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FIFA World Cup 2018: From headbutts to bites, 10 shocking FIFA World Cup controversies


The whole world is set to enjoy the football fever with the upcoming FIFA World Cup starting from June 14. While the history of FIFA World Cup has a lot of memories of victories of various nations, it also has some noteworthy infamous memories of controversies. While some of these controversies include brutal fouls, others consist of major faults by match referees. Let’s have a look on the top ten infamous controversies of FIFA World Cup till now.


1938 World Cup: Italy performs fascist salute as the match starts

Controversies are a part of FIFA World Cup since a long time. One such controversy appeared during 1938 World Cup match between Italy and France. It was the last tournament played before the World War 2 and was hosted by France from June 4 to June 19, 1938. In the quarterfinals. Italy was playing against France on June 12, 1938. There was little anger in the French fans due to Italy’s fascist’s leanings during that time.

On Dictator Benito Mussolini’s orders, the team wore black shirts while they were supposed to be wearing white. In addition, they also performed the fascist salute just before the start of the match. Italian team won the match 3-1 and bagged the World Cup trophy too after beating Hungary 4–2 in the final. Italy successfully retained the trophy as they were also the winners in 1934 World Cup.



1962 World Cup: The infamous battle of Santiago 

One of the most violent games ever in the history of football was played in the 1962 World Cup. It was a match played on June 2, 1962 between the hosts Chile and Italy. The match got the title ‘battle of Santiago’ due to the level of violence seen between the players during the match. The match was played in Santiago, Chile on June 2. There were numerous punches, pushes and fouls. Two players were sent off by the referee Ken Aston, who later invented yellow and red cards.

The reason behind the violence was the already heightened tensions between both the nations. As Chile was organising the world cup, the Italian journalists criticised the miserable conditions of the city of Santiago. They called Santiago a backwater dump where phones don’t work, taxis are as rare as faithful husbands, a call to Europe costs an arm and a leg and a letter takes five days to turn up. Italian newspapers also published that Chile agreed to organise this World Cup in the same way Mussolini agreed to send air force to bomb London. The Chile newspapers hit back in response and described Italians as fascists, oversexed and drug addicts. The journalists involved were forced to flee the country.



1982 World Cup: Harald Schumacher knocks off Patrick Battiston

While the 1962 World Cup is remembered for a lot of fouls, the 1982 World Cup is remembered for one infamous foul made by West Germany player Harald Schumacher. The match between Germany and France in the 1982 World Cup semi-final match became a talk of the town due the way French player Patrick Battiston was brutally knocked by West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s shoulder push.

After the flying charge of Schumacher, Battiston fell down gasping for air. He had three broken teeth, cracked ribs and a broken vertebrae. He was taken out of the field on a stretcher and felt unconscious for almost 30 minutes. The push was so brutal that Battiston has a cracked vertebra and damaged teeth to this day. Interestingly, Schumacher was not even given a yellow card by the referee Charles Corve after the incident and the foul later came to known as ‘Tragedy of Seville’.



1982 World Cup: West Germany and Austria conspire against Algeria

The 1982 FIFA World Cup was not only limited to brutal fouls, it also saw two teams conspiring against a third team. The match which saw West Germany and Austria conspiring against Algeria was a final match of the first round and was played on 25 June, 1982. In the 1982 World Cup, West Germany, Austria, Algeria and Chile were in the same group. Algeria had beaten West Germany in the first game.

So, in the match between West Germany and Austria, a win by one or two goals by West Germany would end up West Germany and Austria going in the next round. A larger German win like three or four goals would end up Germany and Algeria in the next round while a draw or an Algeria victory would eliminate West Germany from the tournament.

The Germans took the lead in the first 10 minutes with one goal, while the rest 80 minutes saw fake attempts of goals by the both European teams. At the end, as West Germany defeated Austria by 1-0, Algeria was eventually out of the World Cup tournament. The match was later known as ‘Disgrace of Gijón’.



