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Fanatics say red cards are a part and parcel of the game of football but the majority of those do not recognise how much impact one can have in knockout games, especially in international tournaments such as the World Cup, Euros, and the Copa America.

A recent example for the same can be Sunday’s incident when the Netherlands’ Matthijs de Ligt was issued his marching orders when he was adjudged to have intentionally handled the ball in the Round of 16 fixture against the Czech Republic. The game was 0-0 at the time of the incident and ended up turning into the Czechs’ favour as they went on to win the game 2-0 and knocking the Dutchmen out of the tournament.



There are other incidents, too, that have happened in the past, so we, at FootTheBall, look back at 10 of those red card incidents that have changed the course of a match and had a decisive impact.



Perhaps the most famous of all red cards in the history of the FIFA World Cup, captain of France, Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the second half of extra time after a headbutt into Marco Materazzi’s chest, knocking him to the ground.



The game started at a fast pace with both teams scoring in the first 20 minutes, which ended 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes. Although France were the dominating side, they were not able to score the second goal and subsequently lost control over the game after the red card to Zidane.

They went on to lose the penalty shoot-out which can be attributed to a psychological win by Italy and had reduced the French team, with their talisman not on the pitch.



Two years after Euro 2004, his breakout international tournament, Wayne Rooney came into this tournament with injury concerns and had started only two games before the quarterfinal. The fixture against Portugal started off well in the favour of the Three Lions but they weren’t able to exert their dominance fully and had the game hanging at 0-0 until the red card in the 60th minute.



Rooney had stood on the foot of Ricardo Carvalho while trying to wrestle the defender for the ball, after which Carvalho went down clutching his foot which had his Portugal teammates, including Rooney’s teammate at Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo, who led the protests.

Subsequently, the Englishman was sent off, and England lost control over the match before going on to lose 3-1 on penalties.



This might have been the most important red card in World Cup history in regard to the match situation. Netherlands’ John Heitinga was sent off in the final of the 2010 World Cup after bringing down Andres Iniesta when the Spaniard was through on goal.



Heitinga, who had initially been booked just shy of the hour mark, was finally ejected in the 109th minute after hauling down Andres Iniesta. Just seven minutes later it was Iniesta scoring to deliver La Roja their first World Cup.



Always the controversial figure when playing for England or Manchester United, David Beckham was at the helm of receiving the marching orders from Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen during the Round of 16 fixture against Portugal.



Initially fouled by Diego Simeone, Beckham vented his frustration by slightly lifting his right leg to trip the Argentine. It was enough for the referee to see it as an unlawful act of petulance and he sent off the English superstar. The Three Lions held the game to 2-2 until the end of extra time but went on to lose 4-3 in the penalty shoot-out, with David Batty, the replacement for Beckham in the shootout, missing his penalty.



The most controversial decision on this list, Francesco Totti’s sending off in Italy’s Round of 16 fixture against South Korea was one of the many decisions that were condemned by then FIFA president Sepp Blatter after the match.



After a legitimate Italian goal was ruled out for offside, Totti was given his second yellow card of the game for what was thought by the referee to be a dive. However, Totti appeared to have tripped on his own feet. The Koreans went on to score the winning golden goal in extra time, knocking out the Azzurri from the tournament.



During the final between West Germany and Argentina, referee Edgardo Codesal flashed four yellow cards. And in the 65th minute, with the game still scoreless, the World Cup had its first sending-off in a final.

Argentine defender Pedro Monzon, who was introduced at the start of the second half was shown a straight red card after hacking down Jurgen Klinsmann. His sending off caused West Germany to dominate a match they were already controlling and eventually the domination paid off when Andreas Brehme scored from the penalty spot in the 85th minute.



Two minutes later, the game saw its second red card when forward Gustavo Dezotti hacked down Jurgen Kohler in an attempt to win the ball.



Alpay Ozalan was blamed by the Turkish media for being the reason for his side’s loss against Portugal in the quarterfinal of Euro 2000, and although he did play a part in that defeat, replays of the incident seemed to show the player being treated harshly for the incident.



Ozalan was sent off in the 30th minute after which Portugal went on to defeat Turkey, thanks to a brace from striker Nuno Gomes, who incidentally was awarded a red card in the semi-final against France.



The current manager of the Indian National Team, Igor Stimac was one of the main reasons why Croatia had lost the quarterfinal against Germany in the 1996 edition of the Euros. The towering centre-back had been marshalling his defence well in the game but his sending off in the 56th minute caused Croatia unsolvable problems.


stimac-red-cardStimac receiving the red card after his tackle on Mehmet Scholl (Image Courtesy: UEFA / Website)

Three minutes after his tackle on Mehmet Scholl, which resulted in his red card, Germany went on to score the winning goal in the 2-1 win and enter the semi-finals.



The game between the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia in the 1976 Euro semi-final saw three cards being brandished out by Welsh referee Clive Thomas, including two Dutch players Johan Neeskens and Wim van Hanegem.


hanegem-red-cardWim van Hanegem, during his national team days. (Image Courtesy: KNVB / Website)

The game was at a balance with both teams being a man down and at 1-1 at the end of the 90 minutes. But soon, it turned on its head when Zdenek Nehoda scored in the 114th minute for Czechoslovakia and the subsequent celebrations had seen van Hanegem sent off after his tussles with the opposition. Czechoslovakia went on to score another goal in the match which finished 3-1.



With a place in the final on the line, Peru and Chile squared off in the semi-finals of the 2015 Copa America, and things took a dramatic turn of fortunes for Peru early in the game.

In the 20th minute, defender Carlos Zambrano was shown a red card for a questionable challenge on Chile’s Charles Aránguiz. It looked like Zambrano went to clear a ball and his momentum had carried him unintentionally into the back of Aránguiz.



Although Peru went on to put up a fight against the Chileans, the extra man mattered at the end as Chile dominated the whole game and ended up winning the game 2-1.

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