RIO DE JANEIRO — Arjen Robben said sorry for one first-half dive against Mexico. Just don’t expect another apology from the Netherlands forward just for being himself.
Robben said Monday he won’t change his playing style or personality after winning the decisive stoppage-time penalty in the Netherlands’ 2-1 win against Mexico.
Robben provoked a furor after Sunday’s second-round match by telling Dutch broadcaster NOS he had dived in a first-half incident, though not for the penalty when he was challenged by Mexico captain Rafa Marquez.
“I don’t change myself, that is my personality. I think it’s good,” Robben said Monday, appearing calm, smiling and relaxed at a team news conference.
The Dutch forward simply said he had been “very honest” in the television interview.
“Sometimes you are punished for honesty,” said Robben, acknowledging it had been “a stupid action” to fall without contact.
“There was one foul in the first half where I went to the ground because I thought he would tackle me. It didn’t have any influence on the game,” he said.
FIFA called for fair play on Monday, but declined to take any retrospective action for the dive or subsequent comments.
FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said its disciplinary committee only “will look into serious infringements.”
“We ask the players to play in the spirit of fair play,” Fischer said. “It’s up to the referees to manage a match.”
Asked if he feared disciplinary action from FIFA, Robben said: “Not at all. Why?”
Robben’s fall in the penalty box earned the penalty which substitute Klaas Jan Huntelaar converted in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
It ensured that the Netherlands will play Costa Rica in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Salvador.
The Robben incidents reignited a debate on diving, flopping and falling that began in the opening match of the tournament — a subject which seems to unite fans in anger and players in accepting it is part of the game.
On June 12, Brazil forward Fred won a penalty by falling under minimal contact from a Croatia defender. His action created the chance for Neymar to score the spot-kick, and take a 2-1 lead in an eventual 3-1 win.
Croatia’s coach Niko Kovac did not blame Fred for falling, instead turning his anger on Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura for awarding the penalty.
“I think we have to be realistic with each other,” Robben said, when asked if players’ views of diving controversies differ from fans and media.
Diving, or simulation, as FIFA calls it, has become increasingly common in recent years as players have become more and more talented at tricking referees into thinking they have been fouled.
FIFA’s attempts to stamp it out with automatic cautions for simulation have been undermined by referees failing to show yellow cards for the offence if they are unsure if a player’s fall was play-acting.
A simple trip is not as simple as it appears. Attackers have learned how to hook their feet around a defender’s leg, making it look to the referee as they have been tripped. The hapless defender, guilty of nothing, suddenly finds himself ruled to have tripped the attacker and a penalty is given.
Referees are aware that players like Robben have perfected the art of tricking them.
They are no longer tricked by his dramatic falls; arms outstretched, back arched as though flying through the air. But they have fallen victim to trips that are not trips, when contact between an attacker and defender is so minimal that there is no reason for the attacker to fall to the ground appealing for a penalty.
There is little doubt that Robben did not need to fall to the ground when touched by Marquez on Sunday. But he did. And he earned himself the match-winning penalty for the Netherlands.
It provoked fury in the entire nation of Mexico, which saw its team exit in the Round of 16 for the sixth straight World Cup.
That Robben admitted to an inconsequential dive earlier in the match did not appease the Mexicans.
“I gave my fair opinion,” Robben said. “Everybody can give their opinion — that is the nice thing about football.”