge of Marquez for the late penalty.

"He dived three times - he should have cautioned him the first time," said Herrera, who also questioned why Proenca had been selected for the game, suggesting a referee from Africa, Asia or South America would have been fairer.

"I'm happy and calm about the performance of the boys... We'd done really well. Then the team sit back and we start to give chances to a team that had not done anything.

"(But) with the assistance of the referee, they came up with this result that takes Holland to the next stage.

"We will leave tomorrow or the day after. We hope that referee does as well." 
- Wire Services.

DEBATE ON THE MODERN 'FOUL'

Mexico defender Rafael Marquez stuck his foot out and Holland winger Arjen Robben went down for an injury-time penalty that took his team into the World Cup quarter-finals with a 2-1 win this morning (Singapore time).

Did Robben dive or was he fouled by Marquez?

Or - to ask the fashionable question that evades the issue of whether it was actually a foul - was there "contact"?

If there was contact, was it the result of the Mexican's movement or Robben's ability to connect with the defender?

Those were the judgments Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca had to make in the final seconds of an intense game played in baking heat in Fortaleza with a last-eight place on the line.

Who would be a referee? Of course, the partisan took predictable positions on the incident but it was hard to find consensus among the neutrals.

It does not help that Robben has dived frequently in the past and had been clearly looking for a penalty in this game.

But then, the Dutch could argue, with some justification, that he should have had a spot-kick earlier in the game and also highlight how, not long before the penalty, he had skipped over a lunging Marquez as he tried, in vain, to score.

Of course, it could be pointed out that what happened previously should have no bearing whatsoever on Proenca's evaluation of the incident.

Critics would say Marquez was reckless or naive to stick out his foot with Robben moving away from goal, leaving Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to score the spot-kick and put the Dutch through. But the question now being asked is: Has the game reached the stage where a defender is not allowed to even attempt a tackle in the penalty area because it may risk "contact" that would justify a penalty kick?

TOO RISKY

The answer is "yes". A defender, in modern football, cannot risk contact with an opponent in the penalty area because if it results in a fall, even an embellished one, the referee will probably give a penalty.

In the NBA, it is called "drawing the foul" and is universally accepted, but modern football has not found the vocabulary for it nor the acceptance of the "dive after contact".

The crucial difference is that in basketball, the punishment for such fouls is a couple of free-throws with two points available in a game with a total of about 200 points scored.

In football, "drawing the foul" can - and does - decide the outcome.

Video technology is often presented as the solution for most refereeing problems but it offers little help in these cases.

When you listen to the modern professional players talk about such incidents, they will accept that a player has "made the most of it" by falling but, if there was some sort of contact, an exaggerated collapse is now viewed as justified.

If the game is not happy with that state of affairs, then it needs to do some hard thinking about how it might change the rules or their interpretation in order to deal with the problem.

The pendulum seems to have shifted too far in favour of the attacker in these situations and, while there is no obvious quick-fix solution, rewarding embellishment seems an unsatisfactory status quo. - Reuters.

Marquez: Robben told me 
it's not a penalty

Mexico's captain Rafael Marquez claims Arjen Robben admitted to him that the Dutch forward should not have been awarded the penalty that decided this morning's (Singapore time) last-16 clash.

Marquez said in comments that were translated from Spanish that Robben told him after the game in the players' changing area "that it wasn't a penalty, though one of the previous (tackles) was".

The Dutch forward went down several times in the box, with replays suggesting at least one of the incidents could well have been given as a penalty.

"I believe it was not a penalty," Marquez added, of the last-gasp action that cost his team the game. "I felt I touched the ground but I didn't touch him - maybe he touched me."

The Mexico captain said that Robben, 30, had abused the spirit of the game.

"For 10 fouls that he receives, he lets himself fall over for five, and that's not fair play," Marquez said. - Reuters.

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