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Why Denmark's late foul was not a red card ... and was a heroic World Cup play

With six minutes remaining in extra time of Sunday’s World Cup Round of 16 match between Croatia and Denmark, Croatia’s Ante Rebic was in on goal, alone, with the quarterfinals in sight.

But before he could give Croatia a 2-1 lead, he was brought down from behind by Denmark’s Mathias Jorgensen. Clear penalty and red card, right?


Penalty, yes. But not a red card. The referee showed Jorgensen a yellow. And it was the correct call.

Typically, a foul that denies a goalscoring opportunity merits a red. But a few years ago, a rule change pertaining to this exact type of incident was enacted: If a defender is attempting to play the ball when he or she commits a foul that denies a goalscoring opportunity in the penalty box, he or she can’t be punished with both a penalty and a red card. Instead, it’s a penalty and yellow.

Here’s the full rule, via IFAB, the International Football Association Board (emphasis ours):

Where a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by a deliberate handball offense the player is sent off wherever the offense occurs.

 

Where a player commits an offense against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offender is cautioned if the offense was an attempt to play the ball; in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.) the offending player must be sent off. A player, sent off player, substitute or substituted player who enters the field of play without the required referee’s permission and interferes with play or an opponent and denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is guilty of a sending-off offense.

So Jorgensen, because he attempted to make a legal play on the ball, avoided a sending off.

His foul was therefore heroic. It turned a sure goal into a penalty … which Croatia’s Luka Modric missed:


The game went to a penalty shootout because of Jorgensen’s decision to commit the foul instead of let Rebic finish.

Croatia, however, won the shootout and advanced to the quarterfinals.

Mathias Jorgensen’s foul on Ante Rebic, who was clean through on goal in the World Cup Round of 16 match between Denmark and Croatia, was a yellow card, not a red card. (Getty)

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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