Have to agree with Tim Bray on the disappointing lack of ethics in the World Cup. It seems strange to be talking about football and ethics, but that is exactly the word that came to mind watching the very professional Italians last night:

Disappointed · In the ethics of the players. This is the fucking World Cup, what’s with the grabbing and clutching and above all the diving?

The Italy/NZ game was full of appalling cynical diving by the Italians, especially in the first half, including one that led to a penalty. The slightest nudge or touch (or even no contact at all) would send the Italian players sprawling on the ground like they’d been shot. The ref seemed to be biased toward or intimidated by the football superpower on all those dodgy appeals. At one point it looked like NZ were going to start an all-in rugby-style brawl they were so peeved - that would have been something to see! 

All the ‘simulation’ makes me wonder if the players are coached to dive. Do they have training sessions where professional divers demonstrate the best method to convince the ref? Surely they must, so universal are the reactions: clutching the side of your head, or clawing at your ankles, and the ubiquitous triple roll along the turf. We need some undercover investigative journalism to find out. 

It also seems to be cultural - some nations have it down to a fine art, milking every opportunity. Others rarely go down, or if they do they hop straight up and get on with it. One of the joys of watching Messi play is that despite being hacked to pieces, and hence having a legitimate reason to go down, he manages to stay on his feet and keep weaving his way to goal. It’s either a personal philosophy of his to stay up, or he’s worked out that by staying up he often ends up in a better position that when going to ground.