The worst refereeing blunders of all time after Northern Irish hearts are broken

No shoulder to cry on: The Northern Ireland players furious with referee’s Switzerland penalty decision

Bewildering. Ludicrous. Flabbergasting. Disgraceful. Just a few of the words to describe the moment that crushed Northern Irish spirits last night.

Controversial? You could say that. So bad it’s almost funny, well it would be if it didn’t put Michael O’Neill’s side on the brink of World Cup elimination.

Corry Evans was deemed – by Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan at least – to have handled the ball inside Switzerland’s box. A Xherdan Shaqiri shot thundered at him, Evans turned his back to save being walloped in the face. He eventually hurting a whole lot more.

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His arms by his side, the effort cannoned off the shoulder of Blackburn Rovers midfielder on the edge of the 18 yard box.

Penalty. Quite how, we’re all still asking. Ricardo Rodriguez’s spot kick was dispatched with no sympathy at all.

It’s not the only rotten decision to arrive at a crucial time. Remember these howlers?

French fury: Thierry Henry set up Williams Gallas’ winning goal for France against the Republic of Ireland – but he clearly used a hand

Thierry Henry – France v Republic of Ireland

To his biggest fans who don’t follow Arsenal, this was almost seen as a betrayal. Thierry Henry’s use of his hand to help guide the ball into the back of the Republic of Ireland goal in 2009 broke hearts.

“I will be honest,” said the Frenchman. “It was a handball. But I’m not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.” The cheated Irish still won’t forget.

Graham Poll – Croatia v Australia 

Who would be a ref, they say? Graham Poll never recovered from his World Cup 2006 howler.

Inexplicably, in the final group match between Croatia and Australia he failed to send off Croatian left back Josip Šimunić even though he booked him twice. Šimunić remained on, only finally departing when a third booking for dissent finally earned him a deserved red after the final whistle went. Poll soon retired, and is still mocked ten years on.

Fine lines: England’s Frank Lampard sums up a nation’s disbelief against the Germans in 2010

Frank Lampard – England v Germany 

If you are going to get it hopelessly wrong, just don’t do it on the biggest stage of all. Like Graham Poll, Jorge Larrionda had one. This time, it was during the small matter of England v Germany.

The Three Lions needed all the help they could get against the rampaging Germans. Going 2-0 down, Matthew Upson clawed England back into it. The Frank Lampard took aim, in off the bar he equalised in stunning fashion. The pubs across the nation exploded. Beer was still seeping from the ceilings when hopeless Larrionda , with no assistance from his so-called assistant, waved play on.

Stuart Attwell – Reading v Watford

At least Lampard’s shot went near the goal. What happened during Watford’s game with Reading in 2008 still defies description.

During the Championship fixture, the ball was crossed by Reading, then smacked against the bar and was eventually cleared. Attwell blew his whistle, and the Watford keeper placed the ball down for a free-kick. Seeing is believing how bad this actually was.

Hand of God – England v Argentina

Why always us? Good question. This is the most famous foul-up of all time and it was England bearing the brunt of match officials taking leave of their senses once more.

We’ve all seen it. Back in 1986, Argentinian genius Diego Maradona burst forward – played a slick one-two with Jorge Valdano – before the ball went high. Both Maradona and Peter Shilton went for it, but the striker’s hand beat the England keeper’s hand to it.

Anyone with half a brain would have guessed the tiny Argentinian wouldn’t have been able to out-jump the towering goalkeeper, who could use his hands.

But no, our mistake.

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