In amongst the wonderful memories the World Cup has given us over the years are the strange off the wall moments from the funny to the horrifying, from the brilliant to the truly bizarre moments that have been woven into the fabric of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle, here are 50 of the most memorable.
50. The Carlsberg Pub Team (2006)
Let’s be honest, the commercialization of the World Cup and endless naff adverts usually for beer companies are an eyesore on the landscape of the World Cup. But here was one truly heartwarming ad- a Sunday League side managed by Bobby Robson and featuring a cast of former England internationals- Shilton, Waddle, Robson, Ball, Butcher, Reid, Pearce, Beardsley and the Charlton brothers. It didn’t make me go out and buy Carlsberg but it was England’s best moment of the 2006 World Cup.
49. Finidi George does it doggy style (1994)
Elaborate goal celebrations are a staple of the World Cup, some are funny some sweet but this one was truly hilarious- Nigeria striker Finidi George celebrated by getting down on all fours, trotting like a poodle and finally cocking his leg up on the ad hoarding Cocker-Spaniel style, Priceless!
48. Ronaldo does a Prince Phillip (2002)
Many wondered how the Japanese nation would adapt to hosting the World Cup, what nobody thought to ask was how would the world respond to visiting the land of the rising sun. Brazilian superstar Ronaldo decided the way to make himself popular was by blending in- a move akin to the time Smashy & Nicey blacked up! If this tasteless gesture wasn’t bad enough Spanish forward Fernando Morientes repeated the pose on the cover a Spanish sports magazine, still those photo shop lads had the last laugh when they added buck-teeth to the young hostesses below, now that was funny!
47. Steve Wilson spots a wag (2010)
Sending the world’s sports media to unfamiliar parts of the world comes with a hazard- they might be ignorant to the culture of the their hosts. The BBC’s Steve Wilson normally sounds sensible on Match of the Day and seemed like a gaff free choice for Auntie in 2010. It was all going swimmingly well until the camera in a game he was commentating on focussed on a pretty blonde lady sitting in the expensive seats. Attempting to keep the watching public well-informed Steve used English football logic to explain “Well I’m not sure who she is but she must be a Wag.”
Said lady turned out to be Academy Award Winning Actress Charlize Theron! Maybe Steve doesn’t get to the cinema too often, but Charlize was also an ambassador for the World Cup he was commentating on and hosted the draw!
46. How to stop a free kick (1974)
OK Rivelino was pretty special with free kicks (even by Brazilian standards) and sometimes you just have to think outside the box to stop them. Zaire defender Muepu Ilunga certainly did that when he opted to hoof the ball away before Rivelino had a chance to touch it! It worked in a way- Rivelino didn’t score from that free kick but still scored and Brazil won 3-0.
45. Birdman (1990)
Colourful fans are always one of the joys of the World Cup- Brazil, Mexico, Scotland (back when they used to qualify) and Denmark are usually the most fun. But the most colourful fan award has to go to the Birdman of Colombia. Hats (or is that wings?) off to you sir!
44. Martin O’Neill turns pop critic (1998)
Martin O’Neill has always been good copy and rarely seems to care if he upsets a fellow pundit. But back at France ’98 he got himself onto Liam Gallagher’s Christmas card list when Robbie Williams showed up at the Beeb’s Paris studio. Robbie presumably showed up for some free publicity and smoke blown up his not inconsiderable rear-end. What he got was Leicester City’s manager congratulating him on his success despite not being able to play an instrument, sing or write songs- I’d buy Martin a pint any day of the week!
43. A bit of a spat (1990)
Holland vs Germany games have a tendency to boil over- rival nations with an acrimonious history often played out in big tournament matches. But in 1990 the disdain spilled out of Frank Rijkaard quite literally. After a free kick was awarded to West Germany Rijkaard and Rudi Voeller got into a row, after it was taken they got into handbags in the Dutch box. Voeller was given his marching orders and on his way off Rijkaard spat at him and duly followed him down the tunnel. Maybe Frank was giving his opinion on Rudi’s mullet- no manners but what a critic!
42. Paul The Octopus (2010)
Whilst South Africa did a commendable job of hosting the 2010 World Cup the football itself wasn’t up to much. How bad was it?- The thing most people remember was a psychic Octopus!
Paul lived at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen and as a German national was tasked with predicting the results of Germany’s World Cup matches. Remarkably he got the result right 7 times out of 7 and then correctly predicted Spain to win the final. Just to clarify he did this by sitting on one side or the other of his tank which were decorated by the flags of the teams playing (he didn’t actually say who was going to win).
Sadly Paul died later that year (perhaps using his psychic powers drained his life force?) But I can confirm he’s the most important Octopus in football history.
41. Tardelli’s Joy (1982)
Ever wonder what it’s like to score the decisive goal in a World Cup Final- just watch Marco Tardelli.