When Are Yellow Cards Wiped In The World Cup?

Everything you need to know about yellow card accrual suspensions for the 2018 World Cup.

Yellow cards — the fine line between professional or consistent fouls and a sending off — are a part of almost every match, especially at the World Cup when the stakes are highest. Accruing yellow cards will get a player suspended. But when are yellow cards wiped in the World Cup in 2018? 

It takes two yellow cards for a red card in a match and likewise two yellow cards in separate matches earn a player a one-match suspension during the World Cup (or other FIFA tournaments). There were 187 yellow cards at the 2014 World Cup, an average of just under three per match. Because it’s easy for a player to pick up two yellow cards if the team advances past the group stage, FIFA wipes out yellow cards at a certain point in the tournament, allowing leniency and preventing key players from missing more important matches. 

So when are yellow cards wiped in the World Cup in 2018? After the quarterfinal round and before the semifinals, just like in the Champions League.

But it wasn’t always this way. 

When are yellow cards wiped in the World Cup

When are yellow cards wiped in the World Cup? Photo: @Nasser_AlHashmi | Twitter

In 2002, Germany captain Michael Ballack picked up a yellow card in the semifinal against South Korea, his second of the knockout round thereby earning a suspension for the final. Without his towering presence in midfield, Germany lost 2-0 to Brazil in the final. 

FIFA used to wipe out yellow cards after the initial group stage. This made a lot of sense, as players got a reset of sorts heading into the knockout rounds. However, FIFA wanted to make sure vital players would not be suspended for the final, so instead of using a system that helps most teams it adopted a system that helps the best teams. 

FIFA first started wiping out yellow cards after the quarterfinal round in the 2010 World Cup. By wiping yellow cards out ahead of the semifinals, only a red card would prevent a player from missing the final. 

When are yellow cards wiped in the World Cup

Thiago Silva wants to know: When are yellow cards wiped in the World Cup. Photo: @SportsCenter | Twitter

In 2014, Brazilian captain Thiago Silva received his second yellow card in the quarterfinals against Colombia. After picking up his first yellow in his second match against Mexico in the group stage, Silva was suspended for the semifinal against Germany. You may remember how that one turned out for Brazil. (Fun fact: Both Thiago Silva and Ballack scored in the match in which they earned their vital suspensions.)

There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. When yellow cards wipe out after the knockout rounds, 16 teams benefit. When yellow cards wipe out after the quarterfinals, four teams benefit. Wiping out yellow cards early means teams with less depth are more protected in the early stages of the knockout rounds. Wiping out yellow cards late means teams in position to win it all are more protected.

Regardless of when yellow cards are wiped out in the World Cup, FIFA makes one thing clear: Don’t commit fouls or you might be suspended. So if you don’t want to worry about when yellow cards are wiped out, just play nicely.

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