Tuesday, June 27, 2006


OK there was no blood. There was no rioting. There was no hooliganism in the stands (that I know of). What there was, was 22 adults acting like 12 year old boys. What there was, was a ref, 2 line judges and other FIFA officials who never once had control of the pitch.

Portugal vs. Netherlands
June 26, 2006
A Match which will live in World Cup infamy.

This was supposed to be two of the greatest national football teams playing each other on the world stage in a match that featured great players.
For the Netherlands there was goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar and striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Manchester United, Robin Van Persie of Arsenal, Arjen Robben of Chelsea and Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Mark van Bommel of Barcelona.
For Portugal there was Deco of Barcelona, Maniche & Costinha of Dynamo Moscow, Luis Figo of Inter Milan, and the young Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United.

Instead this turned into a fiasco to beat all fiascos. 16 yellow cards, 4 red cards and fouls too numerous to count. Brief skermishes between clubs, shouting matches between coaches (more like a monologue by Scolari of Portugal) and in between a little football.

1st Half
To start, the Dutch came out with Ruud Van Nistelrooy on the bench. He's the prime striker for Manchester United and one of the best in the world. Where is he? He's not injured. He hasn't been suspended for a red card or any off-field infractions. He's just not there. What is Van Basten thinking?

To begin the match, The Oranje were all over Cristiano Ronaldo. There was a foul and yellow card on Van Bommel 1:35 into the match for a hard tackle from behind. Later in the 7th minute there was a foul and a yellow card given to Boulahrouz for a hard spiking tackle on Ronaldo that would force him to leave the game in the 34th minute. That's 2 yellow cards in the first 7 minutes.

Then it was Portugal's turn as the Portugese begame to attack Van Bommel. First a foul was called in the 11th minute against Meira for tackling Van Bommel. In the 15th there was a non-call as Carvalho threw Kuyt to the pitch in the box. The referee also ignored Maniche when he pulled Van Bommel down by the arm 19:47 into the match. Unfortunately Maniche is dumber than he looks and he tried it again tens seconds later and this time was successful in earning himself a Yellow Card.

That's 3 so far if you're counting and we're only 20 minutes in.

22:33 - GOAL!!! Maniche scores for Portugal on a shot about 8 yards from goal into the left side of the net. This was beautiful as the ball is passed from Miguel to Deco to Pauleta and right to the feet of Maniche. One trick move to his left, back to his right and the shot with the right foot goes right past Van der Sar into the net.

Then the ugliness continues.

The Netherlands place a target on Deco that would stay on the Brazilian-born players back until he left the pitch. We're getting ahead of ourselves. This all starts in the 31st minute with a tackle by Cocu on Deco which draws a foul. Cocu tackles Deco again 36 seconds later, winning the ball but drawing no foul call. Costinha of Portugal apparently doesn't think that's fair and immediately tackles Cocu hard from behind drawing the 4th Yellow Card of the match. Van Bommel would draw a foul on another tackle of Deco in the 43rd minute.

Apparently the Ref isn't seeing what's going on here. First Ronaldo is targeted by the Netherlands. Then the Portugese go after Van Bommel so Cocu begins a targeting of Deco. Portugal then retaliates by targeting Cocu. This was just the beginning.

38:20 into the match, Costinha feeling that perhaps the yellow card was just a dream then kicks Oijer in the shins but the ref doesn't see it and play goes on. Costinha is lucky he wasn't red carded for that one.
41:46 Portugal figures they got away with kicking Oijer and they test the line. Valente jump kicks Robben in the chest inside the penalty box. If I was the ref, I'd give Valente the straight red card and award Netherlands a penalty kick. Instead, the ref ignores it, accuses Robben of diving and play goes on. This is when I truly believed that the ref never had any control on the pitch and was basically just a useless body getting in the way of Dutch and Portugese passes...and wasting time with colorful cards.

Proving that he isn't completely blind, the ref blows the whistle on Van Bommel for a tackle on Deco, then calls a foul against Sabrosa of Portugal for taking down Van Bronckhorst.

Just before the end of the half, a long pass deflects off Costinha's arm. Now in the replay he definitely reached his arm out and even in live action that's what it looked like. That earns him the red card he deserved to get on his last tackle that was ignored by the ref. A red card on a hand ball? Perhaps the referee was just showing Costinha that his earlier tackle didn't go unnoticed. So that's 5 yellows and a red so far.

Hold on folks. Believe it or not, this gets even uglier.

2nd Half

Petit comes in for Portugal to replace Pauleta who has been a bit weak on the attack.

He then earns himself his very own Yellow Card in the 50th minute for pulling Van Bommel down to the pitch. Notice the target is still on Van Bommel instead of Van der Sar and the goal.

