Euro 2012: 10 Players Most Likely to Get Red Cards This Summer
It happens in almost every major international tournament.
At a pivotal moment in a nation's biggest match, one player self-destructs and is instructed to leave the pitch by the referee.
What ensues from the red card varies from instance to instance.
Perhaps the player will be vilified, as David Beckham was immediately after the 1998 World Cup.
Or perhaps he will be revered, as Zinedine Zidane was after the 2006 World Cup.
What is certain, though, is that the red card will surely put the player's side in an almost impossible situation.
Who will be seeing red in next month's EURO?
Here are the top ten players who are most likely to cost their team dearly with a reckless or foolish mistake.
10. Nigel De Jong, Netherlands
Throughout his entire career, Nigel de Jong has picked up only one red card.
This may make it seem like de Jong is not a great risk to self-destruct in the EUROs next month.
However, anyone who has followed his career is aware that it is not so simple as that.
The Dutch defensive midfielder has been lucky in the past to keep his reputation intact.
How he was not sent off in a Premier League match last year for a leg-breaking challenge on Hatem Ben Arfa or in the World Cup Final for a boot to the chest of Xabi Alonso is incredible.
I don't think de Jong is a terribly dirty player, just that he is careless.
After getting away with multiple red card offenses in the past, de Jong may be well set up for another careless and dangerous foul this summer.
Maybe the referee will see it this time.
9. Scott Parker, England
Unlike many people on this list, I don't think Scott Parker is going to self-destruct or even receive a straight red card.
So why is he on this list?
It's because Parker only knows how to play at one speed.
The terrier-like midfielder is constantly hounding his opponents and putting in challenges on the ball.
It's one of the qualities that makes him a valuable asset, but is also leads to trouble every now and again.
In his Premier league career, Parker has five red cards, a number that puts him tied for third amongst active players in the English top flight.
If Hodgson doesn't use proper judgment in substitutions, Parker could be a risk to pick up a pair of yellows in a match.
8. John Terry, England
I don't expect Terry to pick up a red in Poland-Ukraine, but there's just no telling where his head will be.
With his court case for racial abuse on the pitch still looming, there is a chance Terry will have his head somewhere else during the tournament.
His red card against Barcelona for a silly foul off the ball may be a bad sign of where his mind is at during this troubling time.
On the other hand, maybe Terry will take care not to make the same mistake that he made against Barça.
Terry's history of red cards is not extensive, but this tournament could swing in so many directions.
I won't be going into the EURO expecting Terry to do something foolish, but I honestly won't be surprised by anything the defender does in this tournament.
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a great enigma of the footballing world.
When he is in a good mental state, Ibra can be a lethal striker and an intimidating presence in the box.
However, when things aren't going his way, the Swede can self-destruct.
In his career, he has had eight sending offs, including four in the past three league seasons.
With Sweden being a relatively weak side, especially if Sebastian Larsson is out for the tournament, there's a good chance that Ibrahimovic will lose his cool at some point.
6. Franck Ribéry, France
Franck Ribery is an incredible winger who has helped Bayern Munich to the Champions League final this season and will be a leader of France in Poland-Ukraine.
However, he has quite a problem with his temper.
Usually, this comes out at the expense of his own team, like when he reportedly punched Bayern teammate Arjen Robben in the face at halftime of the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
However, it can also manifest on the pitch, like when he received a red card against Lyon in the 2010 Champions League semi-final, which forced him to miss the final.
Ribéry is a loose cannon that can go off at any time, making him a prime candidate for self-destruction.
5. Mark Van Bommel, Netherlands
Mark van Bommel is seen by fellow players and fans as one of the dirtiest players in world football.
Throughout the 2010 World Cup, van Bommel committed foul after foul and argued with the referee seemingly every time, yet didn't receive so much as a yellow until the semi-final.
It was in the final, though, that van Bommel's antics were most noticed, as he committed what some saw as four red card offenses, yet stayed on the pitch for the whole 120 minutes.
Since 2000, van Bommel has picked up eight red cards for his clubs.
Will this finally translate to an international tournament?
4. Sergio Ramos, Spain
When people think about Spain, they usually think about the passing game of Xavi and Iniesta and the aesthetically-pleasing goals it produces.
They don't usually think about fouls or bookings; if anything, they think of them being the victims of the Netherlands fouling in South Africa.
However, Sergio Ramos has proven himself to be a card magnet throughout his career.
Since 2005-06, Ramos has not gone a season without picking up a red card.
Earlier this year, he even set the record for most career red cards with Real Madrid with 11.
Ramos's ability to draw reds hasn't translated to the international stage yet.
Without the leadership of Puyol in the defense, though, perhaps this will be the tournament the Spaniard sees red.
3. Richard Dunne, Ireland
As of right now, Richard Dunne is in a tie for the record for the most red cards in Premier League history with eight.
The Irish defender has actually avoided sending offs for the past few years, but his history is well documented.
With his Irish side slightly behind the other tournament's sides in terms of class, Dunne will surely at some point be in a position to over-extend himself.
From there, it may be one more red card for the Premier League leader.
2. Pepe, Portugal
Pepe has come under fire over the past season with fans of the game (and most Barcelona supporters) calling him every name in the book and saying he is unfit to be on the pitch.
This is because time after time, Pepe has shown an inability to control his emotions.
Perhaps this is down to his Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho, using the motivational tactic of claiming vast conspiracies.
After all, since Mourinho stopped talking to the press and making those claims in public, Pepe's actions on the pitch have become better.
However, there is always that risk that he might find an opponent's actions wrong or the referee's decision unjust and go off.
When Portugal and the Netherlands met in the 2006 World Cup, there were sixteen yellow and four red cards brandished.
Perhaps Pepe will add to this legacy when the two meet in the group stages in Poland-Ukraine.
1. Mario Balotelli, Italy
It's just so obvious.
Over the past few years, Mario Balotelli has proven that he is...well off his rocker.
Disregarding his off-field issues (which is difficult to do), Balotelli has proven to be extremely temperamental on the pitch.
Over the past three seasons, Balotelli has six red cards and a host of other fouls that could/should have led him to see red.
Just this year, he's had two red cards and was suspended for a stamp on Scott Parker that did not produce a sending off.
These actions have led Manchester City to use him sparingly since his most recent red.
However, with Giuseppe Rossi missing, Italy has a problem at striker.
Hence, they are forced to bring along and play the hot-headed Balotelli.
If things don't go the Italians' way, expect Mario to combust.