The World Cup is the pinnacle of any football player's career. Testing your abilities against the best, on the world's biggest stage, is a lifelong dream for many.
However, the World Cup is also a melting pot for political, diplomatic and sporting grudges, and in the pressure of an international tournament, things don't always go to plan. Planet Sport takes a look at 10 of the most controversial moments in World Cup history.
Hand of God (1986)
Love him or loathe him, Diego Maradona lit up world soccer during the 1980s and 1990s. Involved in controversy whenever he played, it reached its peak at Mexico '86, where the world saw the best and the worst of the Argentine superstar.
Argentina's old foes England were the opposition for the World Cup quarter-final clash at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, just four years after the Falklands War between the two countries.
In the 51st minute, Maradona leapt to challenge England goalkeeper Peter Shilton for a high ball. Maradona, knowing he was considerably shorter than Shilton, reached the ball first with the use of his left hand and knocked it into the net. The goal was awarded and so 'The Hand of God', as Maradona called it, was born.
Four minutes later, Maradona showed the sublime side of his character; dribbling the ball half the length of the pitch and past most of the England team to score the most famous goal in World Cup history.
Le headbutt (2006)
French superstar Zinedine Zidane had the perfect fairy-tale ending to his career all lined up; come out of international retirement to captain a rudderless French side to World Cup glory in 2006. And it nearly went exactly as planned, until one fateful moment deep into extra time in the final.
With the match locked at 1-1, Zidane and Italian defender Marco Materazzi exchanged words as they jogged alongside each other. Then Materazzi grabbed Zidane's jersey, which sparked the Frenchman's moment of madness. He turned and planted a firm headbutt straight into Materazzi's chest, which sent him crashing to the ground. Zidane was sent off and France went on to lose the final on penalties. It was the last professional game in Zidane's trophy-laden career.
On this day in 2️⃣0️⃣0️⃣6️⃣, the headbutt heard around the world happened 😲
Zinedine Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup Final. He never played again. pic.twitter.com/8Wg813L4Z5
— Last Word On Football (@LastWordFC) July 9, 2022
The Battle of Santiago (1962)
Italy's Group 2 match with Chile in 1962 is arguably the most violent of all time, not just at a World Cup. Tensions were running high between the countries after two Italian journalists wrote a less than glowing account of Chile's capital city, Santiago. Chilean newspapers' fiery response just made matters worse. So when the first foul happened after just 12 seconds, you knew it was going to be a rough 90 minutes. Just eight minutes later, Italian midfielder Giorgio Ferrini was sent off, although the police had to escort him off the pitch as he refused to leave.
The game continued in a similar vein. Chilean Leonel Sanchez punched Italian Mario David, but wasn't sent off.
The Italian right-back was then dismissed a few minutes later for trying to kick Sanchez in the head in an act of revenge. Sanchez was involved again as he broke Humberto Maschio's nose and yet still remained on the pitch.
Fights, spitting and the police being called upon three more times summed up the rest of the match, which Italy won 2-0. BBC commentator David Coleman described the game as "the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game."
The Schumacher incident (1982)
Goalkeeper Harald 'Toni' Schumacher had a successful career with the likes of FC Koln and Fenerbahce, as well as winning 76 caps for the West German national side. However, he is best remembered for a notorious moment at the 1982 World Cup.
During the semi-final match with France, Schumacher and French defender Patrick Battiston raced towards a long through ball from Michel Platini. Battiston reached the ball first but was clattered by Schumacher, knocking the Frenchman unconscious.
He was given oxygen on the pitch, lost two teeth, cracked three ribs and damaged his vertebrae. Alarmingly no foul was given, Battiston was taken off the pitch and Schumacher took the resulting goal kick. West Germany went on to win the game on penalties and qualified for the final. Schumacher did visit Battiston in hospital and apologised, although he maintained it wasn't a foul and he was only trying to get the ball.
Happy Birthday Harald Schumacher
Wonder if he will be getting a card from Patrick Battiston? pic.twitter.com/68ZgxLf21q
— Classic Football Shirts (@classicshirts) March 6, 2017
1966 World Cup final
England's third goal in the 1966 World Cup final is still the most hotly disputed goal in the history of the tournament nearly 60 years after it crossed - or didn't cross - the line. West Germany's 89th-minute equaliser forced the match into extra time. England pushed forward and with 101 minutes on the clock Geoff Hurst swivelled before sending in a close-range shot that hit the underside of the crossbar, bounced down and was then cleared.
England players turned and appealed that the ball had crossed the line and began to celebrate. The Swiss referee was unsure and consulted with his Azerbaijani linesman, who awarded the goal.
Hurst went on to score a fourth to put the match to bed and give England their only major international tournament victory. To this day, Germany and England fans dispute whether it was a goal or not.
