Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Socceroos Heartbreak As Italians Did The Italian 'ROB'

Heartbreak, Socceroos....

Fritz Walter Stadion

Italy 1 - 0 Australia


ITA - F. Totti (pen 90+3 min);

Sent Off:
ITA - M. Materazzi (51min);

Dubious, dubious decisions by the referee yet again, for the gazillionth time in this World Cup. The standard of football is decent, but the refereeing standard is p*ss poor. A game decided by a penalty given 5 SECONDS before the final whistle? If it's a stonewall penalty then there won't be complain, but what a sh*t penalty to give away. I think any half-decent referee would have waved it away and let the game play on.

But this time the referee presumably melting in the summer heat, wants the game to end within 90 minutes and therefore awarded a dubious penalty right at the dot of full time and leaving Australia with no chance of a come-back.

Fabio Grosso, the Italian left back barged into the penalty box and Lucas Neil, who had an outstanding game tried to cover the angle by stretching his body wide and Grosso took the ball past him and he ran onto the body of Neil and fell over instead of what the referee believed, which is Lucas Neil fouled him. It was right at the end of the injury time and Francesco Totti stepped up and fired the penalty into the top right corner of Mark Schwarzer's net. Game over for the Aussies, who fought and contained the Italians well throughout the game and all you could say is, they're just pure unlucky.

In the starting 5 minutes of the game, the Australians made themselves feel at home with a whopping possesion percentage of 72% and were quick to close down the Italians when they're on the ball. Italians had no choice but to resort to long ball tactics and pumping balls to Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino. They did create a few decent chance with Toni and Gilardino coming close, but they were far too cautious for my liking and always had around 7-8 players within their own half. The referee made another shocking decision that is to sent off Marco Materazzi in the 51st minute.

To be honest I saw nothing but just a yellow card offence or did the ref sent him off for tackling his own player? He slid in and caught Zambrotta as well, so I presume it was for that offence. So Italians down to 10 men and they as anticipated, started their 'catenacio' mode and camped within their own half and left Del Piero and Iaquinta up front. To be very honest with you, the entire second half looked as if it was played in the Italian half with almost the entire Australian team surrounding the Italian turtle. But strange enough was that the Australians didn't try their luck and hit shots from range and instead, they tried to put ball into the Italian box, which was well-marshalled by captain fantatic, Fabio Cannavaro.

Other than the sporadic attack on the Australian goal, all they did was to soak up all the pressure from Australia and you have to wonder why the Aussies didn't try luck from range. Their killer balls in the box obviously doesn't work and crosses into the box are not really a big threat to them, with Buffon commanding the area brilliantly.

But sometimes you pay for not finishing the game off. Dilly-dallying with the ball and showed little urgency, the Italians got their chance from a dubious decision, but that's football, it's how you take you chances and putting the ball into the net, not how much possesion you have and how dominant you are. You might sympathise the Socceroos like I do, but to be honest they failed to turn their dominance into a goal and was punished. No matter how sh*t the referee 's decision might be, at the end of the day it's just about finishing your chances.

Credits to the Italians too. I might be harsh to say they robbed the Aussie, but they defended supremely and you could see why they're famed for their defensive tactic. Their formation when they're without the ball looked so compact and every players knows exactly where they must be positioned. Look at the number of passes cut out by the defence and crosses cleared and you could see that they're a strong defensive unit and are extremely disciplined. But defence won't win you games, so start scoring Italy, or the game against Switzerland or Ukraine is not going to be a walk in the park.

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