World Cup Infamy: The 5 Players Sent Off in World Cup Finals
Talk about infamy.
Few clubs in world football are as exclusive as the one where the membership card is red and originally presented at a World Cup Final.
Only five players have been ejected from the biggest event in sports since 1930—all of them sent off from 1990 onward.
Not surprisingly, on only one occasion did the ejected player go on to lift the World Cup following his departure from the match.
So, without further ado, let’s have a look at the most notorious quintet in football history.
Pedro Monzon, 1990
The New York Times described the 1990 World Cup final as a piece of “controversial artwork” and “world-wide ugliness.”
Referee Edgardo Codesal flashed four yellow cards over the course of the match between West Germany and Argentina, and in the 65th minute, with the game still scoreless, the World Cup Final had its first sending-off.
The player in question was Independiente defender Pedro Monzon, who had only been introduced at the restart in place of Oscar Ruggeri.
But after hacking down Jurgen Klinsmann on the left-hand side of the pitch, Monzon was shown a straight red card—his appearance in the match having lasted just 20 minutes.
In the 85th minute, Andreas Brehme scored from the spot and the Germans had their third World Cup triumph.
Gustavo Dezotti, 1990
Less than two minutes after Brehme’s penalty, Argentina were reduced to nine men when Gustavo Dezotti joined teammate Monzon for an early bath.
As far as red cards go, the then-Cremonese forward’s was as stupid as they come.
Frustrated at having conceded a late goal that would prove to be the winner, Dezotti charged into Jurgen Kohler near the corner flag, and Codesal made the obvious decision to show him a second yellow—his first having been earned only five minutes after kickoff.
Marcel Desailly, 1998
Desailly's red card is shown around the 7:45 mark of this clip.
The 1998 World Cup Final remains implanted in our minds for many things: a dismal Brazil performance and the mental state of Ronaldo; Zidane’s double.
One that’s often glossed over, however, is the red card shown to Marcel Desailly in the 68th minute—just 20 minutes after he had gone into referee Said Belqola’s book for the first time for dissent.
Only moments before his ejection, the defender had made an important clearance on Bebeto’s effort with France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez out of position. But eight minutes later his side were a man down after he brought Cafu to ground.
Nevertheless, Brazil remained unable to get a foothold in the match. France, who led 2-0 at the time thanks to a pair of Zidane goals, put the finishing touches on their victory in the third minute of second-half stoppage time through Emmanuel Petit.
Zinedine Zidane, 2006
One of the most notorious moments in world football history occurred in the 2006 World Cup Final when Zinedine Zidane was issued a straight red card for his head-butt to the chest of Marco Materazzi.
Zidane, the France captain, and Materazzi, the Italy defender, seemed to have their fates intertwined throughout the contest in Berlin. Zidane opening the scoring just seven minutes in after Materazzi had conceded a penalty.
But just 12 minutes later, Italy were back on level terms thanks to their controversial Inter Milan defender, who had headed past Fabien Barthez following Andrea Pirlo’s corner.
That was all the scoring the match would see from open play. Midway through the first period of extra time Zidane, apparently provoked by Materazzi, stopped in his tracks and head-butted his opponent, forcing referee Horacio Elizondo to present a red card.
Italy, of course, went on to win the World Cup on penalties, and the retiring Zidane never played another match of football.
John Heitinga, 2010
The 159th dismissal in World Cup history occurred in the first period of extra time in the 2010 Final between the Netherlands and Spain in South Africa.
If the 1990 Final was the most vicious the tournament had ever seen, the 2010 match was a close second—referee Howard Webb presented 14 yellow cards, two of which were shown to defender John Heitinga.
In truth, Nigel de Jong should have been issued his marching orders in the 28th minute when he attacked Xabi Alonso with a karate kick, but in an effort to preserve the occasion Webb allowed the Dutchman to get away with a yellow, although the match hardly improved as a result.
Heitinga, who had initially been booked just shy of the hour mark, was finally ejected in the 109th minute after hauling down Andres Iniesta. Just seven minutes later it was Iniesta scoring to deliver La Roja their first World Cup.