World Cup 2022: Netherlands and Argentina descend into chaos as new yellow card record set

For 100 minutes, Friday’s World Cup quarter-final between the Netherlands and Argentina looked as though it would be remembered for another couple of magic Lionel Messi moments.

Then, it appeared Wout Weghorst had stolen the thunder by scoring a dramatic equaliser from a brilliantly clever free-kick deep into injury time.

However, once the dust settled on Argentina’s victory by penalty shootout – 4-3, after a 2-2 draw – one number will remain indelibly linked with this game: 18.

That was the number of yellow cards shown – a record for a World Cup match.

Historians will argue that other matches in World Cup history were dirtier. Think ‘The Battle of Santiago’ in 1962, in which Chile and Italy brawled throughout and which the BBC’s David Coleman described as “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football in the history of the game”.

Think Portugal’s last-16 win over the Netherlands in 2006, featuring 16 cards, including four sendings off.

Think the 2010 World Cup final, in which Spain beat the Netherlands, and English referee Howard Webb showed 14 cards, including a red for Johnny Heitinga, and might have shown more.

There are other matches that could be cited too. But none of those matches had as many cards flourished as there were in the Battle of Lusail on Friday.

The 18 yellows included eight for Dutch footballers, eight for Argentine players, and one each for Albiceste manager Lionel Scaloni and coach Walter Samuel.

Remarkably the only man to collect two yellows and be sent off was Denzel Dumfries, and that was after Lautaro Martinez has scored the winning shootout spot-kick.

Dumfries had launched himself at the celebrating Argentina players, who in turn had taunted the Dutch players following the winning strike.

The abiding image of Messi from the game will not be his sensational no-look pass to set up Nahuel Molina for the Argentina opener. It was instead him cutting off from an Argentine TV interview after the match to tell a person off-screen: “What you looking at, idiot?”

In total, 15 players on the field received a card – a new World Cup record.

Paredes sparks ugly scenes

This match continues the Dutch tradition of being involved in some of the World Cup’s feistiest matches and dirtiest moments, from Frank Rijkaard’s clash with Rudi Voller in 1990 to Nigel De Jong’s 2010 final kung-fu kick.

Argentina, meanwhile, were hardly passive victims in this game. This was no repeat of 1990’s opening match against Cameroon, in which Benjamin Massing was sent off for an incredible assault of Claudio Canaggia.

Leandro Paredes should have seen red as the protagonist for the flashpoint that turned this game from irritable to incandescent with rage. After he fouled Nathan Ake in the 89th minute, he smacked the ball straight into the Dutch dugout.

It hit nothing but a padded seat, but saw an orange wave rush the field to shove and push and point and swear.

The foul on Ake was itself worthy of a yellow. The aftermath should have seen Paredes in an early bath.

Multiple melees pockmarked the match, including at full-time as Argentina responded furiously, their last-four spot seemingly stripped away. Nicolas Otamendi was booked in the chaos.

Ultimately, the match stayed 11 against 11, even as the atmosphere boiled through extra time.

By the conclusion, Netherlands defender Jurien Timber had conceded the highest number of fouls at this World Cup – 17 in total across five games.

Second in the standings is Dumfries with 16, including five in this game alone. How he survived without being sent off until the post-game brawl can be attributed to one man – the referee.

Spanish official Antonio Lahoz did not help matters, to be kind. To be unkind, he had an absolute shocker – brandishing his yellow card with abandon ratcheted up tensions considerably, and by the time he finally showed red to Dumfries, he had long since lost all control.

Messi, for one, was not impressed. “I don’t want to talk about the referee because they sanction you for being honest,” he said afterwards.

“I think people saw what it was. Fifa cannot put such a referee who is not up to the task for a game of this level.”

‘Van Gaal needs to keep his mouth shut!’

What is remarkable is how unremarkable this match was for so long. There was no shot on goal in the opening 33 minutes.

Netherlands had not had a shot of any description for more than 45 minutes before Weghorst’s first goal, which was their first effort on target.

But that goal caused Argentina to panic, which may have played a role in Paredes’ ill-advised lash into the dugout.

It caused them to give away a silly free-kick on the edge of the area in the 10th minute of injury time, from which Weghorst produced a moment of magic alien to anyone who watched him at Burnley last season.

That moment of magic led to extra time, and penalties. Emiliano Martinez made two superb saves, and Argentina could celebrate – and gloat, causing Dumfries to snap.

“There was needle out there,” Rio Ferdinand said on BBC One post-match. “There have been so many different things that played in this game that made it a fantastic spectacle.”

Martinez also brought the needle after the game, telling BeIn Sportexternal-link: “Hopefully we don’t have that ref anymore, he’s useless!

“Van Gaal said they have an advantage if it goes to penalties. He needs to keep his mouth shut.”

Was it the beautiful game? Other than a couple of flashes, far from it. Was it dramatic, enthralling and ruthlessly entertaining? Absolutely.

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