FIFA World Cup: 10 biggest controversies in WC history

Even as Uruguay striker Luis Suarez once again hogs the limelight over an alleged biting incident involving Italian Giorgio Chiellini, here are some other mad moments when players lost their heads and referees lost the plot in World Cup

Even as Uruguay striker Luis Suarez once again hogs the limelight for the wrong reason over an alleged biting incident involving Italian Giorgio Chiellini in their final group game, we look at some of the most notorious incidents in previous World Cup finals:

Suarez plays handball


Luis SuarezUruguay's defender Jorge Fucile (L) jumps with teammate Uruguay's striker Luis Suarez (R) in goal as the latter blocks the ball with his hand for a handball and was later red carded during the 2010 World Cup quarter-final football match between Uruguay and Ghana at Soccer City stadium in Soweto, in suburban Johannesburg. Pic/AFP

During the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals, Suarez prevents Ghana’s Dominic Adiyiah from scoring in the final minute with a deliberate handball on the line and is subsequently sent off. A penalty was awarded but missed by Asamoah Gyan and footage showed Suarez celebrating on the sidelines. Uruguay eventually went through to the last four on penalties.

Kuwait's Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah gets goal disallowed

In 1982 FIFA World Cup, held in Spain, France’s match against Kuwait was expected to be a walkover and it was. The French scored a controversial goal to go up 4-1, but Kuwait's Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah (president of the Kuwait Football Federation), who was watching the match from the stands stormed onto the field and threatened to pull his players off the pitch unless the goal was reversed The Ukrainian referee Miroslav Stupar reversed his original decision, the only time a World Cup decision was vetoed by a member of the crowd. The French still won the match 4-1.

Dubious calls

Individual bad calls by referees can be explained away, but a game full of them sparks conspiracy theories, and the performance of Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno at the World Cup in 2002 still inflames Italians.
In the knockout game against co-host South Korea, Moreno made a litany of dubious calls, including giving the South Koreans a contentious early penalty, sending off Italy striker Francesco Totti for a supposed dive and wrongly disallowing an extra-time 'golden goal' winner by Damiano Tommasi. Italy lost 2-1, leaving fans speculating about a plot to keep the co-hosts in the tournament.

Josip Simunic's Three Yellow Cards

In the 2006 World Cup group match between Croatia and Australia, English referee Graham Poll erred by giving the same player, Croatia's Josip Simunic, three yellow cards without realizing it.


'Hand of God'


The 1986 World Cup was all about Diego Maradona, the very good and the very bad side of him. Both were seen in the quarter-final against England, the very good being his extraordinary individual goal that put them 2-0 up in a game they would win 2-1. However, his first goal is equally as famous but for all the wrong reasons as somehow he managed to beat the far taller England goalkeeper Peter Shilton in the air and the ball went into the net.

Battle of Nuremberg

The Round of 16 match between Portugal and the Netherlands from 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany saw Russian referee Valentin Ivanov hand out a record four Red Cards and an unprecedented 16 yellow cards, both of which are records in a FIFA tournament. The match also saw Portugal’s legendary winger Luis Figo get a yellow card for a headbutt, which is an automatic red card under the FIFA rules.

Battle of Berne

Brazil were at the centre of a notorious brawl in Switzerland in 1954, when their quarter-final against Hungary became immortalised as the "Battle of Berne." The result, a 4-2 victory for Hungary, has become a footnote of a match which is a strong contender for the dirtiest game in World Cup history. The match was marred by three sendings off and several mass brawls, and was interrupted by several invasions from Brazilian officials and media.

Schumacher's night of shame

To say that German goalkeeper Harald 'Toni' Schumacher left an indelible imprint on the 1982 tournament would be an understatement. The curly-haired netminder became a hate figure in the 58th minute of the semi-final with France with the match level at 1-1 substitute Patrick Battiston had just shot at goal only for Schumacher to charge and elbow him deliberately in the head. Battiston slumped unconscious to the ground and required minutes of treatment. Battiston was stretchered off the pitch accompanied by his close friend Michel Platini. He suffered three broken teeth and a damaged vertebra. "Tell him I'll pay for the crowns," was Schumacher's unrepentant response after the match

Rijkaard spits at Voller

Matches between Germany and the Netherlands were always high-octane affairs dating back to the brutal Nazi Occupation during World War II. This last 16 game in the 1990 finals was no exception as Dutch defender Frank Rijkaard and German striker Rudi Voller two of the most respected players at the time enjoyed their moment of notoriety. Tempers boiled over early on with Rijkaard being booked for a foul on Voller, the Dutchman reacting by spitting at the back of the perm-haired striker's head.

Zidane loses his head

Zidane and Materazzi
French midfielder Zinedine Zidane (L) gestures after head butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi during the World Cup 2006 final football match between Italy and France at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, in July 2006. Pic/AFP

Zinedine Zidane was seen as a role model and an icon in France. The 2006 World Cup final appeared to be the ideal setting for perhaps their greatest ever player to bid farewell and perhaps add a second World Cup to the one he had won in 1998. All started well with him opening the scoring but Marco Materazzi levelled and an increasingly fractious game went into extra-time. Materazzi an old style hardman central defender with a penchant for provoking opponents with foul comments finally 'scored' his second goal when Zidane unable to take any more of his remarks about his sister headbutted him in the chest 10 minutes from the end of extra-time.

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