The 2006 World Cup in Germany was one of the most memorable with many great matches and if there could be a duel that can be unforgettable, Battle of Nuremberg is one of them. The round of 16 fixture between Portugal vs Netherlands goes down as one of the most infamous matches in World Cup history. This fixture saw Russian referee Valentin Ivanov issue 20 cards, including 4 red cards which is a record high in any FIFA event.
Build-up to the fixture
Portugal and Netherlands went head to head prior to this fixture in Euro 2004 at Portugal. The two sides met each other in semi finals where Portugal won the fixture. The scoreline read 2-1 in favour of Portugal with Ronaldo and Maniche scoring for Portugal. Andrade conceded an own goal in this fixture. This result brought the belief in whole nation of Portugal dreaming about winning a major trophy for the first time. Portugal eventually ended up on the losing side in the finals.
Portugal conquering the Battle of Nuremberg
The knock out fixture took place at Nuremberg on 25th June 2006 with 41000 fans in attendance. It took only 2 minutes for referee Ivanov to issue the first yellow card of the game. Van Bommel with a cynical trip that sent Cristiano down and earned him a yellow card. Khalid Boulahrouz came up with a much more sinister challenge with Ronaldo being the victim again. This challenge would force Ronaldo to withdraw himself from the game at the 34th minute. Maniche got the breakthrough goal for Portugal in the 23rd minute which was assisted by their striker Pauleta.
At the end of first half the game witnessed 4 yellow cards and one red card. Portugal’s Costinha received a second yellow card after handling the ball half way line. It didn’t become any better in the second half as the referee was still issuing yellow cards in regular intervals. The game witnessed Luis Figo headbutt Van Bommel and this resulted in a yellow card for the Portuguese captain. Referee sends off Khalid Boulahrouz in the 62nd minute with a red card. Deco leaves in the 78th minute of the game after receiving red card. The game which started with a yellow card ended in red card as van Bronkhorst became the fourth and final player to be sent of at 90th minute.
The round of 16 fixture saw Portugal advancing to the quarter finals of the 2006 World Cup. It is hard to imagine a proper football match to have been played. These many interruptions in the form of bookings and fights reduced the time of actual football from the fixture.
Aftermath of the fixture
Then FIFA president Sepp Blatter criticised referee Ivanov, and suggested the referee should have given himself a yellow card for his poor officiating during the fixture. The FIFA president later regretted his words and apologised through an official announcement. Ivanov didn’t officiate in the remaining games of the tournament. Ivanov’s father defended him saying it was a demand from FIFA for the referees to be tough with the players.