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The Battle of Nuremberg: The World Cup last 16 match that saw a record 20 CARDS issued…

The 2022 World Cup saw every team finish their first group matches before a red card was shown. Here, we take a look at how a matchup between Portugal and Netherlands tallied a record-breaking 4 red cards and 16 yellow cards in 90 minutes – later dubbed “The battle of Nuremberg.

Travel with us back in time to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal have finished top of Group D without dropping a single point, beating Iran, Angola and Mexico back-to-back. The Netherlands finish a close second to Argentina in Group C, with goal difference being the deciding factor.

The two nations were set to play one another in the final 16 knockout stage of the tournament on the 25th June, at the Frankenstadion in Nuremberg.

Portugal and Netherlands had met each other in the semi-final of the previous major tournament, Euro 2004. In that match, Portugal (the hosts) had come away with a 2-1 victory to continue to the now infamous final against Greece.

cristiano ronaldo euro 2004
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Netherlands at Euro 2004. Image credit:

5 Dutch and 11 Portuguese players who played in that semi-final were also on the field for this 2006 World Cup clash.

Their Euro 2004 semi-final clash saw 3 of Portugal’s men and 2 of Netherlands’ given yellow cards in an energetic matchup between the two talent-laden nations. Nobody could have guessed that this World Cup fixture, just two years on, would produce 4 times as many names in the referee’s book.

The tone was set early on, as Netherlands’ midfielder Mark van Bommel earned the first booking just 2 minutes into the match. This was swiftly followed up by their right-back, Khalid Boulahrouz a mere 5 minutes later.

Boulahrouz’s offense was a horror tackle on Portugal’s star man, Cristiano Ronaldo. It was harsh enough to force him to retire 20 minutes later due to injury and was lucky not to have earned a red.

boulahrouz ronaldo
Boulahrouz lands a horror tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo said of the tackle “it was clearly an intentional foul to get me injured”.

He also added, in regards to referee, Valentin Ivanov’s performance “Considering what happened, I don’t think this official should referee any more games in the World Cup.”

Portugal’s starlet was left in tears as he was forced to watch the remainder of the match from the sidelines.

cristiano ronaldo valentin ivanov
Ronaldo criticised referee, Valentin Ivanov, for his performance in the 2006 last 16 matchup with Netherlands. Image credits: Inside World Football /

15 minutes went by without further need for the referee’s pocketbook, but the gloves were off in Portugal’s eyes and Ivanov was to have his work cut out for him.

Maniche was the next to be deemed deserving of a yellow card. This was swiftly followed up by his countryman, Costinha.

His aggressive play saw him booked at the 31-minute mark and again during the first half’s stoppage time to become the first player to be shown a red as tensions rose…

costinha red card world cup 2006
Costinha receives his marching orders before the end of the first half. Image credit: Firstpost

It took just 5 minutes of the second half for Portugal’s Petit to continue this pattern, earning a yellow card. He had been brought on as a substitute in stoppage time of the first half – meaning he’d played less than 10 minutes before his booking.

Tempers only seemed to intensify, and just 9 minutes after Petit’s booking, a flurry of cards were shown to both sides. Over a 19-minute period, both sides would have a man sent off and a total of 11 cards would be issued…

First comes Dutchman, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s yellow card at 59 minutes in.

Portugal’s captain, Luis Figo, has his name taken down less than a minute later.

A mere 3 minutes after, and Khalid Boulahrouz earns his second yellow card and is shown a red.

portugal vs netherlands world cup 2006
Tempers flair as this game hurtles towards a record amount of bookings. Image credit: FourFourTwo

Like waiting for a bus – 10 minutes go by without a card shown, only for two players to earn one in the same minute of the game! Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder and Portugal’s Deco each are given a yellow card at the 73-minute mark.

Another minute goes by and Dutch substitute Rafael van der Vaart adds another booking to the Netherlands’ tally.

It takes just another 2 minutes and Portugal have defender Nuno Valente AND their goalkeeper, Ricardo, shown yellow cards.

Just another 2 minutes go by and their countryman, Deco, earns his second yellow card in just 5 minutes and becomes the third man to be sent off in this fixture.

deco sent off world cup 2006
Deco is shown a second yellow card 5 minutes after his first. Image credit: Alamy

The final 2 cards of the game are shown to the same player. Giovanni van Bronckhurst earns his second yellow card in the 5th minute of stoppage time and is shown a red.

This booking was 17 minutes after Deco’s sending off – remarkably, this is the longest period of time between cards in the entire game.

And that statistic alone explains why this now infamous World Cup matchup went down in history as “The battle of Nuremberg” !