Top 10 Most Controversial FIFA World Cup Matches of All Time

Tags: #FIFAWorldCup ,   #Soccer ,   #Football ,   #WorldCup ,   #footballislife

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2023-05-16 06:00:08

Without question, the FIFA World Cup is the most celebrated global sports competition. Every four years, the best football nations gather and face each other to decide which one rules the world. Although the best World Cups have brought some of the greatest moments and unusual records, we also witnessed many controversies. The foul play, incidents, and multiple instances of cheating often deter the public eye's attention from the football itself. Here are ten of the most controversial moments in the history of the World Cup.

10. Hand of God

Touch for the history - Hand of God goal

There's hardly a better way to open up this list than with arguably the most incredible moment in World Cup history. During the quarter-final match in the World Cup 1986 in MexicoDiego Maradona used his hand to lob the ball over the much taller English goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Everyone in the English team and the majority of the audience saw what had happened. 

However, the referee allowed the goal (after his assistant confirmed it was a regular one), and Argentina led 1-0. Even decades later, this is still a subject of controversy. Undoubtedly, it helped Argentina win the World Cup that year, but many think they would triumph anyways.  

9. Three Yellow Cards

One yellow card too many

During the group stage match between Croatia and Australia in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Croatian player Josip Simunic received three yellows. In the 61st minute, English referee Graham Poll booked Simunic for the first time after his foul over Harry Kewell. 

Then in the 90th minute, Simunic made another bad start, earning the second yellow card. However, for some reason, Poll didn't send Simunic out. Just three minutes later, Simunic made another foul and famously received the third booking in the game. Yet, this time, he was done.

8. South Korea Fixed Matches

Fixing the matches, Asian edition

The 2002 Japan and South Korea FIFA World Cup became highly controversial after the South Korean team did way better than expected. Thanks to some highly controversial decisions in this awful World Cup, the South Korean team advanced far into the elimination stage.

 In the 1/8 final against Italy, referee Byron Moreno disallowed a regular goal and gave a red card to Francesco Totti for non-existent diving. Furthermore, Koreans committed tons of brutal fouls without any punishment. Not surprisingly, South Korea won, thanks to the golden goal rule. In the quarter-final with Spain, a similar thing happened where the referee denied two clean goals to the European team. Soon after, both referees were forced to retire due to match-fixing and bribes.

7. Crossing The Line 

Did it cross the line or not?

This legendary incident happened during the final game of the 1966 World Cup. The game was between England and Germany, then tied at 2-2. In the extended time, exactly in the 101st minute, the English striker Geoff Hurst shot towards the Germans' goal. 

The ball hit the crossbar, bounced down, and then out of the goal. Initially, the referees had a disagreement, but the goal was eventually judged valid. Therefore, England took the lead, winning the World Cup that year. So, was it a goal? The English claim so, but there's no universal conclusion. 

6. Battle of Santiago 

Football game with elements of war

This match between Chile and Italy was one of the most infamous due to its sheer level of violence. Yet, let us explain the circumstances that caused the tensions. In 1962, Chile organized the World Cup while still recovering from a disastrous 9.5 degrees earthquake. Not very impressed by the level of comfort, an Italian journalist called Santiago a dump. Needless to say, Chileans didn't take it well at all. 

The game between Italy and Chile was the closest the football ever came to Calcio Storico. The first foul came after 12 seconds, and the first red card followed 12 minutes later. Both sides tried to hurt each other in any possible way, with scoring feeling secondary. Unsurprisingly, the police intervened three times, but Chile ultimately won 2-0. 

5. Montevideo Scandal

With the little help of constabulary

Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, hosted the first-ever World Cup in 1930. However, not even the first World Cup ever could end without controversy. It happened during the semi-final match between Uruguay and Yugoslavia.

 Yugoslavia made a sensation by beating Brazil in the first round, and the hosts didn't want to suffer the same fate. Therefore, the second goal for Uruguay was scored after a policeman kicked the ball back onto the pitch. Furthermore, Yugoslavians had their regular goal disallowed, while Uruguay scored their first from the offside. Uruguay ultimately won 6-1 against demoralized oposition and defeated Argentina in the finals. As for the World Cup match-fixing, this might be the worst offender.

4. The Conspiracy Against Algeria 

Tricking Algeria into failing

This scandal is the reason why final group games are now played at the same time. It happened during the World Cup in 1982, the first one for Algeria. The North African team surprised everyone during the group stage when they defeated a huge favorite, West Germany. 

However, West Germany and Austria obviously made a deal to finish their game with a result that will bring both teams to the elimination stage. Therefore, after West Germany took the lead in the 10th minute, both units did practically nothing till the end. As a result, Algeria was eliminated, and the World Cup got another rule. Unfortunately, this conspiracy isn't another FIFA World Cup myth.

3. Argentina Fixed Their World Cup

Fixing the FIFA World Cup matches, Latino edition

Argentina famously became FIFA World Cup winners in their own country in 1978. However, that victory is coated in controversy and rumors that the World Cup has been fixed. It is believed that the military dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla stands behind that. 

The most suspicious game was Argentina vs. Peru. Argentina needed a four-goal win to go to the finals instead of Brazil. The match ended 6-0 for the home team, and many people thought it was indeed fixed. The final game against the Netherlands was much cleaner, but decisions still heavily favored Argentina.

2. Schumacher vs Battiston 

One collision changed a life

The 1982 World Cup semi-final became infamous because of one of the most horrific injuries. The game was between France and West Germany, and French substitute Patrick Battiston tried to get to the ball as it was traveling toward the West German penalty area. Unfortunately, he didn't see the German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher. 

In a horrific display of dirty play, Schumacher turned his body and collided with Battiston, breaking his teeth, damaging his vertebrae, and separating him from his consciousness. Battiston was stretchered out from the field, and Schumacher didn't receive any penalty for almost ending his life. While West Germany advanced to the finals, they lost to Italy.

1. Italy's Fascist Attire 

Sport and politics shouldn't mix, and this is why

During the World Cup in France in 1938, the most disgraceful display of politics took place. In the quarter-final match between Italy and France, Italy's team should have worn a white kit, as France was the host, so they had the advantage over wearing blue. 

However, the Italian football players received a direct order from Benito Mussolini to wear black kits. That wouldn't be a problem if they weren't associated with the infamous Italian fascist paramilitary. The French audience and people generally didn't like fascist Italy, and this act only enraged them further. Yet, the dominant Italians won that World Cup and stayed champions for 12 more years.

Unfortunately, there are many more instances of FIFA World Cup controversies, so expect new ones at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Despite VAR and other technologies, the human factor remains unpredictable. Yet, many believe that's one of the charms of the game.

What's your favorite FIFA World Cup controversy? Which controversies would you add to this list?



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