Arjen Robben made a mistake. No, not diving -- a habitual act of folly perpetrated by the fast Netherlands forward -- against Mexico. It was Robben, while casting himself as an honest man, acknowledging afterward that he dove. (Which literally makes it an honest mistake.)
As any good coach would, Jorge Luis Pinto used media interviews before his Costa Rica team's quarterfinals run-in with the Dutch to harp on Robben's theatrical falling. Any dive today, he suggested, deserves a yellow card.
The concept of working the ref before a big sports event is a prominent chapter in the coaching manual. In basketball, it might be drawing attention to an opposing player prone to get away with fouling or traveling. In American football, it's an offensive lineman whose holding infractions go undetected. In baseball, it's a pitcher who has wangled a liberal strike zone, earning favorable calls on borderline pitches.
Robben's face-plant after some casual contact with a Mexican defender that drew a dubious penalty call late in the round-of-16 match and rescued the Dutch in a 2-1 win was an obvious exaggeration, even if a foul was committed.
Robben's confession -- which was not related to that dive but an earlier one -- prompted FIFA to pretend to investigate the claim -- what could it do? -- and predictably imposed no punishment.
But Robben's acknowledgment and FIFA's pseudo-probe, followed by Pinto's remarks that will put the player in the spotlight, could be impactful. Would a diving-averse Robben be thrown off his game?
With referee Irmatov Ravshan, any histrionics might go for naught anyway. In eight career Cup matches, he has yet to award a penalty kick.