The 10 Players Most Likely to Be Sent off at World Cup 2014
Whether it's his sometimes rugged approach to tackling, overzealous celebrations or dissent toward the officials, logic dictates that Mario Balotelli stands as one of the favourites to see red at this summer's World Cup.
Unsurprisingly, it's the defences of those "smaller" participants who will be considered most likely to see their numbers reduced due to the gulf in talent between them and their respective group foes. But tempers can boil over for any player, and, like Balotelli, there are those more prone to lashing out and receiving their marching orders than others.
Taking into account the setting of the pool phase, as well as those challenges that sides look likely to come up against in the competition's latter stages—should they make it that far—we've compiled a list of 10 of the players most likely be sent off during the upcoming extravaganza.
There were 17 red cards shown at the 2010 World Cup, giving Brazil something of a reputation to live up to this year. Let us know who you think will be sent for an early shower in the comments section below.
1. Stephane Mbia, Cameroon
Wherever his career has taken him, Stephane Mbia has garnered a reputation as being something of a brute.
The midfielder saw red four times during his days in Ligue 1 with Marseille and Rennes, per Transfermarkt, while Queens Park Rangers and Sevilla have also had the displeasure of seeing the anchor sent off.
Although Mbia has never been sent for an early shower while representing Cameroon, that record could well change should the odds be stacked against them in a tough World Cup group.
And lo and behold, the challenge represented by a group consisting of Brazil, Croatia and Mexico promises to do just that, with some particularly elusive attacking midfielders and strikers likely to be edging their way around Mbia's challenges.
Squawka shows that all seven of Mbia's yellow cards this La Liga season—in just 18 starts—came as a result of tackling offences, and one can expect the 28-year-old to be placed in his fair share of do-or-die circumstances that he won't come through with flying colours.
2. Pepe, Portugal
Irrespective of what tournament is concerned, team he's representing or context coming into the fracas, Pepe will always be considered one of any fixture's more probable culprits for cautioning.
Of course, we mustn't take away from the centre-back's better side, and he has been an important figure in seeing Real Madrid through to the final of the Champions League, but even there his lack of discipline has been clear.
According to Transfermarkt, Pepe has picked up 13 yellows in 48 appearances across all competitions this season, an average of just over one card every four games.
Astonishingly, the renowned controversial figure has never been sent off on duty for Portugal, but the unpredictable nature of his personality means he simply can't be ignored—whether it's a bad challenge, simulation or something more terrifying that he's going in the book for.
Germany, Ghana and the United States don't have the finest selection of strikers among them, but all three should still give Portugal a testing review, and it's the Portuguese defence that bears a large responsibility in seeing them progress.
3. Mitchell Langerak, Australia
Poor Mitchell Langerak. Not only is the Borussia Dortmund back-up looking to fill in the space vacated by Mark Schwarzer in the Australian national team, but he's doing so against quite impossible odds.
Spain, Netherlands and Chile each promise to put at least a couple of goals on the Socceroos, with Langerak likely to be drawn into some precarious positions.
In the forms of Diego Costa, Pedro and others, the Spanish possess as tricky a supply of offensive figures as any, Netherlands' Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Jeremain Lens could all be troublesome, while Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas promise to test for Chile.
In short, Langerak's hopes of playing every minute of this World Cup could be better.
Still adapting to his responsibilities as Australia's No. 1, the 25-year-old is likely to be nervous, coming off the back of a campaign with minimal involvement. It's a concoction of factors and all signs lead to red.
4. Wilson Palacios, Honduras
After a lacklustre campaign with Stoke City, it remains to be seen just how involved Wilson Palacios will be under Luis Fernando Suarez this summer, but the Potter remains likely to keep his place as a key cog in the Honduras setup.
But "key cog" doesn't translate to "elegant cog" and the 29-year-old's already questionable, no-nonsense approach to tackling isn't likely to have benefited from a lack of match preparation.
In 16 Premier League appearances during the 2013-14 campaign, including five starts, Palacios picked up three yellow cards, per Transfermarkt, at an average of one caution every 173 minutes (more than one every two games).
Put up against the quite significant tests of France, Ecuador and Switzerland, it's difficult to see the Hondurans making their way out of Group E, so it's just as well that Palacios doesn't require a lot of time in which to test the referee's patience.
5. Ramires, Brazil
Similar to the aforementioned Palacios, Brazil's Ramires has developed a reputation for being something of hit-and-miss presence in midfield when it comes to tackling.
Transfermarkt shows that despite maintaining his place as one of Luiz Felipe Scolari's key men in the middle, Ramires has been shown nine yellow cards and one red in his 41 outings for the Selecao.
