Stories

Ranked! The 21 most shocking World Cup moments EVER

Andres Escobar USA 94

Bites, bust-ups, horrific fouls and one stolen trophy: Nick Miller counts down the most jaw-dropping events from the world's greatest football tournament

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

21. Portugal vs Holland (2006)

The Battle of Santiago (more on that later) would almost certainly have been abandoned as a violent farce if it was played today, so comparing it to modern games is a bit of a futile exercise. But the 2006 last-16 clash between Portugal and Holland featured a similar amount of spice.

Mark van Bommel, as you might expect, quite literally kicked things off with a booking in the second minute – the first of 16 yellow cards dished out during the game. Four players - Costinha, Deco, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Khalid Boulahrouz - were sent off, and it was a miracle that others didn’t join them. Luis Figo, for example, got away with headbutting Van Bommel. Portugal won 1-0, but in truth everyone was probably glad just to get out of the game in one piece.

20. Roy Keane leaves the Ireland squad (2002)

Talk to the right (or wrong) people in Ireland, and you’ll still find a healthy debate about who was right in Saipan: Roy Keane or Mick McCarthy. There remains debate about what actually happened, and even whether Keane was sent home or he walked out. What's fairly certain is that the midfielder, ever the perfectionist, was unhappy with the unprofessional nature of Ireland’s preparation; including, but not limited to, a rock-hard training pitch and their kit going AWOL.

Manager McCarthy then suggested in a team meeting that Keane had faked an injury to get out of an international fixture, and... well, that didn’t go down too smoothly. You probably know what was said by Keane next, but it’s worth repeating, in full:

“You’re a f***ing wanker. I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager and I don’t rate you as a person. You’re a f***ing wanker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. I’ve got no respect for you. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country. You can stick it up your bollocks.”

19. The stolen World Cup (1966)

On reflection, releasing the Jules Rimet Trophy for display in a Westminster stamp exhibition in March 1966, just before the World Cup, perhaps wasn't the brightest move. While the exhibition was open, the cup was watched by two guards at all times. After closing time? Not so much.

One Sunday the trophy disappeared, the lax security provisions mysteriously breached, and for one week a farcical search continued. That's until David Corbett, resident of Norwood, south London, took his dog Pickles out for a walk. Pickles sniffed treasure underneath a bush; treasure which turned out to be the missing trophy. It’s never really been explained as to what the hell it was doing there, but the important thing was that the trophy was returned, available for Bobby Moore to lift later that summer.

18. Senegal vs France (2002)

Should we have seen this coming? Should the hubris of the French team in 2002, defending world and European champions, have made this inevitable? Perhaps, but it was still an enormous shock when France, shorn of the injured Zinedine Zidane, were beaten by a Senegal team comprised entirely of hitherto mid-level players from the French league.

El Hadji Diouf made a mockery of the 34-year-old Frank Leboeuf, but it was midfielder Papa Bouba Diop who scrambled home the only goal. This was just the beginning of France’s humiliation, though, as they exited the tournament in the first round without scoring. "The Senegalese have had only one chance and they've scored,” sniffed Leboeuf. “On top of that it was a silly goal.”

17. France vs Kuwait (1982)

Kuwait have only ever played at one World Cup, and on this evidence they might be relieved about that. France were 3-1 up in this group game, coasting towards an expected victory when Alain Giresse found himself through on goal, no defender in sight. The Kuwait defenders had heard a whistle and, adhering to the first rule of Sunday league football, played to it. Alas, the shrill came from somewhere in the stands, not from the referee, and the players were understandably miffed when the unopposed Giresse scored.

Not half as miffed as Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, president of the Kuwait Football Association, though. He marched onto the pitch and told his players to leave unless the goal was chalked off. Remarkably, Russian referee Miroslav Stupar, perhaps in search of a quiet life, agreed and Giresse’s perfectly fine goal was disallowed. Not that it made much difference: Maxime Bossis made it 4-1 later anyway, France went through and Kuwait went out.

16. Geoff Hurst’s ‘goal’ is awarded (1966)

It wasn’t over the line. Obviously, it wasn’t over the line. The score was 2-2 in extra time of the 1966 World Cup Final against West Germany when Geoff Hurst spun and hammered his shot against the bar. It bounced down on the line, England protested, referee Gottfried Dienst referred to linesman Tofiq Bahramov, who nodded with certainty. Goal!

Bahramov later wrote that he thought the ball had actually hit the net, rather than the crossbar, which explained his decision – although the story that on his deathbed he said simply “Stalingrad” when asked about the goal is almost certainly a nonsense. Still, he is perhaps the only official to have a stadium named after him, in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.

15. Luis Suarez bites Giorgio Chiellini (2014)

Before the 2014 World Cup, Suarez had gone on something of a PR campaign. “I want to change the bad boy image,” he told Sports Illustrated. “I don’t think I am at all how I've been portrayed.” And to prove his words weren’t idle, a few weeks later he bit an opponent on the football pitch for the third time.

With 11 minutes of Uruguay’s group game against Italy remaining, Suarez and Giorgio Chiellini tussled, and the Italian fell to the floor. Initially, few people were sure of what had happened, until Chiellini pulled aside his shirt to reveal bite marks. He’d done it again. Suarez was banned for nine international matches, all football for four months and fined 100,000 Swiss francs.