The Rundown

Top 10 decisive sporting blunders

The Rundown

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Mario Balotelli's moment of madness has been blamed for costing Manchester City a place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Still, look on the bright side: at least he inspired our entertaining look at these moments from the history of sport where an athlete's blunder has had a heavy price.

1. Mario Balotelli - Europa League 2011

The volatile Italian
is becoming increasingly famous as much for his temper as his undoubted talent,
but he surpassed himself in the Europa League clash against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday
night with a ludicrous two-footed challenge. It was a tackle that saw him
sent off after little more than half an hour, leaving City a man - and a
striker - down in a match when they needed to score at least twice. Balotelli's
team-mates did their best to cover for him, but City ended up going out.

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2. Hale Irwin - Open Championship 1983

The legendary American
golfer enjoyed a stellar career that saw him win three Majors - but it could
have been four if not for one of the costliest misses of all time. After missing
a putt, Irwin went to tap in nonchalantly from a couple of inches - but
completely missed the ball, a blunder which still counts as a stroke in golf. He
went on to lose by a single shot from Tom Watson.

3. Fabien Barthez - FA Cup 2001

When West Ham's Paolo
di Canio was bearing down on Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, the French
World Cup winner chose not to close his opponent down. Instead, he stood up
with one arm raised to signal that Di Canio had been called offside and that
play was stopping. The Italian was onside, however, and benefited by playing to
the whistle as he scored what would prove to be the only goal of their fourth-round
tie. Barthez later tried to claim that he'd been trying to put off the
Italian striker.

4. Allan Donald - Cricket World Cup 1999

South Africa played Australia
in their World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston, and with three balls left the
Proteas were about to complete a famous victory. With the scores tied, Lance
Klusener struck a solid shot to give South Africa the single that they needed
to win the match - but at the other end Donald froze like a rabbit in a
1,000-watt theatrical spotlight. He started to run, stopped again, then dropped
his bat... and by the time he realised what was going on the quick-thinking
Aussies had run him out. With the scores tied, Australia progressed to the
final thanks to better results in the preceding Super Sixes round. Australia went
on to win the trophy by destroying Pakistan in the final.

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5. Zola Budd and Mary Decker - LA Olympics 1984

Nobody will ever know
whether South African-born Budd or America's sweetheart Decker would have won
3,000m gold had the most famous coming-together in women's distance running
never happened. When Budd moved inside at around the halfway point of the
race, her fellow hot-favourite Decker accidentally trod on the Brit's heel.
Budd always ran barefoot, and fell over immediately - taking Decker with her.
Budd got to her feet and stumbled on to the finish while Decker remained
blubbing on the track. She never won an Olympic medal.

6. Roberto De Vicenzo - The Masters 1968

When Argentine star
and reigning Open champion Roberto de Vicenzo birdied the 17th hole at the 1968
Masters he looked likely to win the tournament, and was guaranteed to at least
make a play-off. Sadly, playing partner Tommy Aaron had failed to notice his
birdie, and marked him down for a four. De Vicenzo didn't check his card
properly, and signed for a 66 instead of the 65 he should have had - and when Bob
Goalby made a birdie elsewhere, De Vicenzo missed out on the play-off chance he
had earned.

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7. David Beckham - World Cup 1998

Wayne Rooney's dismissal
at the 2006 World Cup for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho was bad; Beckham's red
card for a ridiculous flick of the boot at Diego Simeone eight years previously
was worse. As he lay on the turf after a big tackle, his petulant act of revenge gave his scruple-free
opponent the perfect opportunity to dive to the turf screaming - although Beckham later claimed Simeone grabbed him hard by the hair while pretending to ruffle it. The referee had
no option but to send off the 23-year-old Beckham, and England struggled on to
a shoot-out against an opposition that they had previously been dealing with
comfortably. They lost - and Beckham became a hate figure in English football
until his free-kick against Greece fired England into the 2002 World Cup.

8. Australian women's 4x200m team - 2001 Swimming World Championships

The Australian women
were absolutely delighted to have beaten arch-rivals USA to gold in
Fukuoka, Japan, so much so that the swimmers who had shone in the first three
legs of the race dived back into the pool to celebrate with their anchorwoman.
Sadly, all the other teams had yet to finish, earning the Aussies a
disqualification for having more than one swimmer in the pool.

9. Bill Buckner - 1986 World Series

Boston Red Sox star
Bill Buckner had been a hero to his fans all the way through the season, but he
was widely lambasted after a blunder that is often described as the worst in
the history of baseball. His team led the New York Mets 3-2 in the best-of-seven World Series, and
with the two teams tied in the bottom of the 10th inning the Red Sox looked set
to wrap it up. But Buckner made the simplest of fielding blunders
as he failed to stop a ball running straight to him at first base. The blunder
allowed the Mets runner on second base, Ray Knight, to score the winning run,
tying the series - and the Mets went on to win the decisive seventh game.

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10. Zinedine Zidane - 2006 World Cup

One of football's
all-time greats, Zidane looked set to end his career in style by firing France
to a second World Cup win in the space of eight years. His nonchalant penalty put France
ahead after just seven minutes but even though Marco Materazzi equalised 10
minutes later Les Bleus were still well in the match. But rather than lead his
men on in inspiring fashion, Zidane head-butted Materazzi in an off-the-ball
squabble - earning himself a red card, robbing France of his services in the
shoot-out and giving the Italians a boost that saw them win the trophy for the
first time since 1982.

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