The world's most watched sporting event just wouldn't be the same without all the biting, head-butting and shameless diving
Four-time world champions Italy were knocked out of the group stage for the second tournament in the row, yet all headlines Wednesday morning focused on a bite mark.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. When Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez sunk his teeth into the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, he was far from the first player to disgrace himself on football’s premier stage.
Here are five other scandals that have rocked the World Cup over the years:
The Hand of God, 1986
Luis Suárez made the headlines in all the wrong ways at the last World Cup too, when he stopped a certain Ghana winner with his hand in the quarterfinal.
The original “hand of god,” however, naturally belongs to the football divinity himself, Diego Armando Maradona.
Punching the ball past English keeper Peter Shilton in the 1986 quarterfinal, Don Diego noticed that none of his teammates came to congratulate him, so he promptly beseeched them: “Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it.”
The controversial Argentine wasn’t satisfied there, though. Eight years later, he was disqualified from the tournament for doping. The results? In 1986, Argentina went on to win the cup; in 1994, they crashed out of the group stage.
Lesson learned, kids: don’t get caught…
The Battle of Santiago, 1962
You think last tournament’s final was a brutal charade of football? Sure, 14 yellow cards is bad, but nothing in comparison to the onslaught of the 1962 group stage game between Italy and Chile.
Tensions were high already before the match had even begun. Two Italian journalists had to flee Chile after their reporting on an earthquake sparked national outrage. On the pitch, it didn’t take more than 12 seconds before the first foul was committed. The following 90 minutes were sprayed with punches, spitting, kicks to the head, meaning the police had to intervene on four occasions.
In a famous introduction to a highlights reel from the match, BBC commentator David Coleman described it as “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.”
An Infamous Sortie, Head-First, 2006
Sometimes, brilliant players can be the most unhinged. Zinedine Zidane’s shameful exit from the world stage, after head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final, is a case in point.
It also, perhaps, illustrates that shameless taunting really can nudge temperamental footballers off their rockers. Zidane later claimed the Italian relentlessly insulted his mother on the pitch. His limit was reached when he told Materazzi off for pulling his shirt. “If you want it so much I’ll give it to you afterwards,” said the then Real Madrid midfielder, only for Materazzi to reply: “I’d prefer your sister.”
The Tragedy That Sucked the Air Out of the Game, 1994
On July 2, 1994, football was no longer the center of attention at the World Cup. Instead, all minds were focused on the horrific murder that morning of Andrés Escobar, believed to be a punishment for the own goal he scored in Colombia’s unsuccessful group stage campaign.
A bodyguard for a notorious crime cartel that allegedly bet hard on the much-fancied Colombia team confessed to the murder. Escobar remains a Colombian idol.
The Oscar-Winning Performance Above All, 2002
Rivaldo was long a vital force of the Brazil and Barcelona offensive, won the Spanish league twice and World Cup once and was awarded FIFA World Player of the Year in 1999. Yet, many will chiefly remember him for a truly pathetic acting performance.
It was the first group stage game against Turkey, and Rivaldo was stalling a corner kick since his team was up 2-1. The procrastination frustrated Hakan Unsal to no end, and the Turk kicked a loose ball onto the Brazilian’s right leg. Not thinking about the myriad cameras around the pitch, Rivaldo fell to the ground grabbing his head as if a firecracker had just exploded in his face. His ploy worked; Unsal saw red.
Rivaldo was later fined for the incident, to which he ungentlemanly played the victim, complaining that he had been both assaulted and penalized. Perhaps he was right. He could at least have been awarded a Razzie for the show.