10 most controversial moments in World Cup history


WORLD CUP HISTORY: The FIFA World Cup is the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, and with that comes a lot of pressure and scrutiny. Over the years, there have been many controversial moments in FIFA World Cup history, some of which have led to major changes in the rules of the game. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most controversial moments in FIFA World Cup history, including Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt in the 2006 final and Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 quarter-finals. We will also explore how these moments have changed the game of soccer and the way we view it today. 

Since it was confirmed that Qatar would host the 22nd World Cup, the country has been involved in controversy. The event won’t be able to replicate some of these controversial moments, though, when it starts.

Any football player’s career would crescendo in the World Cup. For many people, it has always been a dream to compete against the finest on the biggest stage on earth.

But political, diplomatic, and sporting grudges all find a home at the World Cup, and under the strain of an international competition, things don’t always go as planned.

Controversy, game play, and possibly even outright cheating are expected on the World Cup stage given the huge stakes and at risk national pride.

Considering the massive worldwide audience looking on, even bad choices made by referees or officials are amplified tremendously.

Every four years, countries and players put in a ton of effort in the hopes that everything will go well when the finals roll around, but controversy is almost unavoidable and may either make or break a nation’s hopes.

Let’s  takes a look at 10 of the most controversial moments in World Cup history.

Hand of God (1986)

Whether you liked him or not, Diego Maradona ruled the world of soccer throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Every time he played, he was at the center of controversy, and in Mexico ’86, everyone saw the best and the worst of the Argentine superstar.

Just four years had passed since the Falklands War as Argentina and England faced off in the World Cup quarterfinal at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Maradona rushed to confront England goalkeeper Peter Shilton for a high ball in the 51st minute. Knowing he was much shorter than Shilton, Maradona used his left hand to get to the ball first and knock it into the goal.  The goal was awarded and so ‘The Hand of God’, as Maradona called it, was born.

The most memorable goal in World Cup history was scored by Maradona four minutes later when he displayed the magnificent side of his personality by dribbling the ball half the length of the field and past the majority of the England team.

Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt in 2006

In 2006, Zinedine Zidane of France was involved in one of the most controversial moments in FIFA World Cup history. In the final match against Italy, Zidane was captured on camera headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest.

At 1-1, Zidane and Italian defender Marco Materazzi had a heated disagreement while jogging side by side. The Frenchman’s moment of madness began when Materazzi took his shirt.

Zidane claimed that Materazzi had insulted his sister, but the Italian denied this. Regardless, Zidane was given a red card and sent off for his violent act. France went on to lose the match in a penalty shootout.

The headbutt caused a stir around the world and resulted in widespread condemnation of Zidane. Some even called for him to be banned from football for life. However, he ultimately escaped with only a three-match suspension.

Luis Suárez’s handball in 2010

In the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Uruguay’s Luis Suárez committed one of the most controversial handballs in history. In the dying moments of extra time in their quarterfinal match against Ghana, with the score tied at 1-1, Suárez stopped a certain goal by handling the ball on the line. He was immediately sent off, but Uruguay went on to win the match in a penalty shootout.

The handball sparked outrage among many football fans, with some calling it a disgraceful act of cheating. However, others pointed out that Suárez had actually saved his team from defeat and that he should be applauded for his efforts. Regardless of which side you’re on, there’s no doubt that Suárez’s handball was one of the most talked about moments of the 2010 World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s dive in 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo’s dive in 2018 was one of the most controversial moments in FIFA World Cup history. The Portugal star was accused of diving by many fans and pundits after he went down in the box during his side’s 1-0 win over Morocco.

Ronaldo defended himself after the game, saying that he did not dive and that he was just trying to avoid a tackle. However, replays showed that he appeared to touch the ground before being fouled, which led to some people calling him a cheat.

This is not the first time Ronaldo has been accused of diving. In 2012, he was criticised for going down too easily when challenging for a header against Spain. He also won a penalty against Uruguay in the same year after appearing to go down very easily under a challenge from defender Diego Godin.

It is clear that Ronaldo has a history of diving and this latest incident is sure to add more fuel to the fire. Some people will say that he is a great player who sometimes uses unfair means to win, while others will simply brand him as a cheat. Either way, this is sure to be one of the most talked about moments of the 2018 World Cup.

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1966 World Cup Final

Nearly 60 years after it crossed the line or not, England’s third goal in the 1966 World Cup final is still the most controversial goal in the tournament’s history.

The match was forced to go into overtime after West Germany’s 89th-minute equalizer. With 101 minutes remaining, England continued to press, and Geoff Hurst turned and shot a close-range attempt that hit the underside of the crossbar, rebounded down, and was eventually cleared.

As they turned to celebrate, England players argued that the ball had passed the goal line. The goal was given after the Swiss referee asked for advice from his Azerbaijani linesman.

Hurst added a fourth goal to end the game and give England their only victory in a significant global tournament.

To this day, Fans of Germany and England continue to argue about whether it scored as a goal.

The Disgrace of Gijon, 1982

The one advantage of these controversial incidents is that they can drive change to improve competition equality, and the Disgrace of Gijon in 1982 caused FIFA to modify yet another rule that is still in effect today.

After losing to Algeria earlier in the competition, West Germany faced elimination from Group Two unless they could defeat Austria in the group’s last match. Austria only needed to avoid a loss of three or more goals to ensure they remained above the North Africans.

