Pedro Proenca of Portugal is no outsider, like the Tunisian ref who went for the blatant Maradona punched goal in 1986.
Proenca has handled Cameroon-Croatia and Japan-Colombia in this World Cup and also Bayern Munich-Chelsea in the Champions League and Spain-Italy in the Euro tournament.
He should know cynical flopping when it happens a few steps away from him.
Proenca should have seen the minimal and intentional contact from Arjen Robben of the Netherlands to Rafa Marquez of Mexico for what it was – an attempt to game the ref.
Robben, who had the most energy on the field in the last 20 minutes, also had the wits to hook his foot onto the leg of Marquez, who is no angel but in that case was not about to do anything brutal. The ref saw Robben tumble and gave the Netherlands a penalty kick – and the match.
The ref was suckered.
The flop and PK and the 2-1 victory put the Netherlands into the quarterfinal and made the result look like another Mexico fold in the Round of 16, but the Mexicans made a long and valiant trip from nearly being eliminated in regional play.
There is no grand moral to this. It proves nothing good or bad about soccer. Diving is a fact of life. Smart players work the ref. Most refs wave “play on” most of the time on a play just like that.
Mexico got itself in trouble by not being able to keep the Dutch occupied on the other end of the field. Chicharito Hernandez in to help hold a 1-0 lead? No, señor. And in my den, I called the big sub, Huntelaar, as a menace up front against the smaller Mexicans late in the match. But still…
The Mexican keeper, Memo Ochoa, deserved better. Mexico is done, but Ochoa remains a candidate for best keeper in this tournament.
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Another observation: the ESPN broadcasters, Fernando Palomo and Alejandro Moreno, have been superb -- supple in English, speaking in concepts and original thoughts, a distinct difference from the English broadcasters who call the action.
Is there something wrong with me that I cannot tell the British voices apart? They often seem to be calling the classic Monty Python Philosophers’ World Cup: “Beckenbauer obviously a bit of a surprise there.” I hope Palomo and Moreno are through to the late rounds. I hope Pedro Proenca is not.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.