Teams seeing red (and yellow) over cardsBefore the tournament began, FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, vowed to encourage World Cup referees to strictly enforce rules on the field to protect the players, in order to root out foul plays such as elbowing.
The move has given birth to an increase of yellow cards and red cards this year. With 32 matches played through Monday, 165 yellow cards and 10 red cards have been handed out to players, an average of 5.16 yellows per game.
In 2002, an average of 4.25 yellows per game were handed out, with a total of 272 yellows and 17 reds handed out in 64 matches.
Teams have expressed concern that key players will not be available later in the tournament due to accumulated cards. If a player gets two yellow cards or one red card during the first round or in the knockout round, he must sit out the next game.
FIFA Communications Director Markus Siegler was satisfied with the refereeing at the games, according to The Associated Press. “If you count the number of red and yellow cards . . . it’s in proportion with what is happening on the field,” he said.
The absence of players is also affecting group G, in which South Korea plays with France, Switzerland and Togo. France, which has two draws and only one game left against Togo, must play without two key players, Zinedine Zidane and Eric Abidal. France must win that game to give it a chance to advance to the round of 16.
South Korea has four yellow cards and if it accumulates more cards the team could find itself without key players in the next stage if it advances. For a team that depends heavily on the play of star players and is thin on depth, more yellow cards could prove fatal. The Swiss have six yellow cards and will face South Korea on Saturday.
Coaches have cited their concerns. U.S. coach Bruce Arena told reporters in Germany over the weekend, “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. The cards are excessive, I believe. It's just too much in all the games. It’s taking good players out of games.”
by Brian Lee