Top 3 Most Debated, Toughest Red Card Decisions in Football History

If you’re into football, you know about the dreaded red card. It’s the harshest punishment a player can get from a referee for a serious foul or bad behavior on the field. When a player sees a red card, they’re out of the game, and their team plays with one less player.

But not all red card decisions are straightforward. Sometimes, it’s a real head-scratcher. It depends on things like the game’s context, how bad the foul was, what the referee thinks, and how everyone reacts.

The Red Card that Cost Liverpool the Champions League Final

In the 2019 UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham, a pivotal moment occurred. Liverpool, leading 1-0, had their goalkeeper, Alisson Becker, sent off in the 86th minute. He had rushed out of his goal to deal with a long pass but accidentally touched the ball with his hand outside the penalty area.

The tough part? It was debatable whether Alisson intentionally handled the ball and if he prevented a clear goal-scoring chance. The referee decided to give him a straight red card, reducing Liverpool to 10 players. They had to bring in Simon Mignolet, who hadn’t played in the Champions League that season.

The outcome was heartbreaking for Liverpool. Tottenham scored from the resulting free-kick to tie the game. It went to extra time and then a penalty shootout, with Tottenham winning 5-4 and clinching their first-ever Champions League trophy. Liverpool fans were upset, feeling that Alisson’s red card was unjust and cost them their shot at the title.

The Red Card that Sparked a Brawl in the Copa America

In the 2021 Copa America quarter-final between Brazil and Argentina, a significant red card moment occurred. Brazil was the defending champions and hosts, while Argentina aimed to break a 28-year trophy drought.

In the 72nd minute, Brazil’s Thiago Silva was sent off for a tackle on Argentina’s Lionel Messi. Silva’s sliding challenge caught Messi’s ankle, causing pain. The referee faced a tough call as it was a hard tackle that could have injured Messi, but it wasn’t overly malicious. Silva received a straight red card, reducing Brazil to 10 players.

The decision sparked chaos, with both teams clashing verbally and physically. Brazil’s Neymar Jr. even confronted Messi. The referee had to step in, showing four more red cards and numerous yellows.

With both teams down to six players each, Argentina capitalized on their advantage, scoring a late goal from Messi to win 2-1. Brazil, the hosts, suffered their first Copa America defeat since 2015. Argentina later won the tournament, ending their trophy drought

The Red Card that Changed the World Cup Final

In the 2023 FIFA World Cup final between France and Germany, a crucial moment occurred. France was the reigning champions, while Germany were the underdogs, both vying for their fifth World Cup title.

The game was intense, with France leading thanks to Kylian Mbappe’s goal. But in the 55th minute, Paul Pogba received a second yellow card and was sent off for fouling Toni Kroos. It was a minor foul, but Pogba had already been cautioned earlier.

The referee’s decision was tough because it was a repeat offense, though the foul didn’t impact the play much. With Pogba’s red card, France played with 10 men.

Germany seized the advantage, scoring two late goals to win 4-1 and claim their fifth World Cup title. France was disappointed, feeling Pogba’s red card had unfairly changed the game’s course.


We’ve covered some of the trickiest red card decisions in football from 2019 to 2023. These calls can change games and spark debates among fans and experts. Key factors include the game’s context, the seriousness of the foul, the referee’s judgment, and how everyone reacts.

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