Top 10 Red Cards in Most Crucial Matches in World Cup History

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Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Celebrating the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia begins, check out the top ten most interesting red cards handed out in most crucial matches in the history of the World Cup!

#10 John Heitinga, the Netherlands vs. Spain (World Cup 2010 Finals)

With 14 yellow and one red card, the players at the Final match of World cup 2010 did not shy away from a fight! Prefaced by none other than Nelson Mandela, this Johannesburg match is often considered to have been a bloodbath.

Former Everton defender John Heitinga earns his first yellow card in the 56th minute by knocking out David Villa, only to receive another one by hauling down Iniesta in the 109th minute. While the outcome could have been different had the Dutch channeled their aggression, such hypothetical situations remain Dutch dreams, as Iniesta scored the winning goal only a few minutes after the foul, writing Spain into history books and shattering hopes of millions of Dutch.

#9 Zinedine Zidane, France vs. Italy (World Cup 2006 Finals)

A moment engraved into history, 20th minute of extra time in the World cup 2006 finals in Berlin. The stakes are high; any mistake will possibly lead to triumphal cheers of the opposite side. In the adrenaline rush that follows a rough exchange, Marko Materazzi and then captain of France Zinedine Zidane exchange words. What Materazzi failed to anticipate, however, was the fierce reaction Zinedine Zidane would have. After Matterazi allegedly insulted Zidane’s sister, Zidane head-butted his sternum in what would become one of most memorable moments in football history.

Granting him a red card, this left France without their best player just minutes before penalties. France ended up losing 5 to 3 on the penalties, possibly owing to the absence of their best player.

#8 Marcel Desailly, France vs. Brazil (World Cup 1998 Finals)

France’s first World cup, dismal Brazil performance- the 1998 World Cup is in many ways a peculiar one. Pre-match tensions escalated with the omission of Ronaldo from Brazil’s starting line-up, only to be reinstated minutes before the kick-off. The Final match of the World Cup was going to be a show from the beginning.

After the acclaimed defender Desailly’s first yellow card came in the 48th minute for dissent, it did not take long for the second one. The second card followed a mere 20 minutes later- just moments after Desailly saved France’s net from Bebeto.

Despite the defender’s ejection, Brazil was unable to take the lead, and thanks to a pair of Zidane’s goals, France secured victory by winning their first and only World cup title.

#7 Pedro Monzón, Argentina vs. West Germany (World Cup 1990 Finals)

The 1990 World Cup is not fondly remembered- low goals per game ratio, 16 red cards and lack of fair play culminated in the Finals, with Argentina’s Pedro Monzón earning the first ever red card during a World Cup finals match. Coming to the game, Argentina was already holding the record number of fouls for the tournament.

Introduced only in the second half, Monzón’s appearance lasted for a mere 20 minutes, before hacking Jurgen Klinsmann down, earning a straight red card. Soon after, Argentina was down to nine men, with Gustav Dezotti leaving the game minutes Monzón.

The lazy and immobile match, in the end, went to West Germany- a flair-less victory owed to Argentina’s lack of discipline.

#6 Gustavo Dezotti, Argentina vs. West Germany (World Cup 1990 Finals)

Dezotti’s departure from the match did not come as a surprise to anyone. Over the tournament, Argentina’s lack of fair play prepared the audience to expect anything- and Argentina lived up to its expectations. The crowd booed Argentina’s players with every potential shot, in what is often described as the ugliest World Cup Finals ever.

Earning his first yellow card only 5 minutes in the game, Dezotti became the second player ever to get a red card in the World Cup Finals. After a frustratingly conceding the victory goal, Dezotti charged Jurgen Kohler granting him his second yellow card and leaving Argentina with nine players.

Argentina’s lack of discipline left them the first World Cup Finals participant to finish without scoring and lost them their hard earned 1986 World Cup title.

