After drawing a match-deciding penalty to knock Mexico out of the World Cup, Dutch forward Arjen Robben has admitted that he flopped trying to draw a penalty.
But there is a catch. Robben was fessing up to a dive in the first half.
“I must apologise,” Robben told the media. “The one [at the end] was a penalty, but the other one was a dive in the first half. I shouldn’t be doing that.”
While replays do show that Rafa Marquez stepped on Robben’s foot in the 94th minute, there are a couple of ways that the first-half flop could have impacted the call that ultimately led to the win for Netherlands. It also shows why so many players blatantly exaggerate fouls looking for calls.
The biggest factor is that Robben was not given a yellow card for diving. If Robben had been cautioned for simulation earlier in the game, he may have been less likely to act like he was shot by a sniper later in the game.
If Robben doesn’t exaggerate the foul late in the game, he probably doesn’t get the call and the game would have likely gone to extra time and possibly penalty kicks.
The other factor was what Alexi Lalas described on ESPN as “the cumulative effect.” Lalas speculated that the referee may have felt additional pressure to make the call in the 94th minute after not awarding a penalty kick for possible fouls earlier in the game.
In other words, if the referee thought the earlier flops were borderline fouls, he may have consciously or subconsciously decided to give Robben the benefit of the doubt at the end of the game after giving Mexico the benefit of the doubt earlier.
Ultimately, it is hard to blame players for flopping if the act continues to help teams win matches. Until the referees start penalising the flops, there is no reason to stop, and we will continue to see them at the World Cup.
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