Verdict on that 20-card trick
- 26 Jun 06, 04:42 PM
NUREMBERG - The antics of Holland and Portugal's players stunned me as I watched their second-round match from the stands.
The referee was more like a croupier than the match official of a last-16 World Cup tie.
He dealt a record-equalling number of cards - 16 yellows, including four players (two from each side) being booked twice and seeing red.
Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy had to watch from the bench and said afterwards that he thought the referee had lost control of the game. It certainly appeared so from where I was sitting.
"It seemed that the official was permanently holding up a card and was determined to book everyone," said Van Nistelrooy.
Khalid Boulahrouz started things off by plunging a boot into the thigh of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese winger was soon forced off and Mark van Bommel's poor excuse for a dive saw Portugal respond with some of their own cynical tactics.
Costinha, Boulahrouz, Deco and Gio van Bronkhorst were all dismissed as clocking the cards became a job in itself.
But it did make for compelling viewing. The coaches in both dug-outs were going crazy, the fans were whistling and it looked like things could turn nasty on the pitch a couple of times.
Boulahrouz was moaning afterwards that his second yellow card should not have been brandished.
It came as the result of Figo going to ground easily. The Dutch right-back may have had a point, but his earlier offence could have drawn a red, so I had little sympathy with him.
Van Nistelrooy called Portugal's players clever in the way they worked the referee and, while the Russian referee fell for a lot of it, both sets of players were just as much to blame.