Soccer is the world’s game, and the World Cup is the most coveted tournament of the sport. A four-yearly celebration of the absolute best players of the world, in which every nation on the planet has the opportunity to compete for the famous golden trophy and the immortality that comes with it.
The World Cup brings an enormous multitude of people together, with billions of fans worldwide spectating the games at home or even traveling thousands of miles to be there in person. This means that when something shocking or impressive occurs at a World Cup, the whole world becomes a witness to it. And ever since the first tournament in 1930, the World Cup has given us more than its share of shocking moments.
Giorgio Chiellini Getting Bitten by Luis Suarez – 2014
One of the most shocking moments in the history of the World Cup occurred back in 2014. As one of the world’s most exciting strikers to watch, Luis Suarez has also had his fair share of controversy. Perhaps the peak of his infamy happened during the 2014 World Cup, in Uruguay’s last group game versus Italy.
After a scuffle in the penalty area, the veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini, seemingly out of nowhere, fell to the ground, and it soon became apparent that Suarez had bitten the Italian defender’s shoulder. At that moment, the match officials didn’t see what happened. While Italy was still protesting, Uruguay managed to score the game’s only goal, sending them into the knockout stages and the Italians home.
What might surprise a lot of people, this was the third time in his career that Luis Suarez had tried to bite an opponent, and FIFA threw the book directly at him. The Uruguayan was banned for nine international games and four months, with a fine of over $92,000 imposed.
USA Upsetting England – 1950
The English Football Association had ignored the World Cups of 1930, 1934, and 1938. But when they finally decided to send a team to the tournament, they probably wished they hadn’t.
It was widely assumed in the world of English sports that their team of superstars featuring Tom Finney, Billy Wright, and Stan Mortensen would easily take over any of the opposition. As expected, they won their opening World Cup game against Chile without much struggle and were the heavy favorites to beat a USA team consisting mainly of amateurs.
But what happened next was completely unexpected as the USA team prevailed 1-0, with their goal scored by Joe Gaetjens. What shocked the world was that the goal scorer was an immigrant coming from Haiti and working at a New York restaurant while studying at Columbia University. England went on to lose their last group game to Spain and sailed home in disgrace.
The Gentleman’s Agreement – 1982
The 1982 World Cup witnessed plenty of drama, and West Germany was involved in a big part. In their last group game, they were going up against Austria. However, the group’s unusual results, including West Germany’s 2-1 loss to Algeria, meant that picking up a one or two-goal win for West Germany in this game would mean that both teams advanced through to the second phase.
Horst Hrubesch got the only goal of the game for West Germany 11 minutes into the action. Although the match didn’t deteriorate into pure chaos in the first half, that was certainly the case in the last 20 minutes of the second half, when the two sides were reduced to hitting the ball sideways to the jeers and whistles of the Gijon crowd.
This confusing World Cup moment incited FIFA to the point that all four teams in a group are now forced to play their final games simultaneously at every World Cup iteration since then.
Italy and Chile’s Intense Battle – 1962
When it comes to on-field violence, the World Cup is no stranger to it. Italy and Spain played out two intense and brutal games back in the 1934 edition, while the 1966 tournament, in particular, showed some fierce encounters between Bulgaria and Brazil, and England and Argentina.
However, arguably the most famous of the World Cup clashes, took place four years earlier in Santiago, Chile. This encounter, between Italy and hosts Chile, happened at a time when yellow cards didn’t exist in international soccer, though had the booking existed, that would indeed have been a record-breaking encounter.
In a bad-tempered event, there were specific tensions between the two sides stemming from insulting reports about Santiago by two Italian journalists. The very first foul came just 12 seconds into the match, and the first red card after 12 minutes when Giorgio Ferrini was sent off, though he initially refused to leave the field.
Chilean winger Leonel Sanchez then got away with punching Italian Mario David, who was sent off for retaliating moments later. Another Italian player came off with a fully broken nose, and amid the spitting and general scuffles, the police had to intervene three times. Ultimately, Chile won 2-0, but the soccer world definitely was shocked after that.
Harald Schumacher Smashing Patrick Battiston (Spain 1982)
It was back in 1982 when another shocking moment occurred. This was definitely one of World Cup history’s worst cases of foul play. With the scoreboard tied at 1-1 in the semi-final between Germany and France, Michel Platini made a perfect pass to Patrick Battiston, giving him an easy goal.
But German keeper Harald Schumacher had other plans in mind and raced out of his box to tackle him but seemed to show little interest in the ball. As Battiston lifted it over his head, Schumacher crashed into the French player. Battiston got knocked out cold, lost two teeth, and had a broken vertebra. Incredibly, Schumacher managed to escape this incident without any punishment.
Clash of Nuremberg – 2006
Due to all of the recent incidents, an increasing intolerance for foul play meant that by the 1990s, bad-tempered encounters, like those in 1962 and 1966, seemed to be a thing of the past. But in 2006, the Netherlands and Portugal match showed that the World Cup was not ready to leave violence out of the competition.
The first booking came just in the 2nd-minute mark, but much of the hatred stemmed from an early foul against Cristiano Ronaldo, which forced him out of the soccer field. By the time the match was done, there had been four red cards and 16 yellow, which was a record for a World Cup game.
Zinedine Zidane’s Headbutt – Germany 2006
What history has proved to us is that some players choose to bow out of international football gracefully. Back in 2006, Zinedine Zidane had other plans in mind, getting himself sent off in the World Cup final.
When Marco Materazzi had some fun by trash-talking during a quiet stretch of the final, Zidane didn’t take it lightly. Then, to the astonishment of a global audience, he headbutted the defender right in the chest. Zidane then was sent off, and France eventually was taken down on penalties.