Euro 2020 Special

Players Sent Off in World Cup Finals

On what should have been the biggest days of their footballing lives, a small group of players have made history for the wrong reason by being sent off in a World Cup final. And, in every case but one, their team went on to lose the match.

Here is the roll call of infamy.


Pedro Monzon 1990

The 1990 World Cup final between West Germany and Argentina will not live long in the memory. It was the lowest scoring final to date, and Argentina set an unwanted record by becoming the first team not to score in the global showpiece.

They had just one shot on goal, whilst the Germans had 23 shots in all, 16 of them on target.

Argentina’s apparent tactic was to defend at all costs and trust to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out, but their efforts were undermined by the loss of personnel, with Pedro Monzón making history by becoming the first man to be sent off in a World Cup final.

The defender had only come on at half-time in place of Oscar Ruggeri, but he was only on the pitch 20 minutes before he hacked down Jurgen Klinsmann, and was shown a straight red card by the Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal.


Gustavo Dezotti 1990

Monzón did not have to wait long for company, though, as he was quickly joined by team-mate Gustavo Dezotti.

In the 85th minute of the match, Argentina conceded a penalty from which Andreas Brehme scored, what proved to be the only goal of the match.

Two minutes after that, Dezotti, who was already on a yellow card, showed his frustration by needlessly charging into Jurgen Köhler near the corner flag. Codesal showed no hesitation in brandishing a second yellow in his direction.


Marcel Desailly 1998

The 1998 World Cup final was dominated in the build-up with the mystery surrounding the fitness and availability of Brazilian striker Ronaldo, who it was later confirmed had suffered some form of convulsion on the day of the final itself. He did eventually play in the match but was a shadow of his normal self.

Meanwhile, in the match itself, the hosts France took a two goal half-time lead thanks to two headers from Zinedine Zidane.

Early in the second half French defender Marcel Desailly was shown a yellow card by referee Saïd Belqola for dissent.

And then, just minutes after making an important clearance, he brought down Cafu and was shown another yellow.

Despite the extra man, Brazil could not take advantage and Petit added a third for France. Desailly could collect his winner’s medal, despite his aberrations.


Zinedine Zidane 2006

By far the most infamous incident saw Zidane end his playing career on a sour note.

In the 2006 final against Italy in Berlin, Zidane had given France an early lead from the penalty spot after a foul by Marco Materazzi, only for Materazzi to atone for his error by scoring an equaliser.

The match remained all-square going into extra time, when the pair exchanged words. Something that Materazzi said so enraged Zidane that he turned around and head-butted the Italian in the chest.

Referee Horacio Elizondo had no hesitation in showing the Frenchman a red card. His team went on to lose on penalties, with their best spot kick taker back in the changing room. He would never kick a ball in competitive anger again, but would go on to enjoy great managerial success with Real Madrid.

For years what Materazzi said remained a matter of intense speculation, but it later transpired he had insulted Zidane’s sister. Materazzi was unapologetic, believing that his gamesmanship had produced the desired result.


John Heitinga 2010

The 2010 final between Spain and the Netherlands saw English referee Howard Webb show no fewer than 14 yellows cards, one of which was given to Nigel de Jong for a karate kick on Xabi Alonso which was deserving of a straight red.

However, the man who finally received his marching orders was his team mate John Heitinga. He had already been booked close to the hour mark, but it took him until the 105th minute before he received his second for hauling down Andrés Iniesta, who then exacted full revenge by scoring the winning goal.

FIFA will be hoping that, whoever makes the final in Qatar, that the match finishes eleven a side.




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