In 2006, a soccer match between the Netherlands and Portugal was called the Battle of Nuremberg. It took place in the round of sixteen of the World Cup, with the winner meeting England in the quarter-finals.
In a match as historic as soccer itself, this match unfolded in Nuremberg’s Frankenstadion on June 25th and produced the highest number of cards ever awarded in a World Cup game. Russian referee Valentin Ivanov was responsible for issuing four red cards and 16 yellow cards in one match. Twenty cards were issued in a match that ended 1–0 in favor of Portugal, with a goal by Maniche in the 23rd minute. The second most yellow cards issued in World Cup history was 14 in Spain’s 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in 2010.
Before the match, Valentin Ivanov had a reputation as a hard-line referee who never feared to show cautions when needed before the game. During Euro 2004, he issued 15 yellow cards and one red card just in 3 games. Before becoming a referee, he played professionally in Russia for seven seasons, mainly with Torpedo Moscow.
Five Dutch players and eleven Portuguese players who took part in the Euro 2004 semi-finals were also present in Nuremberg. The players didn’t display the same level of animosity in that clash.
Rough Start In The Battle Of Nuremburg
In the second minute of the match, Netherlands’ Mark van Bommel was booked for tackling Cristiano Ronaldo from behind. The Battle of Nuremberg was officially underway. Still recovering from the previous tackle, Ronaldo was again attacked. This time, Khalid Boulahrouz purposely struck Portugal’s star winger in the thigh with his studs which was clearly an intentional foul. Ronaldo left the field in tears after 33 minutes and was replaced by Simao.
Having been forced to play without Ronaldo before halftime, Maniche was booked for a foul on Mark Van Bommel after 20 minutes. Four minutes later, Maniche becomes the hero when his fiercely struck shot when into the back of the net. This got the Portuguese bench onto their feet and chased Maniche down the touchline to celebrate.
After Porto’s defensive midfielder Costinha received a yellow card for an encounter with Philip Cocu, he was sent off for a handball after receiving his second yellow card. The score at the end of the first half was 1-0 to Portugal.
On 60 minutes, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst conceded a foul just outside his box and was booked. Portugal faced the difficult task of getting the ball up over the Netherlands wall and back down. They were only inches from making the scoreline 2-0 as the ball skimmed over the top of the crossbar.
Khalid Boulahrouz was cautioned for a second time in the 63rd minute after fouling Figo. Portugal’s Deco received a booking for roughly fouling Dutch defender John Heitinga as the game continued. After Portugal cleared the ball into touch to allow a player to seek medical attention, the Netherlands did not return it, violating football’s unwritten rules. In the heat of the moment, A yellow card was shown to Rafael van der Vaart for dissent after Wesley Sneijder pushed Petit to the ground.
Valentin Ivanov punished Portugal’s goalkeeper Ricardo for time-wasting in the 76th minute. Nuno Valente received another yellow card in the Battle of Nuremberg for a rough foul that seemed unnecessary at this stage. Following another handball by Deco, he was cautioned for a second time for delaying the restart and finally dismissed in the 78th minute.
Who Won The Battle Of Nuremberg
In the closing moments of the Battle of Nuremberg, Edwin van der Sar was furious after Simao drew the ire of the Dutch goalkeeper. While attempting to score a goal, the Portuguese player’s leg contacted Van Der Sar. However, no disciplinary action was taken. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst was the last player to be sent off in injury time for a foul on Tiago that resulted in a second yellow card. In the end, Portugal managed to hold on to a 1-0 victory.
Both the crowd and the players were left in a state of shock at this point. Shortly after the match, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the referee wasn’t at the same level as the players and participants. The referee should have received a yellow card. It was an emotional game with a dramatic finish and a deserved winner. But, unfortunately, the referee intervened inconsistently, and some players didn’t play fairly.”
Even though Sepp Blatter retracted his statements about Valentin Ivanov’s performance during the Battle of Nuremberg a few days later, he was dropped from FIFA’s Referees Committee for the remainder of the tournament.
Both teams were criticized by Ivanov, who reportedly said, “They are known for time-wasting and hitting from behind. I was unpleasantly surprised to see these tactics by the Dutch. Furthermore, they initiated them.”
Portugal advanced to the quarterfinals and faced England. They were without Deco and Costinha, who was suspended. Portugal won the penalty shootout 3-1 to make the semi-finals. Due to accumulated yellow cards, including those against the Netherlands, two players were suspended for the semi final stage with France. It ended in a 1-0 defeat and was eliminated from the World Cup tournament.
Final Score After Extra Time: Portugal 1 Netherlands 0
Timeline Of Cautions And Sent Offs
- Make Van Bommel (NED) 2 minutes
- Khalid Boulahrouz (NED) 7 minutes
- Maniche (POR) 20 minutes
- Costinha (POR) 31 minutes
- Costinha (POR) 46 minutes (Two Yellows = Red)
- Petit (POR) 50 minutes
- Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (NED) 59 minutes
- Luis Figo (POR) 60 minutes
- Khalid Boulahrouz (NED) 63 minutes (Two Yellows = Red)
- Deco (POR) 73 minutes
- Wesley Sneijer (NED) 73 minutes
- Rafael Van Der Vaart (NED) 74 minutes
- Ricardo (POR) 76 minutes
- Nuno Valente (POR) 76 minutes
- Deco (POR) 78 minutes (Two Yellows = Red)
- Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (NED) 95 minutes (Two Yellows = Red)