Euro 2012: Arjen Robben and the Biggest Diver on Each Side in Poland & Ukraine
When a world football player commits a dive, he is not only showing off his athletic ability, but also his acting skills.
Some dives are Oscar-worthy, while others would make Stanislavsky roll over in his grave. Either way, dives turn pitches into theaters, and there are no bigger stages than the ones in Poland and Ukraine for Euro 2012.
Let’s take a break from the athletic action and take a look at the acting skills of the biggest divers for each team.
Russia: Alexander Anyukov
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Alexander Anyukov has been carded for diving a few times in his career—most recently in Russia’s 1-0 win over Liechtenstein—but what is more interesting are the excuses that surround his dives.
After going down in the Liechtenstein box, Anyukov was booked for simulation. After the game, Igor Semshov supported his teammate, saying that the foreign referees were biased against the Russian team. It was an Irish referee (David McKeon) who booked Anyukov for diving rather than giving Russia a penalty.
This is not a new excuse for Russian players. In fact, they said the same thing in the 1997 World Cup qualifier.
Whether the referee was biased or not, it sure looked like a dive.
Greece: Giorgos Karagounis
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Giorgos Karagounis—one of the most loved world football players in Greece—is known for his leadership skills, work ethic, and diving. However, unlike most countries, Greece loves “Kara” for it.
Although his legs have started to age, his devotion to the art of simulation has remained. On the road to the 2010 World Cup, Karagounis missed a few matches due to dives.
Fast-forward to 2012 and the European Championship, Karagounis seems to have quieted down his simulation tendencies, but his incredibly national pride may cause him to pull a few strategic dives to advance in the tournament.
Poland: Ludovic Obraniak
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Ludovic Obraniak makes this list as the biggest diver for the Polish team. While playing for Lille, Obraniak has been awarded several yellow cards for diving.
After a stalemate against Greece in the first round, Poland will take on Russia next.
However, it’s not the potential penalties on the field that has fans talking, but rather the possibilities off the field.
Police in Warsaw are increasing their security before the Poland versus Russia match because of the political difference between the countries. That coupled with the countries’ reputation for violence are creating a need for concern.
So, on Tuesday watch out for dives by Obraniak on the field, and dives by police in the stands.
Czech Republic: Milan Baros
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It’s times like this when fans wish that instant replay could be used to overturn a referee’s call.
Baros was on a breakaway and charged at the United goalkeeper (Thomasz Kuzczack) only to collide with Kuzczack and fall to the ground. The poor United goalkeeper was met with a red card, and Baros was labeled a victim.
However, Baros was not victim.
The only thing he was actually guilty of was fooling the referee. The replay shown later on TV detailed how Kuzczack never actually touched Baros. Instead, the Czech got away with murder—in this case, an epic dive.
Germany: Mesut Ozil
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Mesut Ozil is proof that cheaters actually win some times.
However, Ozil was booked for diving and given a yellow card. Ozil collapsed to the ground after a tackle and upon looking up at the referee; Ozil was met with a penalty instead of sympathy.
It was a fairly normal dive that put Ozil on this list, but it was a result of the high stakes of the World Cup, so who’s to say it won’t happen again on the Euro 2012 stage?
Denmark: Christian Poulsen
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While Christian Poulsen is obviously good with his feet, he also proved to be great with his hands too. In the Euro 2008 qualifier, Poulsen proved to be quite the hothead when he punched Sweden’s Markus Rosenburg, which led to calls for Poulsen to be criminally charged.
Poulsen is coming into Euro 2012 after a failed year in the Premier league, but after his team’s performance against the Netherlands, it seems as if Poulsen is using his temper for good and helping his country to advance.
Netherlands: Arjen Robben
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Arjen Robben and diving are synonymous.
The Dutch winger developed a reputation for being more of an actor than athlete, and he even admits it.
In one particular case, Robben apologized for his diving after a Stuttgart player was sent off against Bayern Munich because of two tackles on Robben.
After the Netherlands’ upset loss to Denmark, the Dutch who were once the favorite are now in a tough spot and will have to fight to continue on, and that might mean a few dives by Robben. Stay tuned.
