Yellow cards too harsh for England defender Rio Ferdinand

England has been lucky to escape any referee controversies at the World Cup. That doesn't mean they're happy with the number of yellow cards handed out.

"The referees have been very tough," England defender Rio Ferdinand said. "If I'm being honest, over tough.

"There's a lot of tackles that have gone in that have been booked and probably the yellow cards have been handed out a bit too freely in my opinion," he said.

Ferdinand has only been cautioned once in his 51 games for England in its quarterfinal defeat to Brazil in the last World Cup.

Four years later and the rules are stricter. FIFA announced a clampdown on elbowing, diving, shirt-pulling and delaying restarts before the tournament, and players were briefed at meetings just before the start of the World Cup.

"There's been some decisions that have been hard possibly for some of the players to understand the games have blown and whistled so tight," said defensive midfielder Owen Hargreaves, who was booked in England's 2-2 draw with Sweden.

"It's important for the players as well that the referee has a good day and he lets the players play because it's very difficult to get a flow into the game if it's stopped every 30 seconds," Hargreaves said.

England had Paul Robinson and Jamie Carragher booked for time-wasting in the 1-0 second round win over Ecuador.

"It's a bit of a shame when you see sometimes what players receive a yellow card for and sometimes it's very difficult going into a challenge especially if you are down a yellow card," Hargreaves said. "You've got it in the back of your mind to be careful and it has been very tight and the refs have been very strict in the way that they've handed out yellow cards."

Ferdinand said players just had to be more careful.

"That's the way it's going and you've to deal with that and the teams that deal with that best are the teams that are going to be successful," Ferdinand said, reports AP.