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Remembering the ‘Battle of Nuremberg’, a 2006 FIFA World Cup classic

Round of 16 Portugal v Netherlands - World Cup 2006
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Let’s go down memory lane and remember the 2006 FIFA World Cup game between Portugal and Netherlands, also known as the ‘Battle of Nuremberg’.

On this day in 2006, Portugal and Netherlands faced each other in the FIFA World Cup’s round of 16, after meeting in the UEFA EURO semi-finals in Portugal two years ago – a game which finished with a 2-1 victory for the hosts.

The Frankenstadion in Nuremberg was the venue, while Russian referee Valentin Ivanov officiated the game, arguably the toughest one of his career, as he was forced to show a total of 16 yellow and four red cards.

Marc van Bommel was the first one to be booked, less than two minutes into the game, after a harsh challenge on 21-year old Cristiano Ronaldo, who was still making his way up to ultimate football greatness back then. Only five minutes later Khalid Boulahrouz was shown yellow as well, while Cristiano Ronaldo was the victim again.

Maniche obviously couldn’t watch them hurting Portugal’s most talented player, so he also got booked in the 20th minute after a ‘revenge foul’ on Marc van Bommel. Three minutes later the former Porto midfielder scored, what turned out to be the only goal of the game. But the game actually just got started.

Cristiano Ronaldo, obviously hurt by the Dutch players was forced to a substitution in the 33rd minute, leaving the field in tears, as Simao Sabrosa replaced him. The Manchester United winger later described Boulahrouz’s tackle from the start of the game as “clearly an intentional foul to get me injured.”

However, the game continued, as Portuguese defender Costinha got two yellow cards in only 15 minutes and was the first one to be sent to the showers, during the injury time of the first half.

In the second half, the game got even more tensed, turning into a real battle on the Frankenstadion in Nuremberg. Petit was shown yellow in the 50th, Van Bronckhorst got his first booking nine minutes later, while Khalid Boulahrouz saw red less than 18 minutes after the break.

Believe it or not, there was also good football, with many chances on both sides. Cocu came the closest for the Netherlands, hitting the crossbar, while Figo, Van Persie, and Kuyt also missed great chances in a game which could have easily seen more than five goals.

Deco’s challenge on Heitinga in the 73rd minute got himself booked, but also caused a massive bust-up on the ground, which ended up with yellow cards for Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Nuno Valente, and even the Portuguese goalkeeper, Ricardo.

To cap off a frankly ridiculous five minutes, which he himself started, Deco saw another yellow in the 78th minute, getting himself sent off.


The game finished with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s second yellow in dying moments, while the Netherlands failed to net the equalizer, as Portugal proceded into the quarter-finals of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Do you remember the “Battle of Nuremberg” and where does it rank on the all-time most exciting games you’ve ever watched list? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.