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The Dirtiest Matches of All Time (Part Eight)

Continuing the series looking at some of the dirtiest matches of all time.

(For Part One please click here; Part Two here; Part Three here; Part Four here; Part Five here; Part Six here; and Part Seven here).

The Battle of Nuremberg

Although the Dutch have the reputation for playing beautiful football, they are not afraid to show the other side of their game on occasion, the 20qo World Cup Final being one example where they decided tat the best way to stop Spain was to try and kick them off the park.

They were arguably following their won blueprint from four years earlier when they were involved in one of the most controversial matches in World Cup history in Nuremberg, Germany.

It is best remembered for the Russian referee Valentin Ivanov setting a new record for cards shown at any FIFA administered international tournament, issuing 4 red and 16 yellow cards.

The backdrop to this round of 16 clash between the Netherlands and Portugal was an attempt by FIFA to crack down on violent and cynical fouling. Ivanov, in retrospect, took this too far, and issued bookings for even minor infractions, meaning that players began to walk disciplinary tightropes at an early stage.

At the same time, even the most biased Dutch or Portuguese fan would admit that some of those in the field that day took things too far.

For example, there was no excuse for Costinha, who was already on a booking, to needlessly handle the ball before half-time, becoming the first to receive a red card.

Portugal’s captain Luis Figo headbutted Mark van Bommel, but stayed on the pitch, but three minutes later it was ten a side, with Khalid Boulahrouz picking up his own second yellow.

Wesley Sneijder was booked for his role in a  touchline brawl and then Portugal were down to  nine men when Deco picked up his second booking of the game.

That was not the end of it though, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst also seeing red in injury time.

Somewhere in the middle of all the mayhem there was also a football match which Portugal won by a  single goal.

In the aftermath of the game, it was actually Ivanov who shouldered most of the blame, with FIFA President Sepp Blatter arguing that he should have shown himself a yellow for his poor refereeing.

It was later announced that he would referee no further games in the tournament, although his father later defended him, arguing that he was only obeying FIFA’s diktat to be tough on layers.

Portugal went on to reach the semi-finals, but were forced to field a weaker team than they might have wished because of players being suspended due to accumulated yellow cards, including those picked up in the match against the Dutch. 

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