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One of the dirtiest players in world football, it is fitting that Pepe—who has been known to kick his own teammates—would be a diver.
The Real Madrid player doesn’t even try to disguise his dives. In fact, he will run into opponents without attempting to get the ball.
One of Pepe’s most outrageous dives was in the Champions League semifinals when Pepe collapsed to the group after brushing against one of Bayern Munich’s players.
Portugal lost to Germany 1-0 in the first round, and Pepe was very quick to say that the Germans didn’t deserve the win. With anger pushing Pepe into the next round, you can expect him pull out a few dives.
Croatia: Eduardo Da Silva
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While that dive caused quite an uproar from Celtic fans, Eduardo’s Croatian teammates have stuck by his side.
After taking down the Republic of Ireland 3-1, Croatia will prepare for Italy next. Although Eduardo looks strong with his fellow Croats, his past diving incidents still haunt him and follow him into every match.
Spain: Sergio Busquets
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If he were an actor, Sergio Busquets would have a shelf full of Oscars for his dives.
Most notably was two years ago in the Champions League semifinals when Inter’s Thiago Motta was sent off for holding Busquets with an arm, only to have the Spaniard curl into the fetal position.
The best part?
When Busquets looked back at the referee and smirked.
Definitely an Oscar-worthy performance.
Italy: Alberto Gilardino
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Alberto Gilardino is not only guilty of diving, but he is also guilty of bad diving.
His worst—and most notorious—offense was when he fell on his face while playing Celtic.
After running into the penalty box, Gilardino came face-to-face with the last defender and goalkeeper. When he realized that he didn’t have a shot, the Italian simply fell to the ground. What’s worse is that Gilardino didn’t even grab his foot or arm and complain of an injury.
Gilardino was given a yellow card for his offense, and the title of “Worst Diver Ever.”
Republic of Ireland: Richard Dunne
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Richard Dunne has a bad habit of getting sent off the pitch at the worst possible time. To make matters worse, it’s usually because of a red card. Dunne holds the record for most red cards in the Premier League.
Dunne has a tendency to dive in the most dramatic fashions, and then argue with the referee.
With a hard group of Spain, Italy and Croatia, Dunne will have to keep his diving down and his mouth shut if he doesn’t want to get kicked out in his first international tournament.
Ukraine: Andriy Shevchenko
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With Euro 2012 as Andriy Shevchenko’s final major tournament, it seems as if he will only have one dive to his name, but it’s a dive that still has Tunisian fans talking.
In 2006, Shevchenko scored Ukraine’s only goal, giving them a 1-0 win over Tunisia and putting them into the last 16 of the World Cup. However, after the referee penalized Tunisia defender Karim Hoggui for allegedly fouling Shevchenko, Hoggui responded with a look of confusion and disappointment. According to Hoggui, the referee was wrong.
Whether it was a dive or not, the speculation has landed Shevchenko on this list.
Sweden: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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When Zlatan Ibrahimovic was awarded a penalty for diving in a match against Bologna, there was an immediate reaction of skepticism because of the referee’s reputation.
However, with eight red cards in his career—an impressive number for a striker—we can argue that the referee might have been right.
Either way, you should keep an eye on Ibrahimovic during Sweden’s play against Ukraine, because what looks like a penalty for Ukraine might just be a well-disguised dive from Ibrahimovic.
France: Franck Ribery
Franck Ribery can shake off defenses, pass the ball well, and yes, dive. The French footballer’s most well known dive was ironically against the King of Divers—Arjen Robben.
Take a look at this video of Ribery and Robben and you can see why Ribery made this list.
With France still in a drought, Ribery will have to fight to push his team past the stalemate against England, and he may have to throw in a dive to do so.
England: Ashley Young
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Young’s signature dive includes him flying through the air landing spread eagle on the ground.
Not only did this annoy United fans—who actually likes seeing their own player cheat? —but also the referees. Young has been carded a few times for diving, and now that he is playing for Manchester United, his diving has put him in the spotlight.