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Duarte: Dunga's return is complicated

Brazil Jul 21, 2014
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 Posted by Uli Hesse
Jun 23, 2014

Germany's opponents on red alert

ESPN FC's expert panel discuss Group G and the different outcomes that can happen after the upcoming matches between U.S vs Germany and Portugal vs Ghana.

A week ago, against Portugal, Germany became the first team to contest 100 games at World Cup finals. But that wasn't the only noteworthy figure the match produced. When Pepe received a red card in the first half, it was the 20th time that someone was dismissed during a World Cup game while playing (West) Germany.

To put this number into perspective, after Monday's game against Cameroon, Brazil have played only one fewer World Cup game than the Germans but have seen only 10 opponents sent off.

This is such a remarkable discrepancy that even German magazine Kicker asked, "Can Germany only be stopped through fouls? Or are our players going down in a particularly theatrical manner?"

The latter theory is certainly not a novel idea. Just think of Jurgen Klinsmann's spectacular tumble in the 1990 World Cup final that resulted in a red card for Argentina's Pedro Monzon. It gave Klinsmann a persistent image he later toyed with during his first news conference at Tottenham Hotspur, when he inquired of the media, "Is there a diving school in London?"

And Monzon's red card wasn't the only one in that game. Three minutes before the end of the game, Gustavo Dezotti was sent off, too. He had dragged Jurgen Kohler to the ground while trying to wrest the ball from his grip. Although it was certainly a punishable offence, you have to admit Kohler made the most of Dezotti's lack of self-control.

Pepe was just the latest of 20 German opponents to be sent off.

The Argentines were very upset after this game and accused the Germans of playacting, not the first time in the tournament's history. As early as the 1966 World Cup, Argentina coach Juan Carlos Lorenzo had called the West German players "great actors." He was mainly referring to the moment when Rafael Albrecht was sent off for a foul on Helmut Haller.

To be fair, the BBC's television commentator said, "He was heavily brought down, he really was!" in an alarmed voice when Haller crashed to the ground, having been hit in the groin, while The Guardian later called the foul "a vile act."

A week later, in the quarterfinals, two Uruguayans were given their marching orders against West Germany. First, captain Horacio Troche was sent off by referee Jim Finney for kneeing Lothar Emmerich in the ribs in an off-the-ball incident. (Troche also slapped Uwe Seeler in the face as he walked off.)

Hector Silva's foul on Haller only five minutes later probably also warranted a dismissal. Silva viciously kicked the German's ankles from behind, scything him down. "Uh, my goodness," the British television commentator exclaimed. "A very bad kick, this one. He undoubtedly deserved being sent off."

Yet the South Americans were again unhappy and not entirely without justification. While Emmerich wasn't overdoing things -- he was just sitting on the ground with an angry and incredulous look on his face -- Haller was again "writhing in convincing agony," as the official World Cup video noted dryly.

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Most importantly, though, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger had clearly handled the ball on the goal line very early in the game, but the referee had waved play on. All this gave rise to a lot of conspiracy theories, partly because Argentina had a man sent off against England by a German referee about the same time Troche was dismissed by an English one.

Ever since that day, many South American fans deeply distrust European referees, while European fans consider South American football excessively rough, even brutal. They normally exclude Brazil from this verdict, but those three South American countries have collected the most red cards at World Cups: Brazil 11 in 100 games, Argentina 10 in 72 games, Uruguay nine in only 49 games.

(West) Germany have had only seven players sent off so far. The first was Hans Pesser, who happened to be Austrian, in 1938. The most notorious was Erich Juskowiak in 1958 (because his dismissal probably lost a very ill-tempered semifinal against host Sweden). The most recent was Miroslav Klose against Serbia in 2010.

Before this World Cup began, the tournament average was .21 red cards per match, as there had been 772 games and 159 send-offs.

Of the four teams that have contested the most World Cup games, Brazil and Italy come fairly close to this average: .22 (Brazil) and .17 (Italy). Both have their dismissals evenly spread: Brazil had 11 men sent off and saw 10 opponents dismissed; Italy lost seven men through red cards and also had seven opponents take an early shower (in 82 games).

The remaining two sides, Germany and Argentina, though, have a noticeably higher average. At the time of writing, the stats say there are .27 red cards per game when Germany are involved and .30 when Argentina are on the pitch. There is a difference between the two, however. As is the case with Brazil and Italy, dismissals involving Argentina are fairly evenly spread: Ten South Americans were sent off, as were 12 of their opponents.

Argentina's Pedro Monzon famously saw red in the 1990 World Cup final for a foul on Jurgen Klinsmann.

So among those teams, it's only Germany that has both a conspicuously higher-than-average number of red cards per game and an astonishingly uneven distribution of those cards: As noted, only seven Germans were sent off, but no fewer than 20 of their opponents. There's definitely something odd about Germany and World Cup red cards.

Like Kicker, I have no real explanation for this statistical anomaly. If it were the theatrics, you'd expect a similar deviation at the European Championship, but Germany's record at that tournament is perfectly normal: two red cards for them and two red cards against them in 43 games.

Also, our love affair with World Cup dismissals goes beyond the simple stats. For instance, the first of only two tournaments without anyone being sent off was the 1950 World Cup -- in which Germany didn't participate. And the World Cup with the most dismissals? Germany 2006.

Then there's the first red card. You'd think it was shown in 1970, when cards were introduced. But there was no sending-off in that tournament, so the first red card was brandished four years later, to Carlos Caszely from Chile. The opponent? West Germany.

The first dismissal in a final befell the aforementioned Monzon, also against Germany. And where was the World Cup match staged that produced the largest number of red cards? Of course in Germany, in Nurnberg. The first red card at the 2014 World Cup? Shown by a German referee.

Whichever way you look at it, Germany's next opponents had better be careful.

Uli Hesse

Uli covers German football and has written over 300 columns for ESPN FC since 2002. Uli is a contributing editor of Champions magazine and the author of "Tor! The Story of German Football" and "Who Invented the Stepover?" among others.