Suarez Head in Hands

Just as some World Cup matches are glazed in glory, others are marred by controversy. Take a look back at some of the most infamous moments in the tournament's history.


2014 Brazil: No Era Penal

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Photo: Koen van Weel/EPA

The 2014 World Cup had several controversial moments, including this flop by Arjen Robben in the Round of 16 against Mexico. Robben has a reputation for “gamesmanship” and seems to be in a constant losing battle with gravity. As the match entered stoppage time tied at one goal each, he dropped to the deck inside the Mexico penalty area after avoiding a tackle. There certainly wasn’t enough contact, if any, to take down Robben but a penalty was awarded anyways. The Dutch converted the penalty to knock out Mexico and move on to the quarterfinals.

1986 Mexico and 2010 South Africa: Hands of God


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Photos: Bongarts/Getty and Steele/Getty

A two-for-one on the most famous hand balls in history. Before he scored one of the greatest goals in World Cup history, Maradona scored the most infamous goal in the same match. A quick give-and-go at the top of the England box popped the ball up in between the Argentina attacker and the England goalkeeper. As both players charged for the ball, Maradona brought his arm up to his head and punched the ball past the goalkeeper. The goal stood, but if there was video review back in the day it would have been quickly called back.

The second came 24 years later from Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. Tied 1-1 with Ghana as the quarterfinal match reached the dying moments of extra time, Suarez saved a shot on the goal line with his foot. The rebound fell to a second Ghana player who shot high, only to be denied by Suarez who reached out and batted the ball away with his arm. A penalty was given and Suarez was ejected from the match. However, Ghana hit the crossbar on the penalty and would go on to lose to Uruguay in a shootout.

Losing the World Cup Trophy Twice

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Photo: Corbis

How does the most famous trophy in the world get stolen? Ahead of the 1966 World Cup, the original Jules Rimet Trophy was put on display in England. Three months before the tournament, the display case was broken into and someone absconded with the trophy. After a ransom note and a month-long wild goose chase for Scotland Yard, the trophy was found in a bush by a dog named Pickles. Four years later, Brazil won its third World Cup title and were given the original trophy in perpetuity, and the current design was made for the 1974 tournament. In 1983, the original trophy was stolen from the Brazilian Football Confederation office by a group of thieves led by Clube Atletico Mineiro agent Sergio Pereira Ayres. The group was quickly arrested, but the trophy was never recovered and is rumored to have been melted down.

2006 Germany: Zidane’s Headbutt

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Photo: McDougall/AFP

The 2006 final was a tightly-contested match, as France and Italy fought for supremacy tied at one goal each in extra time. Moments after a match-saving stop by Gianluigi Buffon, Italy defender Marco Materazzi began trash talking France captain Zinedine Zidane. As the two players trotted back up the pitch, Zidane turned and drove his head straight into Materazzi’s chest and knocked him onto the ground. A swift red card was given by the referee and Zidane, who scored a penalty early in the match, had to watch his team fall in the shootout as Italy won its fourth World Cup.

1990 Italy: The Most Boring World Cup


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Photo: Cannon/Getty

Despite being one of the most-watched events in television history, 1990 World Cup was also the most boring. With a record low of 2.21 goals per game and a record high 16 red cards, there wasn’t a lot of action in front of the goalposts. Ireland reached the quarterfinals with only two goals scored, and Argentina went all the way to the final with just five. This prompted a few key rule changes to the modern game. The first was the back-pass rule that said goalkeepers could not pick up a ball with their hands if it was passed to them by a teammate, which was the source of a lot of time wasting in 1990. A second was awarding three points for a win, promoting more attacking play to get two extra points rather than settling for a single point with a draw.

2014 Brazil: Suarez Takes a Bite

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Photo: USA TODAY Sports

In the final group stage match between Uruguay and Italy, Suarez was once again the focus of controversy after he bit Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. Since no officials saw the incident, Suarez was not carded during the match, despite Chiellini showing the official the bite marks. This was the third time Suarez had bitten an opponent in his career. After the match, FIFA handed him a nine-match ban from international play and a fourth-month ban from all soccer activities.

2010 South Africa: France Goes on Strike

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Photos: USA TODAY Sports

The 2010 World Cup was one to forget for France. It all started in the qualification playoff against Ireland, where there were two missed handball calls on the buildup for Les Bleus’ winning goal. Controversy around the team before the tournament lead to the federation announcing head coach Raymond Domenech would leave his position after the World Cup was over. Things got worse when forward Nicolas Anelka was sent home after criticizing Domenech and not giving his coach an apology. The following day, captain Patrice Evra got into a heated argument with team staff, leading to players boycotting training. France would bow out in the group stage with just one point.

Bonus: Zaire’s Free Kick