56 minutes in we get the Netherlands first substitution as Van der Vaart comes in for Mathijsen. No Van Nistelrooy? One of the best strikers in the world is still on the bench. No injury. No infraction. No Red Cards. Not even a Yellow Card. Van Basten (the coach of Netherlands) is an idiot.

Between the 57th and 58th minutes there's a great shot on goal by each side (Maniche and Shneijder) both stopped by great saves.

Then in the 59th minute, the madness begins. Within 11 seconds (58:12 and 58:23) there is a Yellow Card given to Van Bronckhorst for a tackle from behind on Deco (Target is still on Deco I see) near the penalty box. As the players are huddling around the ref, there's a scuffle between players and Luis Figo head butts Van Bommel who smiles, nods his head, and slowly crumples to the pitch, earning Figo a Yellow Card. That's 7 yellows and a red now. Already even on the match report this looks unnatural. Just think, there were at least 2 other plays that weren't even called fouls that could have been cards.

In the 62nd minute, Figo won the ball and started down the flank towards the opposing goal. Boulahrouz followed him closely and as he ran, one of his upswings caught Figo in the face causing Figo to crumple to the floor in feign agony. There was no deliberate elbow but the since Figo had just gotten a yellow for the head butt, the ref could have seen this as a revenge strike and so he tried to take back control by giving yet another yellow card. That being his 2nd yellow, he gets the red and is sent off.

In the 67th minute we get the second Dutch substitution. Van Bommel goes out and Heitinga comes in. Safe move as Van Bommel already had a yellow, the Portugese were targeting him and the ref was obviously card happy.


From 72:02 to 76:55 we would see 6 yellow cards and a red. If the ref had any control at all of the match (and he didn't) here is where he truly lost it.

Let's start a little further back. About 70:13 into the match, Shneijder and Carvalho collided with each other at the edge of the Portugese box and portugal won the ball. They had control of the ball when play was stopped because both players were on the pitch injured.

Sportsmanship states that the Portugese then kick the ball out of bounds and when play is resumed, the Dutch would throw the ball back to the Portugese defense who would then resume play.

Instead, the ref restarted play with a drop ball, the dutch won the ball and refused to return it to the Portugese. This infraction occured at 72:02 into the match. Deco of Portugal caught up with Heitinga who had the ball and he tackled him hard from behind.

The ref didn't like this and gave Deco a yellow card. Apparently the Dutch didn't like it either and as the ref was struggling with getting the card out of his shirt pocket, there was a scuffle a few yards away. Shneijder and Van der Vaart were both carded for shoving Portugese players. So that's 3 yellow cards in the span of FIVE SECONDS!

3 minutes later, at 75:07 Ricardo, the goalkeeper for Portugal gets yellow carded for time wasting. Now when the ball is kicked by the attacking team past the end line behind the goal, the defending team is awarded a goal kick. Once the whistle is blown by the ref to restart play, the keeper then has 6 seconds to restart play by kicking or throwing the ball downfield or to a teammate. In this World Cup, the refs have been told to give cards for delaying the game.

At 75:47 Valente made a hard tackle on Van Persie and earned the 14th yellow card of the night.

Then at the end of the 77th minute, Deco gets carded for delaying the game. There had been a foul and Netherlands was awarded a free kick. Deco picked up the ball and started walking down the pitch with the ball before rolling it behind him to the Dutch players. The ref felt this was unsportsmanlike and handed Deco his second yellow card in 5 minutes and sent him off the field.
So that's 14 yellow cards and 3 red cards now. It's 9 men against 10.

In the 84th minute, Portugal made it's final subsitution sending Figo off, perhaps saving him from his own red card and bringing on Tiago to finish the match.

At 84:43 Kuyt is called offsides. Just as the whistle blows, Petit grabs Kuyt's arm and throws him down. No call. No foul. No card. Nothing. Totally ignored by the ref.

At 85:55 there's a hand ball called on Van de Vaart. That's the second Dutch hand ball that wasn't given a card. Most of the hand balls I've seen called this World Cup were followed by a Yellow Card. This would have meant red for Van de Vaart and yellow earlier on Kuyt which would have brought the card total to 18 yellow and 5 red.

Just as the match was about to be called, 5 minutes into stoppage time, Van Bronckhorst earned the final card of the match (A red one) for tripping Tiago. On this play Van Bronckhorst had fought with Tiago for possession and he tossed Tiago down. I thought that might have justified a foul but lucky for me Van Bronckhorst did it again less than 5 seconds later and this time got the card and the sending off.

So that's it. Portugal 1, Netherlands 0, Refs -20+

16 Yellow Cards and 4 Red Cards. At least two plays where straight reds could have been given but were not. Figo and Valente should not be eligible for this match against England. Then again, what do I know. I'm just an American.


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