The disgrace of Gijon (1982)
The Group 2 match in Gijon between West Germany and Austria at the 1982 World Cup was one that changed the format of the tournament forever.
After a shock 2-1 defeat to Algeria in their opening group match, West Germany needed to beat Austria or face elimination from the tournament.
However, if Austria let in three or more goals, Algeria would qualify for the next round in their place on goals scored. And that's how a conspiracy theory begins. West Germany scored after 10 minutes through Horst Hrubesch. Then the game settled down into a fairly mundane affair, with neither side forcing any clear-cut chances and making few tackles. The match ended 1-0 and both West Germany and Austria qualified for the second round while Algeria were knocked out. Both teams were accused of match fixing but FIFA decided that neither team had broken any rules. However, from 1986 onwards, the final group matches in World Cups have always started at the same time.
Suarez handball (2010)
It wouldn't be much of a World Cup controversy list without Luis Suarez. However, we are not here for his biting of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in 2014, controversial though that was. Instead we've picked his hands rather than his teeth this time around. Ghana were on the verge of becoming the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, but in the last moments of extra time against Uruguay, they had victory cruelly snatched away from them.
In 2010, Luis Suarez’s deliberate handball prevented Ghana 🇬🇭 from becoming the first Africa nation to reach the World Cup semis.
Have you recovered from it? 😤😤😤😡pic.twitter.com/h2PHZLVXkR
— CrossAndNod (@crossandnodFT) July 14, 2021
With the scorer at 1-1, Dominic Adiyiah's header from six yards out was about to nestle in the back of the Uruguay net when Suarez blocked the shot with his hands. Suarez was correctly red-carded and Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take the resulting penalty and win the game for Ghana. However, he fired his spot kick against the crossbar. It was the last action of the game and the referee blew for penalties, which Ghana went on to lose. Heartbreak, not only for Ghana, but the whole of Africa.
Argentina's World Cup win (1978)
Argentina's victory in the 1978 World Cup in their own country was tainted with allegations of match fixing and underhand tactics. To reach the final, Argentina had to beat a strong Peru side by at least four goals. This seemed unlikely as Peru had drawn 0-0 with the Netherlands and thumped both Scotland and Iran in their opening group matches.
However, what followed was a surrender, as Argentina put six past the Peruvians.
The result was considered a disgrace around the world, although Peru's keeper Ramon Quiroga, who was born in Argentina, defended his team's honour.
Years later, a Peruvian senator claimed the match was fixed following a trade deal struck between the two South American countries. There were also suspicions of shenanigans before and during the final against the Netherlands. Before the game, the Dutch team were taken on a scenic route to the stadium and were made to wait on the pitch in front of a hostile crowd as their opponents arrived five minutes late. The Argentine FA had also successfully managed to get the referee switched to an Italian, Sergio Gonella. He appeared to have little control during the match and many 50/50 decisions fell Argentina's way. The Argentina players also complained about Rene van de Kerkhof's forearm plaster cast, on which he was forced to apply an extra layer of bandaging. He'd been wearing it all tournament but only now did it appear to be a problem. Argentina went on to win the trophy 3-1 in extra time but whether their antics had any impact on the Dutch performance is still open to debate.
Referees help host nation? (2002)
The 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan was full of anticipation for the host nations. It was the first World Cup tournament to be held in Asia and both countries were expected to progress past the group stage. However, South Korea came under fire for some questionable refereeing decisions that played a big part in ensuring they reached the semi-finals. After a controversial victory over nine-man Portugal in the group stage, South Korea beat Italy with a golden goal in the round of 16. Italy had what seemed like a perfectly good goal ruled out and saw Francesco Totti sent off for diving. In the quarter-finals, Spain had two legal goals chalked off and appeared to be at the mercy of the linesman's flag every time they attacked. South Korea went on to win the match on penalties, but their luck ran out in the semi-finals, where they were beaten by Germany. Not long after the tournament had ended, the referees from the Italy and Spain matches were forced to retire as a result of match fixing and bribery allegations.
Three yellow cards (2006)
Croatia defender Josip Simunic does not have a reputation as one of soccer's hardmen. Yet at the 2006 World Cup, he became the first player to receive three yellow cards in the same match. During a group game between Croatia and Australia, English referee Graham Poll booked Simunic in the 61st minute for a foul on Harry Kewell. He showed him his second yellow card in the 90th minute for another foul on Kewell, but didn't show him a red. Simunic was booked for a third time in the 93rd minute and this time Poll found his red card. Poll was removed from the referee pool for the rest of the tournament and then retired from international refereeing.
The article The most controversial moments in World Cup history, including Le Headbutt and Hand of God appeared first on Planetsport.com.