#5 Luis Suárez, Uruguay vs. Ghana (World Cup 2010 Quarterfinals)

From zero to hero? Luis Suárez left a bitter taste for many months after the quarterfinals match against Ghana at the World Cup 2010, with many claiming Ghana was cheated out of victory in the final minutes of the match.

The minute is 120. Ghana has a free kick, in what is their last chance to break the stalemate and qualify for the semifinals. In the clash that ensues right in front of Uruguay’s net, Luis Suárez jumps directly in front of the ball, handballing it away from the goal. A penalty is granted to Ghana, but to no avail. Despite Suarez’s red card and a penalty, Ghana ended up losing 4 to 2 on penalties.

An act of self-sacrifice, or cowardice? The decision is up to the reader. The disciplinary committee banned Suárez from playing one match after the incident, with many calling for more severe punishments. Alas, to no avail.

#4 Felipe Melo, Brazil vs. the Netherlands (World Cup 2010 Quarterfinals)

It’s a classic underdog against a superpower match. The Netherlands is facing Brazil, the World Cup favorite, and a five-time champion.

Brazil took the early lead, but the Netherlands eventually recovered, with Sneijder scoring two goals and ensuring their semifinals qualification. Brazil, now nervous and uncertain, trailed. In a moment of fury and aggravation, Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo tackled Robben, taking him to the ground. Trying to take the ball from Robben, Melo struck Robben’s thigh, earning him an instant red card in the 73rd minute, and leaving Brazil with only ten players.

Melo’s performance has widely been regarded as unsportsmanlike in his home country, and he has been let go of the Brazilian National team. While he has expressed his desire to wear the yellow and green jersey again, it is unlikely that we will see his appearance.

#3 Wayne Rooney, the United Kingdom vs. Portugal (World Cup 2006 Quarterfinals)

The UK finally had a chance at winning the Cup! Optimism prevailed in the days leading up to the quarterfinals match against Portugal, with the Ronaldo being considered the only threat to UK’s victory. As the match went on, both sides became increasingly impatient to break the stalemate and take the lead.

Carried by the flame of adrenaline, the United Kingdom striker Wayne Rooney squashes Ricardo Carvalho’s pass in the 61st minute. To make matters worse, Ricardo brawls with Ronaldo, his ex-teammate in Manchester and longtime friend, in front of the judge. The fight got Rooney sent off early, and the United Kingdom lost 1 to 3 in penalties, likely because they lacked Rooney, one of their biggest hopes. To top it off, the UK ended up paying the penalty for Rooney’s foul, adding salt to the fresh wound and lost the chance for the title.

#2 Leandro Cufré, Argentina vs. Germany (World Cup 2006 Quarterfinals)

The inclusion of another Argentina player should come as no surprise. The Argentina national team have long been known for his erratic style of play, which showed during the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup. The final minutes of the match ended with a stalemate, leading to a series of penalties where Argentina came out victorious, winning four by two.

Annoyed by the result of penalties, Argentinian defender Leandro Cufré attacked Germany’s Mertesacker and broke out a massive brawl at the half-way line. This earned him a red card, and he became the first player in the World Cup tournament to be red carded after the final whistle. The incident sparked significant controversies with the FIFA disciplinary committee fining Cufré 10,000 CHF and suspending him for four matches.

#1 Laurent Blanc, France vs. Croatia (World Cup 1998 Semi-Finals)

A comfortable and straightforward victory of France was almost shadowed by the sending off of Laurent Blanc, the defender and France’s ultimate defense for the finals. Blanc had played an excellent tournament, setting the performance bar to its peak.

France is leading 2 to 1. With players jockeyed in the corner, Slaven Bilic hustled into Blanc, who pushed him off with a hand. Despite the minimal contact, Bilic slumped leading to the referee sending Laurent Blanc off.

The send-off was followed by disbelief of the French, with many fearing the absence of one of their most influential players would negatively affect them in the upcoming finals against Brazil. In the end, Zidane’s mastery demolished Brazil, but a bitter feeling lingered among the French rows, with Blanc being robbed of his chance to play at the very top.