10 Most Controversial World Cup Matches

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Here, we will take a look at some of the most controversial World Cup matches. The World Cup has always been an event of glamour, passion, pride and intensity over the years. Players transform into superstars at the big stage, as overwhelming emotions take control which make some of these players to play at a completely different level to how they play for their clubs. This is one competiton which helps many league managers to scout for talent or change their existing tactics around some players who they think will be vital for their clubs. Some of these players have gone to great lengths to show how much their nation’s victory means to them and have adopted some ugly tactics, either with their teammates or as a solo entity, to achieve this feat. Here, we wil go through some controversial World Cup games which involved such tactics.

?10. West Germany vs Austria, 1982

Algeria had a tournament to forget, as West Germany became one of the pivotal reasons for their ouster in the World Cup. Algeria had defeated the West Germans 2-1 in the opening game of the group stage and were riding high on their succes, with four points from three games. They just needed West Germany to draw or lose the match against Austria. As the match started, the West Germans tormented the Austrians with their attack and soon got their reward in the 10th minute through Horst Hrubech. But the subsequent twenty minutes was absolutely devoid of goalmouth action as both teams parked their bus due to the knowledge that this scoreline was enough for them to qualify. Fans were so distraught that one German fan burned his national flag. Algeria complained to FIFA but to no avail. A truly disappointing moment in football history.

An angry fan waves a bank note at the players, citing match-fixing

9. France vs Kuwait, 1982

After a smooth through ball from Platini found Giresse in the Kuwait penalty box, everybody was certain of a goal. And Giresse put all minor doubts to rest as he converted the chance easily. But Kuwaiti players were furious. They had stopped after hearing a whistle from the crowd which they thought as being a whistle from the referee, allowing the combination play between Platini and Giresse. The Kuwaiti Sheikh “Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah” was so furious that he came down from the stand and onto the sidelines to confront the players and threatened to take them out of the pitch, after which the goal was disalllowed but France still managed to win the match 4-1.

The Sheikh argues with the match officials

?8. Portugal vs Netherlands, 2006

Termed as the “Battle of Nuremberg”, this epic showdown in the second round turned into a battle between flaring tempers rather than sumptuous soccer. Here, four players were sent off and 16 players were yellow-carded, which is a World Cup record till date.Though Portugal won the match 1-0, the match is definitely not something that any avid football fan would like to remember.

One of the many red cards handed out during the match

7. Chile vs Italy, 1962

If the Portugal vs Netherlands counter was heated, this match was a downright brawl. As a tv presenter said, nobody would have ever seen a match as stupid and ugly as this. The Chilean motto at that time was “By reason or by force”. But it was the Chileans who were ready for reason. The Italians, on the other hand, were prepared for force. A match which saw the police getting involved thrice, this encounter also saw a wrestling match of sorts, as there were punches and point blank tackles delivered to the face, too. The match ended with a 2-0 humbling to Italy but the Italians weren’t done yet as some of them resumed their outflow of tempers even at the end of the match. The way that the Italians played in the match was one that should have resulted in their expulsion from the tournament. Dubbed as the “Battle of Santiago”, it was an extremely embarassing encounter between the two teams.

Tempers continue to flare in the “Battle of Santiago”

6. Croatia vs Australia, 2006

Refereeing blunders are pretty apparent with some crystal clear decisions not being made correctly, usually in case of dead-ball situations. But it is rarely seen that a referee has forgotten to count in the middle of a match as big as a World Cup match. Graham Poll, England’s sole referee for the World Cup, made a disastrous blunder of booking Croatian defender Josip Simunic thrice before sending him off, he also blew the whistle just before a potential goal for Australia and also missed a clear Croatian handball in the penalty area. An agonizingly awful performance by the Englishman, who soon retired after he received numerous taunts from football fans around the globe.

Graham Poll sends Simunic off....finally!

?5. Italy vs France, 1938

These were the dying days of Mussolini’s domination in Italy but his influence was still intact in the football team. As Italy travelled to France, they were met with boos from the French and the anti-fascist Italian crowd. Italy were told to wear their alternate kits as France came out in their traditional blue kits. But Mussolini made sure that the Italians came out in black shirts, instead of white, as a symbol of the Fascist movement in Italy. Another symbol of the dictator was the Fascist salute that was performed by the Italian players before kickoff. The fans wreaked havoc in the stadium by screaming their lungs out in protest of Mussolini’s symbolism in the game. But it had little effect on Italy as they went on to win the match and the Cup, which they held for 12 successive years.

most controversial world cup games
Italians holding the fascist salute

?4. Italy vs South Korea, 2002

The Italians were involved in a conspiracy yet again in the World Cup. The only change being that this time, they were the victims. With South Korea being a co-host for the World Cup, the authorities had given the Asian team a lot of leeway in the qualifying stages. Italy faced the brunt of it as a golden goal from Damiano Tommassi was disallowed when they faced South Korea in the next round. Their talisman, Franceso Totti, was sent off for diving when replays clearly suggested that he was tripped on the grass. Another key decision made by the referee, Byron Moreno, was his decision  to award the Koreans a questionable penalty for a Christian Pannucci offence. Losing the match 1-0 in the end, the Italians complained to FIFA about the injustice but were met with no positive reply.

most controversial world cup games
Italian players baffled at Totti’s red card

3. France vs Italy, 2006

The epic finale between France and Italy was a highly-anticipated affair for many football afficionados around the globe. After Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi had scored for their respective teams, the match was tied at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes. In came extra time, and a moment to remember in World Cup history. As Zidane was jogging past Materazzi, Materazzi said something offensive to Zidane which made him turn and headbutt him on the chest. A straight red card. France’s influential player was lost, resulting in a crushing penalty loss in the match. ZIdane went on record to claim that he would have never lived with himself even if he would have helped France win the penalty shooutout and, thus, the World Cup.

Zidane shown the red card


2. Argentina vs England, 1986

The match was tied at 0-0 with 51 minutes gone. England were playing with caution as they knew the Argentinian genius Diego Maradona will be loitering around for chances. And he cunningly took it when a mishit by England midfielder Steve Hodge lobbed the ball into the air and when it came down, it was flicked past the keeper.....from Maradona’s hand! Still, Maradona celebrated the goal and, ultimately, Argentina would win the match and the World Cup. Being dubbed as “The Hand of the God”, this goal made Maradona a hated figure amongst the English crowd. This feeling hasn’t ebbed down and still runs wild.

The Hand of God


??1. England vs West Germany, 1966

With the World Cup mascot being introduced for the first time in England, the Englishmen got an extra sense of motivation in the Cup which they displayed prominently in the competition, winning it in the end. But their win wasn’t a clean one. The match was level at 2-2 till the 82nd minute, before Geoff Hurst spun in the area to send a riveting shot past the keeper. But it hit the underside of the bar, crashed down and went away from the net. The English players argued that it was a goal while the Germans argued otherwise. Swiss referee, Gottfried Dienst, consulted with his USSR linesman, Tofik Bakhramov who approved it and made Hurst approve it, too. This goal led to a heartbreak for German fans and gave England their only World Cup till date as they went on to win the match 4-2. Since then, goal-line technolgy has proved that the ball hadn’t crossed the line and England shouldn’t have been awarded the goal. On being asked why Bakhramov told the referee such, he replied “Stalingrad”. This referred to the bloody battle between the Soviets and the Nazis in World War II where numerous lives were lost. A revenge notion from the former USSR official. An aspect which the game shoudn’t respect and doesn’t need. 

Geoff Hurst’s controversial goal
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