“ROBBED! Dirty diving Italians…”, I smsed to a few of my friends this morning (my wife is Italian so there was no racism intended in my remarks). I was of course mentioning Australia’s loss to Italy at the 2006 World Cup, due to a dubious referee decision, in the 92nd minute of their Round of 16 encounter. What a shattering way to be bundled out!
Australia had played especially well in the first half, applying great pressure to the Italian backs but not able to convert. Mark Schwarzer was playing great for Australia, having already saved a number of shots on goal by the Azzurri. Italy also had some beautiful attempts on goal with Luca Toni looking particularly dangerous with his control of the ball in the air and the ground superb:
The 2nd half started and in the 50th minute Italy lost Marco Materazzi to a red card for a challenge on Australian Marco Bresciano – on replay it appeared that Materazzi had actually tripped up another Italian player but off the field he was sent. I’m no believer in karma but fate would have it that this incorrect decision would be evened before the end of the game.
For the next 43+ minutes, Australia tried to penetrate Italy’s defensive line but just couldn’t find a way in or if they did get in, couldn’t execute a kick/header to score that elusive goal. With only 10 men on the pitch, Italy did well in their half and relied on a counter attacking game for offence – this lead to several advances into Australia’s box but the defenders managed to stop all attempts.
Then disaster struck. 3 minutes into injury time and 8 seconds from the end of the game, Fabio Grosso broke into the Australian box by getting around Bresciano. Lucas Neill came forward and tackled Grosso who flung himself to the ground, in a deliberate dive, after making contact to Neill’s body with his left foot:
Referee Luis Medina Cantalejo signalled a penalty kick and Francesco Totti slotted the ball past Schwarzer with ease:
Photo: Getty Images
And thus ended Australia’s gallant efforts, in spectacular circumstances, at the 2006 World Cup. No doubt, it shouldn’t have been a penalty kick but Australia shouldn’t have let itself get in to that situation – their defence had started to lighten up as their went all out for victory in normal time.
Still, at the end of the day, Australia should be proud to have been in the Round of 16 and can hold its head up high to have kept Italy 0-0 for 90+ minutes of the game. Well done Socceroos, well done!