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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK
Who's to blame for Cup card frenzy?
Marco Materazzi is sent off by Luis Medina Cantalejo
Materazzi's dismissal saw another game overshadowed by the referee
The dust had not even settled on Portugal's explosive win over Holland before the red card total at the World Cup was ticking over again in Italy's victory against Australia.

Less than a day after Russian official Valentin Ivanov issued a record-equalling 16 yellow and four red cards, referee Luis Medina Cantalejo brought the tournament total of sending-offs to 24 with his dismissal of Italian Marco Materazzi.

The previous record mark of 22, set at the 1998 tournament, will have been completely eclipsed by the final whistle of the final in Berlin - there are still 11 games to go.

And the tally for yellow cards is already approaching 300 at 297 and counting, and that from 53 matches.

So where does the blame lie? With the players, the officials or the rule-makers?

Five Live Sport summariser Chris Waddle insists there is no question that Sepp Blatter and Fifa are at fault.

"This game is getting to be an absolute farce," the ex-England winger said after the Italy match.

"I'm a fan like anyone else, but the officials are spoiling football. This is the greatest tournament in the world, and it is becoming a shambles.

It is not the referees' fault - they are under orders

Five Live Sport summariser Chris Waddle

The balance of blame has got to lay with the players

Former referee Jeff Winter

"But it is not the referees' fault - they are under orders. Blatter and Fifa have set all these rules and it has taken common sense out of the process. It's killing the game."

He also dismissed suggestions that the players have to be held to account for the rash of bookings and dismissals.

The tournament has been littered with occasions of simulation and bad tackles, but Waddle said: "That's part and parcel of the game - it's up to the referees to punish these things.

"It is what they are there for. If everybody watching the game can see someone cheating or a bad tackle, why can't the referee see it?

"Because they're not allowed to. They're under so much pressure they must judge everything according to the letter of the law."

However, former Premiership referee Jeff Winter disagreed.

"The balance of the blame has to lay with the players," he said.

Commenting on Portugal's game with Holland, he added: "The players' behaviour - Luis Figo included - left a lot to be desired.

Mandeep Sanghera, BBC Sport at the Portugal-Holland game

"From the first minute there was a high challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo and that set the tone as the referee has to be consistent throughout."

The stance from football's governing body is that the officials have got it about right so far in Germany, despite the apparent card frenzy.

Fifa spokesman Markus Siegler rejected the notion that the extraordinarily high number of cautions was a paradox.

"You could say if the referees were not active, it could have turned out into a more unfair or dirty tournament," he said.

"I'm convinced that because the referees are applying rules consistently and the players have been warned from the beginning, the tournament actually has been quite fair so far."

However, Waddle insists something has to change.

"The message to referees was to protect the skill at this tournament. But there's protecting the skill and going too far - and this is ridiculous."

World Cup 2006 statistics
08 Jun 06 |  World Cup 2006
Blatter criticises referee Ivanov
26 Jun 06 |  World Cup 2006
Van Basten directs anger at ref
25 Jun 06 |  Holland
Scolari salutes 'heroic victory'
25 Jun 06 |  Portugal
Figo cleared for England showdown
26 Jun 06 |  Portugal
Portugal 1-0 Holland
25 Jun 06 |  World Cup 2006


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