World Cup Wish List: More Yellow Cards, Stoppage Time

The World Cup kicks off on Nov. 20

A good share of players will be tired and banged up, coming off club seasons that go on pause as late as a week before. That means a super-short camp for national teams to prepare for travel to Qatar and group play. 

Logistical nightmares are likely during soccer’s most meaningful month. 

I mean check out some of these accommodations. Affordable rates, and perhaps you can even negotiate to be shipped home once your country is out. 

My request for the World Cup and for the highest level of club soccer is an odd one. I want more yellow cards, enough that players fear them and actually respond to the threat, changing their behavior. 

When a foul is called, the team awarded a free kick needs to be able to place the ball down and restart play as quickly as it likes. But the opponents frequently mill about inside the 10 yards it’s obligated to clear out of, either discussing the call with the official, jawing with the fouled player, tugging their socks or finding another reason to stall to allow their defense to get back into good position and set up. 

And the referee generally allows it. 


Card count from the last three World Cups: 

  • Russia, 2018: 219 yellow, 4 red 
  • Brazil, 2014: 345 yellow, 28 red (Both records) 
  • South Africa, 2010: 241 yellow, 17 red 

Give that guy a yellow, and make it clear that game flow is a priority and things are changing. The game will move along, and a restart will happen on the offended party’s clock, not yours. And if you use the tactic frequently and the yellows stack up someone will wind up with two of them, which amounts to a red and ejections, and you’ll be a man down. 

This is not a request for a new rule. It’s a matter of enforcement. 

Per FIFA, among the seven yellow-card worthy offenses are, “delaying the restart of play,” and “failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in.” Another is “unsporting behavior.” 

This stalling has also become big after penalty kick calls.  

What does the World Cup need? More yellow cards. (Getty Images)

Analytics clearly show that shooters do less well the longer they have to wait to step up to the spot, and so someone on the team that’s surrendered the chance takes on the role of the gnat. He’ll have an extended discussion with the referee, then pump up his keeper, then stare down the shooter. Somewhere in there he might even get a touch on the ball if he can, which is supposed to be super taboo. 

Get out of the 18-yard box in timely fashion, or watch the ref head into his pocket and fish out the yellow card, I say. 

Same for the big stall. If you’re ahead late and you’re able to take the ball to a corner and play keep away, well that’s good soccer. But if you’re awarded a throw in and you pump fake it six times and then put the ball down for another player to come and take it and he has the same trouble finding someone to throw it to, well can’t the referee show some discretion there? Or how about the goalie who is unable to take a goal kick? Yeah, it’s part of the game. A bad part.  

Slow playing it is one thing. Not playing it is another. 

Faster restarts will make for better soccer and more chances. 

Maybe I’m asking too much with all that, but this one is beyond obvious and I can’t believe it’s not been addressed. 

A controversial whistle blows and players pop up from both sides to argue with the referee. He’s fair game. I can’t believe how frequently players put their hands on him. How has FIFA not installed a rule that touching any game official in any manner gets you a red card? That would seem to immediately turn the temperature down on some very heated situations and create space in these scrums. 

Yet over and over I see them bumped, or players reaching out to put a hand on their shoulder or back to calm the ref as if that’s just part of how things work. It should not be. 

One big issue aside from cards: Extra time. 

I know a lot of Americas don’t like that the scoreboard clock is not THE clock. The ref has the official clock. He stops it when the game stops for an injury or whatever and adds that time to the end of the half.  

But that added time is never as long as the time the game is stopped.  

QATAR COMPLAINS ABOUT FACING ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ CRITICISM AHEAD OF SLAVE-DRIVEN WORLD CUP

I’ve got no issue with the person in control of the game handling the clock, if he handles it properly. 

Wouldn’t it be great if this was the first World Cup where, when extra time is signaled from the sideline at the end of 45 minutes, everyone said, “Yeah, that feels about right?” 

I’m not counting on it. 

Paul Kuharsky hosts OutKick 360. Read more of him at PaulKuharsky.com. 

Written by Paul Kuharsky

Paul Kuharsky is an award-winning writer who has covered the NFL for over 22 years in California, Texas, and Tennessee, and also is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After ESPN, PK came to join the longest running trio in Nashville Sports Talk in 2012.

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