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How do yellow card suspensions work at the World Cup?

Here’s everything you need to know about yellow cards, how they can add up to suspensions, and the players currently suspended at the World Cup.

Hungary v Australia Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

A big inevitability of any major soccer tournament is yellow card accumulation leading to suspensions. It’s frustrating for fans and managers alike, but it’s something that always has to be considered going into any game.

The World Cup is no exception to this rule, so knowing how the tournament’s yellow card rules are going to work is important before it starts.

Why does a player get a yellow card?

Yellow cards can come for a wide variety of reasons. Most often they come from rash or unnecessary tackles, but they can come for other things like intentional, breakaway-stopping fouls, persistent fouling, dissent, timewasting, or other things that impede or disrupt the flow of the game. Players that earn a yellow card are on thin ice: Earn two in one match and you’re ejected, with your team spending the rest of the game unable to replace you and thus down a man.

How many yellow cards until a player is suspended?

In the 2018 World Cup, accumulating two yellow cards throughout the competition will result in a one-match suspension. That’s true both during the group stage and through the knockout rounds. Given how easy it will be to earn a suspension, keeping track of who on the field is at risk of being suspended will constantly weigh on managers’ minds.

When does a player’s yellow card count reset?

A player’s yellow card count from the group stage carries over into the knockout rounds. There is a reset for the semifinals. This is a measure designed to keep players from being suspended from the final for yellow accumulation. Of course, any red card infractions in the semifinal — whether a straight red or earning a pair of yellows — would still see a player banned from the final. But such a punishment would be much less of a cause for heartache than a yellow card accumulation suspension would be.

So if your favorite player from a certain national team is suddenly missing from a match, check the stats from the last couple of matches they played. Chances are, it was a couple moments of bad behavior that forced them to cool their heels on the sidelines for a match.

Have star players missed crucial World Cup games over yellow cards?

Players missing matches because of yellow card suspensions can create major issues for their squads — just ask Brazil, who were missing captain and key defender Thiago Silva because of an accumulation suspension against Germany in the 2014 World Cup, a game that famously ended 7-1 in Germany’s favor. The Netherlands were a bit more fortunate in the 2010 World Cup when they beat Uruguay, 3-2, despite the absences of the suspended Nigel De Jong and Gregory Van Der Wiel, though Uruguay were also missing a key defender in accumulation-suspended Jorge Fucile and a key attacker in Luis Suarez after his infamous “Hand of God” save of a sure winning goal for Ghana in extra time of their quarterfinal.