Fans have been alarmed at the number of cards being given out so far (136 Yellow and 10 Red after 24 matches) However, it was known FIFA wanted to crack down on dangerous play and incessant fouls on attackers. Yesterday they reaffirmed their stance and are happy with the torrent of cards.

FIFA communications director Markus Siegler said the general standard of refereeing had been solid.

"If you count the number of red and yellow cards … it’s in proportion,” he said.

"They’re not new. The point is, the World Cup is the largest platform, the largest display case for football, where the best referees are in operation," he said. "We have to show consistency on the basis of the rules of the game. They have to be applied in the way we’d like them applied around the globe.

"That’s why one has to be prudent about interpreting these things."

I’m not sure anyone has been concerned about the proportion of reds to yellows, but more the sheer number. USA Manager Bruce Arena clearly feels the cards are flying too much.

"Entering this World Cup, I think there was a real theme that they were going to be very harsh on players, and I think they have," he said. "The cards are excessive, I believe. It’s just too much in all the games. It’s taking good players out of games."

Arena said he’d never seen a match with so many red cards. It was only the fourth time at a World Cup that three red cards had been issued in one match. "Fouls are being punished too harshly, without warnings. A foul sometimes is just a foul, it’s not a yellow card," he said. "I think it’s just gotten excessive in the World Cup."

Initially I was thinking the same thing. Now that I’ve calmed down from the USA v. Italy match, I’m starting to think maybe the flood of cards is a good thing.

Contrary to what many people unfamiliar with soccer in the US think, soccer is a dangerous sport. The difference between a legal tackle and a career ending move isn’t much and sloppy or violent play can result in major injuries to ankles and knees. Mastroeni went cleats up into an ankle and that’s dangerous as hell. Granted, the reply showed it was his trailing leg and he appeared to be pulling back so many (myself included initially) felt it wasn’t vicious enough to warrant red. But referees don’t have the benefit of a replay.

Even with Pope – he is known for jersey pulling and player takedowns. He was doing it frequently (but no he wasn’t the only one) So it was only a matter of time until he got that second yellow.

I’m starting to think that as long as the referees are calling things fairly for both teams, even if they are more strict, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Certain moves have to be discouraged. Taking down attackers streaking down the field because all you’ll get is a foul is very common because the foul loses you nothing as the defending team but breaks up a potential shot chance. I think there is merit in trying to reduce the number of illegal takedowns with yellow cards.

The main problem in all this is diving. Once teams realize that the referees are more apt to show yellow or even red, I fear the diving may become more common than it already is. Referees have got to ignore the theatrics on the ground and concentrate on the foul itself. If a foul was inadvertent and the injured player is putting on an Oscar winning performance – card the actor. An impossible task most likely, but a real risk. It’s all what the attacking player did, not the recipient of the foul.

So call me a flip flopper, but I’m starting to think that if FIFA cracks down consistently, we’ll see less tripping and more playing. No amount of warnings seem to matter so FIFA is using its club – ejection. Players will HAVE to start taking it into account. If you know you’re gonna be late and probably hit the ankle instead of the ball, maybe now you won’t take it where before you’d risk it since it was only a yellow. The guy whose career you almost ended will certainly thank you for it and overall if the players do get the message, we’ll see more of the beautiful game and less stoppage of play.


UPDATE: I probably should have made myself clearer. While I think an overall crackdown on trips and illegal tackles is a good thing to preserve the flow of the beautiful game, note I said ‘as long as the referees are calling things fairly for both teams’. Jorge Larrionda didn’t even come close to fair. He shouldn’t officiate another match as far as I (and others like Josh @ ThroughBall) are concerned. Argie-Bargie put it a bit more, um, directly. (Might trip a corporate language filter :) )

Yellow/Red Cards in the '06 World Cup

  • About the right number (57%)
    About the right number -> 57% (4 Votes)
  • Too many (43%)
    Too many -> 43% (3 Votes)
  • Too few (0%)
    Too few -> 0% (0 Votes)

Total Votes: 7

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