In the history of the World Cup, the game has been much more beautiful than a controversial game. The World Cup is back and as controversial as ever. If it isn’t FIFA’s questionable location selections, it’s the actions on the pitch. In group play alone, we have witnessed one of the game’s more controversial moments. Is it one of the top moments to cause shock and outrage? Possibly.
The global game sees tensions high as nations bid for the title and bragging rights for the next four years. Teams and individuals will go to any cost to win the match. Sometimes, it isn’t winning or losing that creates controversy. From politics to punching, the World Cup is rife with excitement and sometimes shock. These are some of the game’s most shocking moments in history.
Luis Saurez’s Third Bite
Luis Suarez is one of the world’s premier players. It’s unfortunate that his superb playing gets trumped by his repeated heinous actions. His biting incident is fresh in the minds of World Cup viewers. However, if it were just the one incident, this may not have made the list. Instead, this is just another example of Luis Suarez’s awful decisions. While at Ajax, he committed his first egregious act in 2010. Then, he bit Branislav Ivanovic in 2013, while playing for Liverpool. After a stellar season in England, he swore he was a changed man for the sake of his children. Now, that’s all for nothing after taking a bite out of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. This netted him a nine match ban and four months of suspended play.
To think, his egregious handball against Ghana in 2010 was going to be the focal point. Instead, three strikes and you’re out. Or at least for four months.
Uruguay Upsets Brazil (1950)
In 1950, Brazil hosted a World Cup final that was more group play than the knockout final we are used to. With Brazil only needing a tie, the Uruguayans faced stiff competition from the host nation. With an early second half lead, Brazil took the lead and looked poised to claim another Cup for their homeland. Instead, an equalizer put Uruguay back into the mix. With just 11 minutes left in regulation, Alcides Ghiggia scored the go ahead goal to put the underdog South American nation top of the final four. It would forever be known, and talked about to this day in South America, as “The Maracanã Blow.”
Maybe Brazil shouldn’t have allowed newspapers to declare them champions before the match. It was football’s equivalent of Dewey defeats Truman.
Cameroon Beats Argentina in 1990
What is a nation of struggling, borderline pros to do when facing a global giant? Beat them, of course. That was what happened when the mostly French lower-league, journeymen Cameroon players triumphed in what may be the World Cup’s most shocking upset of all time. In what would lead to a surprising run to the quarter finals, Cameroon opened the tournament by beating the defending champions, Argentina. They wouldn’t settle for just a monumental win. Instead, they fought on to defeat the powerful Soviet Union on their way to winning the group. Since then, Cameroon has become one of Africa’s top nations to contend in the sport.
Zidane Headbutts Materazzi in Final
In the closing moment of the 2006 World Cup final in Germany, football legend Zinedine Zidane became embroiled in one of the most confusing moments in the sport’s history. As time was closing, television cameras focused on downed Italian center back, Marco Materazzi. As replays started to show, Zidane had headbutted Materazzi in the chest in what looked like an unprovoked attack. Soon after, Zidane was issued a red card and the Italians would proceed to win the Cup in a penalty shootout that sorely missed Zidane.
After the Cup, many publications claimed Materazzi verbally assaulted the French legend with terrorist and promiscuous claims against Zidane’s mother. A year later, Materazzi confirmed that the exact words were a similar promiscuous claim against Zidane’s sister, which Materazzi claims to not know Zidane had.
Austria and West Germany Collude Against Algeria
In 1982, Algeria were poised to become Africa’s first nation to advance to the second round of the World Cup. Instead, a blatant collusion between the two aforementioned nations resulted in them passing through and mass Algerian anger, that included bribery claims and money being thrown on the Spanish pitch. The collusion would later be known as the “Non-aggression pact of Gijón.”
Instead of seeing what many had described as the ‘darlings’ of the ’82 games advance, the world saw two nations score one goal for West Germany before calling it a day. The rest of the match resulted in what looked like a friendly game with little effort. It should come as no surprise why the final day of group play now happens at the same time, rather than a day apart like in ’82.
Andres Escobar’s Own Goal Leads to Murder
No sport should ever result in death. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to Colombian captain Andres Escobar, after his costly 1994 own goal against the United States. Escobar’s own goal led to the nation’s ouster from the tournament, and subsequent gambling losses for supposedly some of the country’s top drug lords. After the dust had settled, Escobar tried to show the nation that the game should not be this much of a matter in their lives. Instead, five days after the goal, Escobar was dead in a Colombian nightclub after being shot by two men during an argument.
The Battle of Santiago
1962 saw host nation, Chile square off against Italy in what many have called the most deplorable game in the sport’s history. It took only 12 seconds before the first foul of the match occurred. It only escalated from there. Italy’s Giorgio Ferrini was sent off in the twelfth minute after a foul on Honorino Landa. Except, he refused to leave the pitch. It took police to drag him off the field. Minutes later, Landa punched another Italian player without being sent off. In the end, there were broken noses and spit flying. It’s no surprise the police had to intervene to regain order. Chile would go on to win 2-0.
Mussolini’s Squad Defends Title In France
In 1938, Benito Mussolini and Italy hoped to see the Fascist nation defend their title from four years before in France. Fans did not want them there and let their feelings be known through protests and chants that only the football world can understand. The Italians were not thrown off as they fought until the very end to play Hungary in the finals, where they famously became known for displaying the iconic Fascist salute. It isn’t known if the order came from Mussolini or elsewhere, but they team furthered their disregard for fan opinions by wearing an out of character all black kit. Due to the war, Spain would not play and former powerhouse, Austria were no longer a nation. Italy would win and hold on to the Cup for another 12 years as World War II ripped the world apart.
Austria’s 1934 Wunderteam Loses, Shut Down By Nazis Before 1938 Games
1934’s Austrian side were revolutionary for their time. Instead of playing the sport’s traditional long ball offense, the squad focused on possession and short passing. They wouldn’t live up to expectations after losing to Italy in the round of 16 of the tournament. It would be considered an early classic for the sport. Although, it wasn’t just ’34 that made the Austrians legends. For a team that didn’t win tournaments, they won countless matches. It was their 18 month undefeated streak in the beginning of the decade. They were dominant for almost the entire decade.
A year before the ’38 Cup, Coach/orchestrator of the innovative offense, Hugo Meisl, would die of a heart attack. Then, months before the tournament (And already qualified), Austria would be taken over by the Nazis. Their team absorbed into the Germans, never to play as the Austrians again. A year later, legend Matthias Sindelar (Above) would be dead after what many alleged came from refusal to play for the new Nazi squad.
Hand of God
In 1986, Mexico City was host to the final match between Argentina and England. In a competitive match, anything was bound to happen. No one expected Maradona’s hand to cause the greatest stir. In the early portion of the second half, a misplaced English clearance allowed the crafty Maradona to sneak past the defense and challenge English keeper, Peter Shilton for the ball. As both went to the air for the ball, Shilton looked poised to make the save. He didn’t. The ball went into the net and no one believed the goal came from anywhere but the Argentine’s hand. It was so obvious that Maradona later said that he told his teammates to celebrate the goal, otherwise officials would take the score away. He recounted, “I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came… I told them, ‘Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it.” An inexperienced official, Ali Bin Nasser, saw no foul and history was made.