There are more contemporary figures to back up the reasoning behind his selection, too, with Squawka illustrating that in 30 Premier League appearances this season, Ramires managed to draw eight cautions and one sending off with Chelsea.
A great deal of Ramires' longevity at the World Cup will depend on who Scolari fields next to him. Should he be the most defensively inclined of a Brazilian midfield three, he's likely to be placed in situations that leave him more susceptible to the odd awkward challenge.
However, if Paulinho or Fernandinho are around to give him a helping hand, Ramires may not be in quite as much danger of seeing red.
It's probable that Brazil will advance from Group A this summer, and Ramires' questionable tackling in and around his own area could be a spectacle worth keeping an eye on in the latter stages.
6. Michael Umana, Costa Rica
Costa Rica centre-back Michael Umana has been shown four yellow cards in his last four international friendlies, two of which came in a 4-0 defeat to Chile back in January.
If a fixture with little on the line can force that kind of reaction out of the defender, imagine how intensified Umana will be when he comes up against England, Uruguay and Italy in Group D next month.
Umana has two red cards to his name when representing his national team, and the standard of opposition in his pool is likely to see him poised rather uncomfortably in a number of positions too precarious to escape without caution.
7. Orestis Karnezis, Greece
The second goalkeeper to make our list, Orestis Karnezis' Greece appear likely to take on board a wealth of punishment in Brazil, where Belo Horizonte, Natal and Fortaleza sit as the scheduled locations of their international demise.
There, they'll take on Colombia, Japan and the Ivory Coast, respectively, and Karnezis will be the man standing between Greece's chances of progression and stars such as Jackson Martinez, Didier Drogba and Keisuke Honda.
Granted, Greece have a strange habit of putting up a more stubborn fight than many expect of them, but since the triumph of Euro 2004, it's what they've become renowned for on the big stage and sides are now more aware of their threat.
Karnezis received four cards, three yellows and one red, in his last two Greek Super League seasons with Panathinaikos, per Transfermarkt, before his move to Granada.
At Euro 2012, Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis was the unfortunate soul sent off against Poland in Greece's group exploits, but this time around, it could be his No. 1 who receives the marching orders.
8. Philippe Senderos, Switzerland
Ever a candidate in the race to see who can be Switzerland's clumsiest bastion, Philippe Senderos continues to play a prominent role in Ottmar Hitzfeld's national team setup, although other faces are worming their way into the fold.
Senderos will have frustrated fans at Fulham with the frequency in which he displayed genuine defensive nous before following it up moments later with a suicidal piece of play.
The centre-back has only been at Valencia since January, per Transfermarkt, but he has somehow managed to pick up four cautions in the 11 times he's featured for the Spanish outfit.
It's that kind of behind-speed grappling of the opponent (see Neymar above) that would lead one to believe that France, Ecuador and even Honduras can expose the lumbering defender for his weaknesses come June.
9. Clint Dempsey, U.S.A.
"Deuce" has always been know for having a hot temper under that Texan-raised bonnet of his, and regardless of who the U.S.A. face this summer, it's likely that Clint Dempsey will bear it for all to see.
As fate would have it, it's an intimidating group of Germany, Portugal and Ghana awaiting the USMNT in Group G, but we all know Dempsey isn't one to be fazed easily.
In fact, he rises to the occasion. Rises so much that he has the capacity to overstep his boundaries, and in what is likely to be the 31-year-old's last World Cup, he'll be more adamant to leave his mark than ever.
Like Balotelli, it's attitude and personality qualms that are most likely to leave Dempsey sent for an early bath.
10. Nigel De Jong, Netherlands
The infamous image of the 2010 World Cup final saw the Netherlands' Nigel de Jong send a studs-up boot into the chest Xabi Alonso and somehow scuttle away with just a yellow.
Instead, it was Johnny Heitinga sent off in that fixture, but De Jong will get his comeuppance this time around, something that the absence of Kevin Strootman makes all the more likely.
Having just been named Milan's Player of the Season, the Dutch enforcer has shown that there is an art to his craft, but the tenacious Chile midfield, the sleek characters of Spain and, to a lesser extent, Australia, will prove if he's really changed in the past four years.
Past the group stage, De Jong can hope to face off against the likes of Colombia, Italy, Uruguay, England and host of other talented nations depending on where the Oranje place in Group B.
One thing for is certain, he will bring a certain fire to Louis van Gaal's engine room. What's not as nailed on is exactly which version of De Jong we see turn up.