My so-called three-card trick began in the sixty-first minute. Croatia’s Simunic body-checked Australia’s Harry Kewell, and I showed Simunic a yellow card. My system has always been to identify teams in my notebook by their colours and not the team name. It is a system which I had found prevents confusion, believe it or not. So in Stuttgart I put ‘Red/White’ for Croatia at the top of my left hand column and listed the numbers of the players underneath. In the right hand column, I put ‘Yellow’ for Australia and listed their numbers. So when I cautioned Simunic that first time, I correctly put a ‘C’ for caution against Red/White number 3 in the left hand column and noted the time – ‘16/2’ (which meant sixteen minutes of the second half).
The match continued. After seventy-eight minutes Liverpool’s Kewell became an immortal hero in Australia with an outstanding equalizer. He chested down a pass, turned and scored with a right-footed volley. That guaranteed that the last moments of the match would be extremely tense for everybody as Croatia charged after a winning goal, Australia desperately defied them, supporters from both sides went through every possible emotion and I raised my own tempo to keep control.
Croatia’s Dario Simic, whom I had cautioned in the first half, earned a second booking after eighty-five minutes and I sent him off. Brett Emerton, of Australia, collected cautions in the eighty-first and eighty-seventh minutes. I sent him off as well.
Then, in stoppage time, I cautioned Simunic again – but I didn’t realize it was ‘again’. He fouled Australia sub Joshua Kennedy and I showed him the yellow card – but, this time, as I now realize, I recorded it wrongly. I put the ‘C’ beside the Yellow 3, in line with the Red/White 3, which already had a ‘C’ against it. I didn’t note a time or offence. Although I have replayed the incident a thousand times in my head, I don’t really know why I did what I did. I cannot fully understand why I got it wrong and why I failed to send off Simunic. Aussie Joe certainly speaks with a broad Australian accent. Maybe, just maybe, that is where the confusion set in.
Simunic began having a go at me. ‘You’re unbelievable,’ he said. I told him, ‘Any more of that and you’ll be off …’ As he ran away he said, ‘That IS unbelievable.’ We all know now what he meant.
The match ended and the Aussies celebrated. I had given a total of eight cautions, two of which had led to sendings off. It had been mayhem, but it was not over. Simunic deliberately approached me and gave me another piece of his mind. Croatia had been knocked out by the country of his birth and he was massively disappointed. He vented his anger at me. I showed him the yellow card and then the red.
Then we all trooped off. As we did so, there was a man from the Croatian FA shaking his head, but his team had gone out, so I thought he was reacting to that. Australia had twice battled back from a goal down. They were on their way through to the next stage of the World Cup. Although I didn’t know it, I was on my way home.