Robben's shady fall gets questionable call

Arjen Robben of the Netherlands celebrates after winning their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game...

Arjen Robben of the Netherlands celebrates after winning their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against Mexico at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza June 29, 2014. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:49 PM ET

RECIFE, Brazil - In the bowels of Arena Pernambuco, a group of Dutch media huddled around a TV screen in the stadium's media centre.

Awaiting Greece-Costa Rica, they watched at least five different replays of Dutch con artist Arjen Robben flop like dying fish following minimal contact.

But Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca, after seeing Mexican defender Rafa Marquez dive in, gave a penalty, ending Mexico's run when Klaas Jan Huntelaar converted from the spot to make it 2-1.

Cheers all around in the Recife press area. Well, at least the Dutch were cheering.

The rest of us were attempting to come up with reasons as to why it shouldn't have been a penalty.

For me, it was 50-50. I'd like to think most referees would swallow the whistle with the understanding the player was only looking for the penalty.

Further to that point, there are questions as to whether Robben could have made a play on the ball after pushing it past Marquez. After all, a group of Mexican defenders had it well-defended.

At full-time, Robben looked into the camera with a villainous smile. A cheat, to some, but still a winner.

He anticipated the contact and went swimming. This time it worked, later in the tournament it won't.

If anything, Mexican manager Miguel Herrera should have a go at his lazy defender for risking everything with a pointless challenge.

SOME ARE 'STUPID'

Message to pundits slamming Belgium's performance: Midfielder Kevin de Bruyne thinks you're stupid.

The Belgian play-maker has fired back at overly-critical media days before the Belgians meet the U.S. in the Round of 16, insisting teams aren't awarded style points at the World Cup.

"You will not find any easy games at this World Cup so I think it's a little bit stupid for people to say Belgium didn't play well," de Bruyne said, according to Goal.com.

Belgium claimed all nine points in a group containing Algeria, South Korea and Russia, with the North Africans giving them an early scare.

What some pundits forget is that it's more important to be playing your best soccer in the later stages of the tournament.

The Belgians, even after remaining perfect in their group, have yet to play their best game.

LIFE OR DEATH

A day after Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar rescued his nation's World Cup hopes, the stress Saturday's penalty kicks caused locals watching the heart-stopping second-round match in Belo Horizonte emerged.

Ironically, it was Cesar who mentioned post-game that he hoped to avoid another extra-time thriller in order to prevent his own family from "having a heart attack."

It seems it was too late for a few others.

A 69-year-old man at a bar close to the Mineirao Stadium died of heart failure after taking in Brazil's 3-2 shootout win over Chile, Sky News reported.

According to a local paper, at least 100 people had to be treated during the match.

"The Brazilian people needed this," Cesar said post-match. "We knew it was going to be tough."

Just imagine what would have happened if referee Howard Webb actually decided to enforce the rules.

I spoke with former U.S. national team 'keeper Kasey Keller briefly on Sunday. He agreed Cesar easily could have been called for coming off his line during penalty kicks.

LUGANO LOSES PLOT

Uruguayan defender Diego Lugano continues to support serial biter Luis Suarez.

Based on his most recent statements, people might be starting to question Lugano's mental state as much as his embattled teammate's.

After he gnawed on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini last week, FIFA issued Suarez a hefty four-month ban, ending his tournament.

“It’s a breach of human rights that a player cannot go into a stadium where there are 80,000 people or into a hotel with his teammates, that he cannot work for four months,” Lugano said. “He has committed a crime, but this is barbarity."

The simple reply: Most would consider someone who attacks another with their teeth barbaric, if not mentally ill.

"Not even a criminal would receive this penalty," Lugano finished.

Lugano's probably right. A three-time offender like Suarez would likely be locked away somewhere with padded walls and no windows.

J-ROD EARNING LABELS

Calls to exalt Colombian wonder kid James Rodriguez into soccer folklore are a bit premature.

Need I remind you of the plethora of South American players who have been built up to extreme heights only to fall back down to earth?

"I've seen him play for a while," Uruguayan manager Oscar Tabarez said following his team's World Cup exit. "Those who do things which have nothing to do with life experience -- (Diego) Maradona, (Lionel) Messi, (Luis) Suarez -- they do things because they have certain gifts that make them special ... I don't think I'm exaggerating."

The 22-year-old Monaco striker has four goals this World Cup, one of them will likely be the goal of the tournament in a 2-0 second-round win over Uruguay.

But winning a Golden Boot doesn't necessarily lift you to the top of the ladder. If that were the case, everyone would constantly be raving about Germany's Thomas Mueller.

Rodriguez doesn't even fall within the top three for me. Not yet, at least.

"In my long experience, I've had extraordinary players, elite ones of a high technical level," Colombian manager Jose Pekerman said, according to ESPN. "James scores important goals."

With a quarterfinal match against Brazil looming large, one of those "important" goals will start to turn even more heads.

LAST WORD

The most intense environments in CONCACAF pale in comparison to taking in an all-South America match here in Brazil, a mini Copa America Brazilian reporters are beginning to call it.

I've been to San Pedor Sula, Honduras.

Panama City, Panama, too.

Both are environments that can paralyze the opposition.

At the Mineirao Stadium, however, it was as if a grenade exploded in the vicinity when Brazil opened the scoring.

It leaves your ears ringing as you attempt to collect yourself and take in what you're witnessing.


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