The new yellow card rules could dramatically alter match-ups in the next two rounds of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In past Finals, the yellow card slate would be wiped clean after the group matches.
This created the problem that a player getting a second yellow in the semi-final wold miss the final. This happened a few times, most significantly to Michael Ballack in the 2002 final.
FIFA changed the rules for 2010, but the cure might end up being worse than the problem by ruining some intriguing potential match-ups in the quarter and semifinals. The rules now only wipe the slate clean after the quarterfinals.
The result is that a lot of players who are sitting on one card from the group stage face a suspension in the knockout rounds.
The rule will already keep two Ghanaian players out of the quarterfinal against Uruguay, although one should be overturned on appeal. Andre Ayew, one of their midfield leaders, was given a yellow card for a tackle on Jozy Altidore when Altidore tripped over his own feet.
We will wait to see if FIFA are indeed being fair on that one.
Teams in serious danger are The Netherlands with six, Germany with six, Slovakia with six, and Portugal with seven.
Spain is the only team with no yellow cards yet but Brazil, Paraguay and Japan all have key players with one yellow. For Brazil, Luis Fabiano, Felipe Melo, and Juan are in danger.
Germany is in the worst situation. They will have their full team for their quarter final with Argentina but Arne Friedrich, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Meziu Oezil, Thomas Mueller, and Philipp Lahm all have yellows. Under the old rule, only Friedrich would have in danger.
The Netherlands have five starters in danger including Giovanni Van Brnkhorst, Robin Van Persie, Dirk Kuyt and Rafael Van Der Vaart in danger.
Portugal could lose Christiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Tiago and Fabio Coentrao. Japan's Yasuhito Endo and Paraguy's Roque Santa Cruz are in a similar situation.
Argentina has Javier Mascherano and Gabriel Heinze both on yellow cards although they escaped new ones today.
The quarter final between Germany and Argentina will be a tough, uncompromising match. But if Germany wins and picks up a few yellows, they will be crippled for the semifinal. The same applies to The Netherlands, who appear to be headed for a showdown with Brazil.
Yellow cards have been handed out quite freely, yet inconsistently throughout the tournament. More than a few have been completely wrong calls, such as Kaka, Ayew and Mark Gonzalez's second yellow against Spain where he obviously didn't foul Fernando Torres.
I expect we will see a number of players having to sit out games in the next couple of rounds, because going five games with less than two yellows is not easy for defenders, even for those who are not considered 'dirty' players. This could affect some of these games significantly.
In trying to protect the players participation in the final, they have may have made it unfair for one or more teams in games leading up to the final.
What point is there to ensuring a team has all it's players available for the final when this new rule might make it far more difficult for a team to even get to the final?