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10 World Cup scandals that shocked Planet Football

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5. Kuwait’s protest

Kuwaiti FA president Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah didn’t need VAR to get a goal disallowed during the 1982 World Cup, simply his powers of persuasion. Already trailing 3-1 to France in their second group game, Kuwait then let in a fourth when their whole team suddenly stopped playing, claiming they’d heard the Soviet referee blow his whistle.

The piercing noise had actually come from the stands, but nevertheless, a furious Al-Sabah stormed from the stands to argue his case and drag his players off the pitch. Incredibly, much to France’s dismay, the tactic worked and the goal was disallowed. Not that it mattered much – just moments later, Les Bleus scored a fourth and final goal which even a powerful Sheikh couldn’t dispute.

4. The disgrace of Gijon

The highly suspicious antics of 1982’s Group 2 final round is so infamous it even has its own nickname. As long-time rivals, West Germany vs Austria would have typically been a fiercely contested battle, and not something which resembled a leisurely kickabout in the park. But thanks to FIFA’s astonishing lack of foresight in coinciding final group games, both sides knew that a 1-0 West Germany win would see them both progress to the second round at the expense of Algeria.

You can imagine what happened next. Once the Germans got their early goal, the remaining 80 minutes became a mix of wildly inaccurate shots, tedious backpasses and aimless long balls. Algeria understandably cried fix, while local newspaper El Comercio even printed the match report in its crime section.

The eventual outcome was that, from Euro ’84 and the 1986 World Cup onwards, final matches within the same group had the same kick-off time.

3. Harald Schumacher’s GBH

After the events in Gijon, West Germany didn’t exactly endear themselves to the general public during the knockout stages in 1982. In fact, Harald Schumacher’s actions during their semi-final against Les Bleus saw a French newspaper poll place him ahead of Adolf Hitler as the nation’s most unpopular man.

It’s little wonder that he inspired so much hatred. The goalkeeper charged off his line, ignored the ball and ploughed into unfortunate opponent Patrick Battiston so forcefully that the Frenchman was knocked out cold. Battiston suffered cracked vertebrae, lost two teeth and briefly slipped into a coma following the one-on-one clash which denied France a potential winner. 

Incredibly, Schumacher didn’t even receive a booking for his brutality (the referee awarded a goal-kick) and remained unrepentant after Germany's eventual penalty shootout victory, sneering: "If that's all that's wrong, tell him I'll pay for the crowns." In his 1987 autobiography, he claimed that he was only ever aiming for the ball.

2. The battle of Santiago

The 1954’s Battle of Berne (Hungary vs Brazil) and 2006’s Battle of Nuremberg (Holland vs Portugal) look like harmless play-fights compared to the daddy of World Cup bloodbaths; 1962’s Battle of Santiago. Riled up by inflammatory tabloid reports, Chile and Italy treated their group clash like an Ultimate Fighting duel as poor referee Ken Aston helplessly failed to keep things under control.

In the end, only two players received their marching orders, and Chile’s Leonel Sanchez somehow managed to punch Mario David in the face and break Humberto Maschio’s nose without any consequences. His team-mate Honorino Landa also got away with using his fists in retaliation to an attack, while police had to intervene on four separate occasions, including dragging dismissed Italian Giorgio Ferrini off the field.

Commentator David Coleman described the encounter – which Chile won 2-0 – as “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game”.

1. Italy’s fascist salute

Italy became the first nation to win back-to-back World Cups in 1938, but the achievement was forever tarnished by their conduct in a quarter-final against France. Having drawn lots to determine who could play in their traditional blue colours, Vittorio Pozzo’s men should have walked onto the field in their alternate white.

Instead, reportedly on the orders of their fascist dictator Mussolini, they sported an all-black kit – complete with Fascio Littorio emblem – which blatantly represented support for his totalitarian regime. As they had done in their previous encounter with Norway, the Italians also performed the fascist salute as they lined up before kick-off.

"The German referee and Norwegian players looked at us worriedly," recalled coach Pozzo. "At a certain point, the hullabaloo began to die down and then ceased. We had just put our hands down and the violent demonstration started again. Straight away: 'Team be ready. Salute.' And we raised our hands again, to confirm we had no fear. Having won the battle of intimidation, we played."

Appearing to thrive off the inevitably hostile home crowd reaction, the visitors ran out comfortable 3-1 winners on their way to the most provocative tournament win in history.

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