Slakr: Italy’s winner, fair or foul?

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Slakr‘s mortified by the ending of one of the best games so far in the World Cup. While Italy probably deserved to win after missing a string of key chances, the sheer opportunism of Fabio Grosso leaves a bad taste.

I’ve already written one article on how impressed I’ve been with the Aussies in this World Cup. And that was before their staggering performance against Croatia. So it was with very mixed emotions that I approached today’s early game between Australia and Italy. Italy inspire mixed feelings in just about everyone I think — its hard not to want them to do well after they were cheated out of the previous World Cup by a string of incredible decisions (how many other countries can claim to have had five goals disallowed in three games — most of them perfectly legal on review?) while Totti’s comeback puts Rooney’s to shame.

So I was staggeringly pleased with the first 50 minutes of this game. Australia had their share of possession, and Italy had the better of the opportunities. It was flowing, beautiful football. There were hard tackles, but it wasn’t a violent game by any stretch. The red card changed the nature and tone of the game, but it was still a great spectale and the sense of belief that it could go either way added to the excitement.

After 90+ minutes of quality, its shattering to have the game end with a questionable penalty instead of on the merits of play. Lucas Neill slid in unneccesarily without a doubt but he was on the ground, Grosso was up, and had gotten the ball around him. Opportunistically choosing to catch his foot on the prone defender probably doesn’t qualify as cheating, but certainly wasn’t in the same spirit as the rest of the match and that’s what really disappoints me.

Had he taken the ball, curled it in past Mark Schwarzer, this would have been the perfect end to yet another perfect game at what is shaping up to be close to a perfect World Cup (refereeing aside).