Time to get rid of tournaments' yellow peril

Imagine that Iceland do it again and pull off the mother of all shocks against EURO 2016 hosts France in the quarter-finals. Seemingly impossible, but, if it were to happen, they’ll probably pick up a few yellow cards along the way. It's only realistic.


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Iceland play a physical brand of football that’s tough and rugged but not one person would argue they haven’t added an extraordinary presence to these European Championships.

Yet if any of Kari Arnason, Birkir Bjarnason, Johann Gudmundsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Hannes Halldorsson, Birkir Saevarsson, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Ari Skulason do so much as go in for a 50-50 challenge, they could be out of the semi-final.


You read right - nine players have a yellow card suspension hanging over their heads going into the quarter finals. 

And if you think they’ve got problems, consider Italy - they’ve got eleven players sitting on a yellow card ban for the semi-final.

All up, there's 45 players with this unfair noose round their necks. 

Like Iceland, Italy will have to play an intensive brand of football to get a result against Germany. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either. We may all love the silky, passing skills of Spain and Croatia, but in international football, in the knockout stage of the tournament, it’s all about winning. 

Yet, if Italy happen to commit wholeheartedly to what would be one of the best victories in the nation’s history, you can bet they’ll accumulate the odd caution.


And here’s the list of players who, if they picked up a yellow card, would miss the semi-final: Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi, Mattia De Sciglio, Éder, Lorenzo Insigne, Graziano Pellè, Salvatore Sirigu and Simone Zaza. And they’ve already lost Thiago Motta for this game. 

That’s half the squad.

What a ridiculous situation to be in. We usually only cry foul after the event, but it deserves attention now.
Cards are there for the good of the game and to help promote fair play, which they indeed they do. 

But is it really necessary to put players’ entire tournaments at risk if they pick up a second yellow over five games? Talk about walking on eggshells. It’s ridiculously harsh. 

I’ve been thrilled at watching the Italian defensive block at this tournament, as has everyone else. It’s been a return to the finest traits of Italian football. 

But all three of the “BBC” (Bonucci,  Barzagli and Chiellini) are on notice. And so is Buffon.

What a blow it would be to see any of them miss out in the semi-final because of some stupid over-officiousness. Don't rule it out, either. 

Fortunately, all cautions will be scrubbed at the end of the quarter-finals - meaning if you haven't picked up a second yellow, you’ll be able to participate thereafter, preventing another dreadful final episode like Michael Ballack's in 2002. 

Let's remember why we love these months: this is tournament football and we want to see our best teams play, with their best players - most of who play on the edge, and commit without reservation. 

Rules may be rules, but they need changing for all major international tournaments.

My suggestion? Make it three yellows before a player is suspended.
Besides, being on a yellow card, with a red lingering at any moment, is already nerve-wracking enough in these tournaments. 

When there’s so much on the line, having top players sit out the biggest matches of their lives denies them, and us, what brings us all here in the first place.

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3 min read
Published 1 July 2016 at 11:29am
By Sebastian Hassett