1986 World Cup:  Diego Maradona and the Hand of God

The ‘Hand of God’ is one of the most popular World Cup events till date. The controversy happened during the match between Argentina and England, played on June 22, 1986. In the match, Argentina’s player Diego Maradona scored two goals to bag victory for his team. However, his first goal was made using the hands.

After 51 minutes into the match, Marodona got a pass from his fellow player and he used his hand to convert the pass into a goal. The English players called out for a foul, but referee was not convinced and allotted a goal to Argentina. Diego later alleged that it was not a deliberate attempt. Argentina went on to win the match and went on to become the winners of the tournament too.



2006 World Cup: Three yellow cards to Josip Simunic

This controversy emerged not because of players, but because of the referee. We all know that if a player is given two yellow cards in a football match he is sent off from the field and his team has to play with 10 players. However, this did not happen in a match during 2006 World Cup.

In one of the biggest refereeing goof-ups, English referee Graham Poll booked the same player for three yellow cards. During the group stage match between Croatia and Australia played on June 23, 2006, Poll booked Croatia’s Josip Simunic three times for a yellow card.

Simunic was shown first yellow card during the 61st minute for a foul on Australia’s Henry Kewell. Later, in the 91st minute, Simunic was again booked for a yellow card but the referee did not sent him off as he failed to keep a note of it. However, Simunic got his third yellow card in the 93rd minute and this time he was sent off from the field making Croatia one-man short. The match was drawn by 2-2.



2006 World Cup: Zinedine Zidane headbutts on Marco Materazzi

Let’s take a look at the one of the most infamous fouls in a World Cup match. This happened during the finals of FIFA 2006 World Cup match which was played between France and Italy on 9 July, 2006.

During the match, some conversations happened between French captain Zinedine Zidane and Italian defender Marco Materazzi during extra time. Zidane hit Materazzi with a head butt and the latter fell down on the field. Zidane was immediately given a red card for the infamous act. Later, media reports suggested that Materazzi had insulted Zidane’s mother but the former denied the charge. The match was drawn after extra time by 1-1 and Italy went on to win the World Cup title by 5-3 in the penalties.



2010 World Cup: England’s Non-Goal

During the round 16 group stage of FIFA 2010 World Cup, a controversy took place during the match between Germany and England on June 27, 2010. In the 37th minute, a shot by Frank Lampard was not awarded a goal by the referee although it entered inside the goal line.

England were trailing by 2-1 when Lampard kicked a shot from 20 yards that looped over the German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. The ball crashed against the underside of the crossbar before bouncing a yard over the goal-line. Although, it was a perfect goal, England were denied the goal. Lampard turned away to celebrate only to get stunned by the referee Jorge Larrionda’s decision in the end. Despite being up with play, referee’s assistant Mauricio Espinosa also failed to see it. Germany ended the match with a victory of 4-1.



2010 World Cup:  Nigel de Jong’s chest-high kick against Xabi Alonso

This infamous incident also occurred during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Spain was playing against Netherlands in the final match on July 11, 2010. The match was quite a violent one with referee Howard Webb giving out 14 yellow cards in the match. In the 25th minute, Netherlands player Nigel de Jong attempted a chest-high kick to hit Spain’s Xabi Alonso. It was a severe foul but the referee only gave a yellow card to Jong.  Later, even the referee Webb agreed that he should have sent Jong off the field. The match ended in the favour of Spain as they scored one goal in the extra time to claim victory by 1-0.



2014 World Cup: Luis Suárez bites Giorgio Chiellini

The FIFA World Cup controversies do not consist of just shoulder pushes and headbutts, it also includes teeth bites. Yes, this type of foul occurred in 2014 FIFA World Cup during a group match between Italy and Uruguay on June 24, 2014.

During the 79th minute of the game, Uruguay striker Luis Suárez had a tussle with the Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the penalty area. Suarez clashed with Chiellini and the former bit the latter on his shoulder. The referee Marco Rodríguez didn’t see the incident carefully and just gave a free kick to Italy. Uruguay won the match by 1-0 and Italy were out of the World Cup tournament. Later, Suarez faced severe punishments for his actions. He got a suspension of four months from football-related activities and was slapped with nine-match international ban along with a big fine.


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