Ref helps send Italy to World Cup quarterfinals |

Ref helps send Italy to World Cup quarterfinals

For 90 minutes the Australians battled the mighty Italians. Even before Spanish referee Medina Cantalejo ejected Marco Materazzi for a rather questionable tackle, leaving Italy with 10 men, the Aussies were keeping things tight.

Perhaps the strongest underdog of the Cup weathered the Italian offense.

Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer made more than one key save, and his back line gave up nothing, allowing the Australian attack opportunities to do what it has done throughout the first round ” be dangerous on set pieces and counter attacks.

Even an ocean and continent away, in front of a television screen, a feeling that the Australians were going to make something happen ” were going to score in overtime and defeat mighty Italy ” was almost tangible in the air.

Cantalejo had other ideas.

In the last few seconds of the three-minute injury time, Cantalejo handed Italy the 1-0 victory, gift wrapped and sitting on a silver platter.

It was a dive in the box by Fabio Grosso on a well-delivered tackle from Lucas Neill that gave Francesco Totti the opportunity to bury a penalty.

There wasn’t even a kickoff after Totti buried the ball in the left side of the net.

The game was simply over, leaving the Australians to sit on the pitch as if they had just been struck down in an instant by a bolt of lightning.

Sometimes there just is no justice.

Australia may not have boasted a flamboyant attack, or cheeky moves and unorthodox runs, but they were beyond solid.

The boys from Down Under had the makings of a world-shocking underdog, with a solid, hard-working back line in front of a reliable goalkeeper. It was the group and individual defending of the entire Australian side that made them dangerous.

That and their potency on set pieces.

Giving away a corner kick to Australia was often to give away a shot on goal.

These two strengths, a solid defense and an unpredictable, and at times unstoppable, offense equal a team capable of knocking off virtually any opponent.

The Aussies proved that against Italy.

They kept themselves in the game and pushed the 10-man Italian side into a position of extra time, threatening their fitness.

The quarterfinals looked to be a very legitimate scenario for the Australians.

Sometimes there just is no justice.

One wonders how much the Italian government paid Cantalejo for the game.

In the end, Italy, with its pride and tradition, retained its status as a powerhouse.

The Italians move on to the quarterfinals, and before long, their “victory” over the Aussies will be forgotten. People will only remember that they won.

But those who saw the game should remember. They should remember a hard-working Australian side. And they should remember a referee named Cantalejo, who won the game for the Italians.

Alex Close is a sportswriter with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at

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