It took him a split of a second to realize the consequence. A sliding tackle, both mistimed and needless, had sent Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger tumbling to the turf and, with it, crashed Xabi Alonso’s own hopes of a third Champions League final appearance.
The Spanish midfielder of Real Madrid is not the first player to be ruled out for a final. Pavel Nedved, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, John Terry, they all missed Champions League finals because of fatal semi-final bookings. Michael Ballack scored the winning goal for Germany in the semis of the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ against South-Korea, but was suspended for the final, which Germany went on to lose 2–0 to Brazil.
The most famous reaction to a suspension didn’t even matter in the end. England played Germany in the semi-final of the 1990 FIFA World Cup™. Paul Gascoigne had been the star of team, creating numerous goals for his team-mates and running the midfield in England’s best tournament since 1966.
After ninety minutes of play and a score of 1-1, the game had to go into a thrilling extra time. Both teams were looking for the victory, and both came close by hitting the post.
The 99th minute dawned.
When Gazza flew in on Thomas Berthold, the resulting yellow card provoked floods of tears as the midfielder’s dream of representing his country in a World Cup final was shattered.
He was inconsolable. Later he told:
“When I was a young kid playing at my youth club, every night I used to dream about playing football at the World Cup. I lived that dream in Italy, but when I was shown the yellow card I knew it had come to an end. When things are good and I can see they’re about to end I get scared, really scared. I couldn’t help but cry that night.”
By the end of the match, so was the rest of England, as they lost to West Germany 4-3 on penalties. The Germans went on to beat Argentina 1-0 in the final. Instead Gascoigne sat out the third-place play-off, which England lost to Italy 2-1.