Stories of unfair impact: Embellishment and Card Accumulation


Embellishment incidents represent the intersection between fouls and deceitful behaviour. In such cases, while the referee is right to award a free kick against the tackler’s team, exaggeration by the challenged player can induce the referee to overreact by showing an unwarranted card to the challenging player. In each of the following 3 incidents, embellishment resulted in card accumulation and player suspension for future matches.

First incident

On match day 2 of the men’s World Cup, France are playing Peru. At minute 15:40, Luis Advincula (Peru) gets pulled from behind by Blaise Matuidi (France) in midfield but falls forward in a motion that displays a lack of ballistic continuity (video clip). Matuidi is shown a yellow card and goes on to receive a second one in France’s round of 16 match against Argentina, consequently being suspended for the quarter-final against Uruguay.

Second incident

On match day 2 of the women’s World Cup, Australia are up against Brazil. At minute 12:50, Formiga (Brazil) steps on the left foot of Tameka Yallop (Australia) in midfield. Yallop then goes into a full archer’s bow pose, jumping with both legs, bending both knees, thrusting her chest forward, moving her arms backwards and tilting her head back (video clip). Formiga has already received a yellow card on match day 1, playing against Jamaica, so she is suspended for match day 3, when Brazil beat Italy.

Third incident

In the semi-final of the women’s World Cup between England and the United States, at minute 39:15, Millie Bright (England) hits Alex Morgan (United States) on the face in midfield. Morgan takes 2 more steps, turns 360º and falls in a movement that displays a lack of temporal contiguity (video clip). Bright is shown a yellow card and receives a second one later in the match, leading to her dismissal. Consequently, she is suspended for the third place match against Sweden, which England then lose.

Anecdotally but interestingly, only a minute and half after the incident in question (at 40:45), Lindsey Horan (United States) hits Jill Scott (England) in a similar fashion on the other side of the midfield. She leaves an observable mark on the latter’s right cheekbone, but Scott does not embellish the incident and no card is shown.

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