Who could forget the ridiculous display six years ago as the Netherlands and Portugal met in a sorry display that became known as “The Battle in Nuremberg.”
Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handed out a World Cup record 16 yellow cards and including a pair of reds to each side in a grim and cynical display that left both teams finishing with nine men. Pitiful.
I was in the stadium for the second round match that day, and the collective group think among journalists was that Ivanov’s performance with the whistle had been somewhere between poor and shockingly poor. Perhaps he should have started issuing reds earlier; for instance, Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz probably should have been sent straight off for an early, nasty foul that injured Cristiano Ronaldo, leading to the Portuguese star’ substitution before halftime.
But everyone would surely have criticized Ivanov for that, as well.
My opinion then and now: some matches are just unmanageable, as when teams decide that fouling and gamesmanship is the way to go. Because, watching the highlights of this night of nastiness, it’s hard to pick out which offenses weren’t worthy of bookings and sending offs.
So … we’ll see what happens when the same two sides meet today. (Richard Farley told you more about that one here.) Hopefully, with enough on the line and with sufficient shame having been heaped on both teams in the six years since this shocking fiasco, they’ll stick to soccer.
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