In today’s game against the Netherlands (who really should only be called Holland when it comes to the World Cup), Martin Skrtel’s Slovakia were down 1-0. In the 83rd minute, the VanBrockhorst takes a throw in up the line to Jan Huntelaar. Skrtel, from directly behind Huntelaar, swings his boot up way before the ball arrives missing Huntelaar’s eye by no more than three inches. Huntelaar is not stooping either. Skrtel’s foot is about six feet up in the air right by the Dutch striker’s head so the ref naturally calls a foul on the Slovakian centre back for a high foot (dangerous play).
So there’s his first problem. Silly, petulant foul instead of holding him up and making him play back towards his goal.
But Skrtel has to get in the ref’s face and scream at him rather than getting back to defend the free kick. VanBronckhorst takes advantage of Skrtel’s idiocy and takes the free kick quickly to Dirk Kuyt who’s making a diagonal run into the space where Skrtel should be if he was thinking about something other than himself and what his next tattoo should be. If the foul itself was a misdemeanor then this was a felony. Defending 101: concede a foul in your own half? Get behind the ball and get an effective defensive shape as soon as possible. Especially if you’re a centre back because you should be the one determining that shape. That’s why you get people to stand over the ball and potentially take yellow cards for delaying the game: it’s crucial that you have those few seconds to get to where you need to be to defend the free kick. Skrtel chose to waste them bitching about a call that was 100% correct.
Lastly, despite seeing the ball flighted over his head to Kuyt, Skrtel barely manages to saunter back towards his goal. He just can’t be bothered. Wesley Sneidjer can though. He sees Kuyt round the keeper and look to square the ball so he bursts past his midfielder and past the still-strolling Skrtel and taps home a side footer unmolested. This is unconscionable for a defender of Skrtel’s experience. He tops it off with even more yelling at the ref, berating him and jabbing a finger in his face. He rightly picks up a yellow.
So get a grip Skrtel. You committed a lazy, unnecessary foul, chose to moan to the ref about it rather than defend the free kick and then trotted back rather than tracking Sneidjer’s run to round a full dereliction of duty. In the end it put you two goals down and made the penalty goal Slovakia got in the last seconds of the game irrelevant.