Algeria finished the group with four points after playing their last group match, which they won 3-2 over Chile (two points per win era).

Despite a very obvious pre-planned agreement between the two countries to play out a low-scoring West German victory to ensure that both sides proceeded at Algeria’s expense, both teams began to aimlessly throw the ball about their respective defenses after gaining the lead on 10 minutes.

They were widely condemned by the world press, their own analysts, and the crowd in Gijon, who chanted “Algeria” and whistled the players for the farce they were putting on in front of them.

Following the 1986 World Cup, FIFA agreed that the last games in each group should be played simultaneously, and that decision has been followed.

Suarez last-minute handball, 2010

A nation from the continent would have wanted to finally make history at the first-ever African World Cup in 2010, and Ghana seemed prepared to do just that when they faced Uruguay in Johannesburg.

A goalmouth scramble resulted from a Ghanaian corner as penalties loomed near. Luis Suarez had already stopped Stephen Appiah’s shot on the line and then flagrantly handled Dominic Adiyiah’s header.

Suarez was immediately given the boot by Olegario Benquerenca, but with 122 minutes remaining and a semi-final position on the line, Asamoah Gyan’s penalty hit the crossbar, setting off joyful celebrations from Suarez halfway down the tunnel.

The misery continued as Ghana lost the shootout after missing two of their first five shots, giving Sebastian Abreu the opportunity to convert his penalty to advance Uruguay.

Suarez was called a cheat and a disgrace by his Ghanaian rivals and manager, but given that a penalty and a red card were awarded, it is difficult to claim that justice was served. Ghana simply missed their chance, but in any case, it is still remembered as one of the most memorable and controversial moment of World Cup.

Argentina’s World Cup Win (1978)

Due to the 1978 World Cup’s format, Argentina officially won this second group-phase match, which was assisted in part by the fact that the final group games had not yet started playing simultaneously.

When Argentina faced Peru in their own final matchup the next day, they knew what they needed to do to advance to the final by leapfrogging Brazil on goal difference after Brazil defeated Poland 3-1 in the other game in the group. They needed to win by a score of four goals or more.

Innumerable conspiracy theories were created when Argentina defeated Peru 6-0 to seal their place  in the final, mainly, of course, from the Brazilian press, since the dictatorship in that country was keen for La Albiceleste to win the championship on home territory to help boost their reputation abroad.

It took decades for some of those involved with the Peruvian team and the Peruvian government at the time to confirm that a deal had been made and the players had been under pressure to perform poorly. Theories ranged from the claim that the Peruvian goalkeeper was born in Argentina to threats being made against the Peruvian players.

The two countries are thought to have reached a political understanding favouring Peru in which they agreed to “throw” the match in order to advance Argentina to the final, which they would eventually defeat the Netherlands.

Three Yellow cards (2006)

Josip Simunic, a defender of Croatia, is not considered as one of soccer’s hard men. He did, however, make history by being the first player to receive three yellow cards in a single game at the 2006 World Cup.

Graham Poll, an English official, issued Simunic a yellow card for fouling Harry Kewell in the 61st minute of a group match between Croatia and Australia. In the 90th minute, for another foul on Kewell, he was given his second yellow card, but not a red.

In the 93rd minute, Simunic received a third caution, and this time Poll decided to send him out.

For the remainder of the competition, Poll was taken out of the referee pool, and he later announced his retirement from international refereeing.

 Schumacher on Battiston, 1982

The dramatic 1982 World Cup semi-final between West Germany and France may have had one of the worst refereeing calls in tournament history.

German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher came racing out, leaped toward the on-rushing full-back, and clattered him full force with his hip as French replacement Patrick Battiston raced through on goal to chase a Michel Platini through-ball.

Given his poleaxed condition on the field, Platini assumed his teammate was dead. Battiston was left unconscious and quickly slipped into a coma, suffering from three shattered ribs, damaged vertebrae, and two missing teeth.

While waiting impatiently for Battiston to be taken away on a stretcher, Schumacher retrieved the ball for a goal kick that was strangely awarded by referee Charles Corver instead of a penalty and a red card. He appeared unconcerned about Battiston’s condition throughout this time.

Although Schumacher joked after the game that he would pay to have his teeth replaced, Battiston felt the subsequent apology was not sincere. The German has remained silent about the incident ever since, with the exception of admitting he felt like a coward after expressing on the challenge and the response to it more than 30 years later.

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What is the biggest defeat in World Cup history?

1. Hungary 9, South Korea 0: 1954.
2. Yugoslavia 9, Zaire 0: 1974.
3. Hungary 10, El Salvador 1: 1982.

What is the biggest win of all time?

Speaking of the largest victory in football history, AS Adema of Madagascar holds the record after defeating Stade Olympique L’Emyrne in a game in the 2002 Madagascar National Football Championship by a score of 149-0.


The FIFA World Cup is one of the most hotly contested sporting events in the world, and with good reason. Every four years, the best national teams from across the globe come together to compete for the ultimate prize in football. Over the years, there have been some truly controversial moments that have left fans debating what really happened long after the final whistle has blown. From Le Headbutt to Hand of God, these are the most controversial moments in FIFA World Cup history.

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