In a group stage match between Croatia and Australia in 2006, referee Graham Poll failed to properly record a yellow card for Croatia's Josip Simunic. So when Simunic later received a second yellow card, Poll did not send him off, since he had inadvertently given Simunic's first yellow to an Australian player. It took a third yellow card later in the match (for dissent) for Poll to send off Simunic. The match ended 2-2. As a result of the blunder, Poll, a highly respected referee, never again officiated a World Cup match.
Getty ImagesMichael Steele
The Battle of Santiago
In probably the most violent game in the history of the World Cup, Italy and Chile literally fought it out for 90 minutes in 1962. The first foul occurred in the 12th second. The first red card was handed out in the 12th minute. There were blatant punches, kicks to the face, and policemen had to intervene no less than four times. A British journalist later called it "the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game."
Italy intentionally insults French Crowd
In 1938, the last World Cup played before World War II, the Italian team was greeted by a hostile crowd in France. The French fans were against the Fascist movement in Italy, and anti-Fascist former Italians made the trip to France just to boo the Italian team. In a match against the home side, with the French wearing blue kits, the Italians were asked to wear their alternate kits, which were white. Instead, Mussolini had the Italians come out in black shirts and shorts (as sported by captain Giuseppe Meazza on the left), a symbol of the Fascist movement. It infuriated the crowd, an anger that continued to grow even more when the Italian side won. In fact, they won the entire World Cup.
Zidane headbutts Materazzi
The best player in the world essentially took himself out of the 2006 final when he headbutted Italian instigator Marco Materazzi in the chest. Materazzi, according to Zidane (and not denied by Materazzi), made disparaging remarks about Zidane's mother and sister. Italy won the match on penalties. Later, Zidane said he “would rather die” than apologize to Materazzi.
AFP/Getty ImagesJOHN MACDOUGALL
Refs help South Korea rob Italy
In the Round of 16 in 2002, the South Koreans scored an astounding upset against Italy ... thanks to the help of Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno. Moreno controversially sent off Italian striker Francesco Totti after giving him a second yellow card for diving (replays later showed there was contact on the foul). Then, Moreno disallowed an Italian goal in extra time with a bogus offside whistle. The South Koreans would go on to win 2-1 in the extra period, and Moreno would later encounter numerous other charges of match-fixing.
Getty ImagesGary M. Prior
West Germany, Austria conspire against Algeria
This game in 1982 was the reason that all of the final group-stage matches are played at the same time. A draw or an Austrian win would eliminate West Germany. A German win by three or more goals would eliminate Austria. But a German victory by one or two goals would eliminate Algeria. After the West Germans (pictured below against Algeria) scored 10 minutes into the match, the two sides basically kicked the ball around, doing very little, almost intentionally trying not to score. When the final 1-0 score line eliminated Algeria, the African side lodged a complaint with FIFA. The result was allowed to stand, but it was clear to everyone what had happened.
Schumacher takes out Battiston
In the 1982 semifinal between West Germany and France, a through ball in the second half left French defender Patrick Battiston (left) with a clear path to goal. German ‘keeper Harald Schumacher came out to defend the breakaway. Battiston shot wide right, but Schumacher continued on, and clobbered Battiston. Battiston was knocked unconscious by the hit, and later slipped into a coma. He damaged vertebrae and had three teeth knocked out. Unbelievably, the referee did not even give foul. West Germany won the match and advanced to the final.
Peru helps Argentina knock out Brazil
Back in 1978, the second round consisted of two groups of four, and the winner of each group advanced to the final. Because the last games for each team in the second round were not played simultaneously, Argentina knew it needed to win by 4 goals against Peru in order to leapfrog Brazil and reach the final. Goal differential would be their savior. The score was 2-0 at half, and then Peru simply collapsed in the second half. Rumors spread that Peru had been bribed into letting Argentina win big. Nothing was ever proven. But the 6-0 final score was all some people needed.
The Hand of God
In the 1986 World Cup, Argentina took on England in the quarterfinals. Six minutes into the second half, the ball came into the England box and goalkeeper Peter Shilton and Argentina striker Diego Maradona went up for the ball. Shilton had an eight-inch height advantage. Somehow, Maradona won the ball in the air and scored. Argentina would go on to win 2-1. Asked afterwards about the goal, Maradona said it was scored "un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios." That translates to, "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God." Photo evidence, of course, shows that Maradona's head did not have anything to do with it.
England's winning goal in 1966
With the World Cup final tied 2-2, England and West Germany went to extra time. Eleven minutes into the extra period, England's Geoff Hurst put a shot on net. The ball hit the underside of the cross bar, bounced down, and then was cleared out. The referee did not know if the ball had completely crossed the line. He looked to his linesman, a Soviet named Tofik Bakhramov, who indicated it was a goal. Bakhramov later said he thought the ball had bounced back off the net, not the crossbar, so he did not bother to observe whether the ball bounced over the goal line or not. To add more controversy to the tale, Bakhramov, according to lore, was asked on his death bed how he knew the ball crossed the line. He replied, “Stalingrad,” where over 75,000 Soviets died fighting against the Nazis.