The Lenient Yellow Card Weekender

In normal circumstances – i.e. a football match in which the referee applies the laws of the game – England would have ended the match against Brazil without Ben Foster after he brought down Nilmar in the area.

Being a friendly, however, the same rules clearly don’t apply.

Much the same leniency was on display in Madrid where, had the man in charge of the Spain-Argentina ‘friendly’ remembered what should be done in the face of violent attacks to win the ball, deliberate handballs in the area, and repeated acts of aggression from the same player, Argentina would have ended the match without their entire defensive line.

As it was, Argentina still had 11 players on the pitch at the end of the clash at the Calderón.

As La Liga Loca has already told us, after running rings around Argentina and winning 2-1, the Spanish press decided it was time to continue their hate-hate relationship with Maradona, branding the Argentines ‘gangsters’, ‘mobsters’, and ‘thugs.’

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The Spanish clearly expect other teams to stand by and applaud as the Roja humiliate them.

The hosts should have remembered one thing – ‘Argentina don’t play friendlies.’

So said Diego when he took over as coach, and so it was against Spain. At least Maradona’s men were fair in how they dished out their kicks, tugs and elbows.

They averaged a democratic two fouls per Spanish player by the end of the 90 minutes. Cue angry headlines.

Back home, Argentines concentrated on other issues, because complaining about Heinze, Coloccini and company being prone to ligament-threatening lunges is not news, and any petulant swing of an arm from David Villa was irrelevant.

No, the real issue was the performance.

In news rooms around the country the debate took hold. ‘Guys! What shall we give Heinze? 4 or 3?!’

As Olé reported, Argentina’s best player was Ángel Di María – with a combined average press rating of 5.07. Out of 10.

Fabricio Coloccini was the worst with a simply abysmal 3.85.

Perhaps 2-1 was a modest score given Spain’s dominance, although Maradona believed a draw ‘would have been fair.’

And he couldn’t resist a straight-faced ‘it was a good result for the centenary.’

Maradona’s real test came the following day in Zurich, where he spent 40 minutes explaining to the FIFA bigwigs how sorry he was for his press conference appearance in Uruguay.

He passed with flying colours.

FIFA, fully in the spirit of friendlies, pulled out the yellow card – no five month ban, no five official match touchline ban, no multi-million dollar fine as had been feared.

No. A two month ban from football-related activity, a £15,000 fine and a ‘don’t do it again’ was all they gave him.

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He will miss the friendly with Catalunya in December, and he will miss the World Cup draw in Cape Town, but Maradona will be in South Africa for the big one – even if the Spanish aren’t best pleased.

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