Continuing our countdown of the weird and wonderful of the World Cup…
30. Sour Grapes (2002)
It’s strange how different nations respond to World Cup elimination, in England the intellectually challenged trash their local high street, in France Parisians scream out loud along the Champs Elysees (although that might be tourists who’ve just seen how much they’ve paid for a pint) and in Italy they act like toddlers.
The greatest example of this came in the 2002 round of 16 clash against hosts South Korea with the spikey Giovanni Trappatoni in the dugout. After a late equalizer from the Koreans force extra time some iffy refereeing saw Francesco Totti dismissed for an alleged dive and an Italian golden goal ruled out for a dubious offside. Then to top it all Ahn Jung-Hwan headed in the Koreans winner. Trappatoni almost suffered the fate of the Spinal Tap drummer who spontaneously combusted but the best reaction came from back home.
Jung-Hwan was at the time on loan to Verona whose owner Luciano Gaucci immediately declared the player was sacked. The rationale he gave was “I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football!”
And then just to make it even stranger Gaucci then changed his mind and offered the player a 3 year deal which unsurprisingly was turned down. Italian whingeing and conspiracy theories then reached epic proportions at Euro 2004.
29. Jonathan Pearce spots “Controversy” (2014)
When FIFA finally relented and allowed goal-line technology at the 2014 World Cup there was always going to be an acid test moment to see if it truly was fool-proof it came when France played Honduras- a Karim Benzema shot struck the post but then rebounded across the goal and was bundled over the line by the goalkeeper who then tried to keep it out. The goal-line replay clearly showed then ball crossed the line on second incident so was a goal. Easy enough for most to understand but not the BBC’s Jonathan Pearce who thought he’d found the flaw in the system, the second shooter on the grassy knoll. “That’s no goal!”, “A spurious replay”, “Oh they’ve changed their minds now, does it work or doesn’t it?!” Poor old Martin Keown had to slowly (very slowly) explain to his co-commentator what had happened and even then Jonathan insisted it was a “massive controversy.” Just goes to show you can make the system fool-proof but not Jonathan Pearce proof.
28. Madman Higuita done in Milla time (1990)
Two great footballing cult heroes squared off in the second round of Italia ’90 when Cameroon’s 38-year-old forward Roger Milla faced eccentric Colombian goalkeeper Renee Higuita. Higuita best remembered for that scorpion kick at Wembley fancied himself a sweeper keeper- usually somewhere close to the halfway line.
Predictably Higuita lost the ball and Milla pounced for the winner in extra-time, I can’ t translate all of this commentary but there is one adjective of Higuita that everyone can follow.
27. France go on strike (2010)
It’s fair to say they don’t do average World Cups in France- their previous 3 going into 2010 read Winners, Out First Round, without a goal, Runners up so when Thierry Henry quite literally handed them their place in South Africa we should have guessed it wouldn’t go well, but perhaps not just how bad things would get.
Under the eccentric management of Raymond Domenech- a man who responded to Euro 2008 elimination by proposing to his girlfriend in his post match interview, discord was always likely especially after several players were questioned by police over alleged involvement with a high-price escort service in Paris. But with things going pear-shaped in their second group game Le Sulk himself Nicolas Anelka threw his big silly spanner in the works by giving a potty mouthed critique of his manager. When Anelka was sent home the next day and after Patrice Evra got into a bust up with a coach the team boycotted training.
With his team on strike Domenech and the FFF had to phone a friend- the French President who was forced to send his Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot to settle things. An emotional meeting followed and the team decided not to resign from the World Cup and instead play their final group game- predictably they lost and the team returned home in disgrace. All 23 were suspended by the FFF and a nation returned to its wine.
26. World In Motion (1990)
How could we not find a place on here for the only good World Cup song in history. New Order assisted by John Barnes rapping (just imagine if it’d been Gazza!) even made the presence of Keith Allen bearable and the Manchester Electro-stars went to number 1 providing the anthem for the summer of 1990.
25. Graham Poll’s Hat-Trick (2006)
Referees are just honest men doing their job- much like Traffic Wardens, Tax Inspectors and Firing Squads. So when a particularly unpopular referee screws up and doesn’t even know what he’s done it would be wrong to laugh, wouldn’t it? surely? Nah it’s Graham Poll.
Poll was refereeing the Australia vs Croatia group game and first booked Josep Simunic on 63 minutes and then booked him again but as Simunic walked away Poll forgot 2 yellows means a red card and allowed the Croatian to stay on. Then finally in injury time Simunic got into a tangle in the box and Poll gave him a third and finally got his man with a red. English based Aussie Mark Viduka saw the funny side and naturally in the aftermath the England team supported their countryman or at least David Beckham said so whilst wearing a huge grin. Poll amazingly didn’t realise his mistake until later that night at the hotel and was unsurprisingly not required for the knock out phase.
24. Diana Ross misses her cue (1994)
When FIFA announced they were giving the World Cup to a country with little footballing heritage, no professional league and truckloads of cash there was outrage- no not Qatar 2022: USA 1994. Many worried would the locals even turn up for the ‘Soccer World Cup’ but one thing the Americans were guaranteed to do was put on a show. The opening ceremony was spectacular and featured an A List Star to literally kick proceeding off. The idea was Diana Ross whilst singing the opening song would kick the ball into a net that would break in 2 and she would run onto the stage behind the goal, what could possibly go wrong?
Still the Americans packed out the stadiums for the entire 3 weeks of the tournament and took the game to their hearts- if not its name and Diana never returned to playing.
23. Who shot Rivaldo? (2002)
Anyone who says VAR is a terrible idea should check this out- Brazilian superstar Rivaldo had the ball kicked to him to take a corner and went down holding his face in front of the referees assistant his ‘assailant’ got booked, just embarrassing.
22. The Jabulani (2010)
You know something’s wrong with a football when the manufacturer feels the need to consult Nasa about its aerodynamics. The Jabulani was supposed lead to more exciting football but had the effect of sending endless free-kicks into row z in South Africa.
I remember kicking one at the time and being reminded of those cheap ‘soccer star’ balls they used to sell in Woolworths. You really didn’t need to waste the time of people trying to put a man on Mars to come to an obvious conclusion- this ball was a joke! It was near impossible to manipulate and the Peppa Pig ball I kick around with my 3 year olds has more consistency. What were they thinking!
21. Lobbing Seaman (2002)
David Seaman had a fine career for both Arsenal and England but both were blighted by high-profile gaffs- remember the 1995 Cup Winners Cup Final! So 7 years later in the midst of an excellent tournament with England you got the sense something might go wrong- and how it did. David misjudged this cross come shot from Ronaldinho, England were out and David’s book ‘Safe Hands’ was suddenly going at a 90% discount in Waterstones.