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Eight Controversial World Cup Moments

Qatar 2022 has been very exciting. There have been unimaginable feats like Japan coming top of a group with Spain and Germany and Morocco coming top of the group with two of Russia 2018’s top three in Belgium and Croatia.

However, as the last eight teams square off against each other when the quarter-finals kick off on Friday, we look at eight of the most controversial World Cup moments.


  1. Luis Suarez handball (South Africa 2010)

The talismanic Uruguayan forward has always courted controversy and managed to hit the headlines. Despite being instrumental to his team’s impressive display in 2010, Suarez’s most significant moment came in the quarter-final game against Ghana.

With the tie delicately poised at 1-1, Ghana looked like they were sailing into the semi-finals before Suarez channeled his inner “Gigi Buffon” and expertly stopped Dominic Adiyiah’s goal-bound header with his hands. He was correctly sent off, but Asamoah Gyan failed to convert the resulting spot kick with the game’s last action as Ghana lost on penalties.

In 2014, Suarez showed he was nowhere near being “born again” when he appeared to bite the arm of Italy’s Chiellini, probably mistaking it for beef when you consider that Uruguay is one of the countries with the most cattle per capita in the World.

  1. Geoff Hurst’s ghost goal (England 1966)

England’s only World Cup title came on home soil in the iconic Wembley stadium in 1966, but not without any controversy.

A resilient West Germany side forced the hosts to extra time courtesy of an 89th-minute equalizer. In the first half of extra time, Geoff Hurst unleashed a piledriver which cannoned off the underside of the crossbar, bounced, and was cleared.

The referee awarded the goal to England after protests from the English players. To this day, that remains one of the most controversial debates and crucially gifted a maiden title to the Three Lions.

  1. Frank Lampard’s ghost goal (South Africa 2010)

Revenge for 1966 was served as a cold breakfast years later when Africa played host to the World Cup in 2010. The stage was set for England’s Round of 16 tie against Germany, and the ghosts of 66 were invoked on the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.

This event makes the cut because it reinforced arguments for goal-line technology, one of football’s most incredible technological advancements.

Germany had raced to a two-nil lead courtesy of Klose and Podolski, and Matthew Upson had pulled one back for England. The Three Lions were denied what should have been a legitimate equalizer when Lampard’s rasping drive from outside the box crossed the line off the underside of the bar. The referee and linesman failed to award the goal, and England lost the game 4-1 from a potential 2-2.

  1. Harald Schumacher on Patrick Battiston (Spain 1982)

The semi-final game between West Germany and France was perhaps more memorable due to one of the worst refereeing decisions of all time at the World Cup, possibly eclipsing Graham Poll’s three-red-card gaffe at the 2006 World Cup.

French substitute Patrick Battiston raced through on goal, and West Germany’s goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher, came charging out and clattered full force into the defender. The French defender made the first contact with the ball, but the goalkeeper leaped to his face.

Battiston lay motionless on the pitch and went into a coma. He also lost three teeth due to the impact of the collision. The referee awarded a goal kick instead of a foul. Schumacher went on to save two penalties in the shootout and joked afterward that he would pay the dentist’s bill.

  1. The Battle of Santiago (Chile 1962)

Italy’s encounter against the host country, Chile, at the 1962 World Cup will forever be remembered as one of the worst World Cup matches in history. The result ended 2-0 in favour of Chile, but the disgraceful manner in which both sets of players went for each other’s jugular was not suitable for viewing.

The game could easily pass for a Royal Rumbling Wrestling contest with occasional football incidents. Players were allowed to punch each other directly in the face without any consequences, and local police had to intervene on several occasions. The game deservedly got the tag “Battle of Santiago,” as it remains one of the most reckless World Cup games to date.

  1. The Disgrace of Gijon (Spain 1982)

The uneventful events from the last Group 2 game of the 1982 World Cup game between West Germany and Austria forced FIFA to make the rule change, ensuring that all the final group games would be played simultaneously.

Algeria had shocked the entire World with their 2-1 upset of West Germany, who now needed a win against Austria, who only had to avoid a defeat by three or more goals to remain above Algeria. West Germany was staring early elimination in the face.

Algeria had already played their last group fixture, so what followed in the Austria game was planned. West Germany raced to an early lead in the 10th minute, and for the remainder of the match, both teams casually passed the ball around without any intention of scoring. The game ended 1-0 as West Germany and Austria progressed at the expense of Algeria.

  1. Argentina’s controversial World Cup (Argentina 1978)

Argentina’s triumph in 1978 was tainted with match-fixing allegations in their favour. The Selecao of Brazil had defeated Poland 3-1 in the other group game, and Argentina needed to beat a strong Peru side by at least four goals to reach the final ahead of Brazil on goal difference.

This looked like an impossible task considering that Peru had previously held the Netherlands to a draw and beaten both Scotland and Iran. Peru appeared to throw the game as they surrendered to a 6-0 defeat. A Peruvian Senator later revealed that the players were pressured to underperform due to a trade deal that had been struck between both countries in favour of Peru.

  1. Maradona’s Hand of God (Mexico 1986)

Diego Armando Maradona would go down as one of the best humans to ever grace a football pitch. Still, his antics against England deservedly remain one of the most controversial moments in the history of the World Cup.

In the 51st minute of the tightly contested quarter-final fixture against England, Maradona, who was significantly smaller than goalkeeper Peter Shilton punched the ball into the net ahead of the goalkeeper. The goal was awarded and subsequently dubbed the “Hand of God.” Maradona later showed his football ingenuity in the same match as he weaved past five challenges and dribbled past Shilton to slot in his second goal of the game and help Argentina to a 2-1 win.


This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. KALEJAYE Ibrahim

    Always interesting to read… Nice compilation precious. Was expecting to see van persie’s diving header too.

  2. Olayinka

    You really digged deep for this precious, nice work bro.

    1. Precious Omusuwe


  3. Tiamiyu Temitayo

    The Blue Bucket 🪣 by the French 😅. Well articulated Prof. Keep feeding is nice content.

    1. Precious Omusuwe

      Hahaha! They needed to revive him after the knock. Technology was not yet as advanced as it is now but he eventually got an oxygen mask.

  4. Ibrahim Ashiru

    This is a brilliant piece. I’m glad I read through.

    1. Precious Omusuwe

      Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Heney Umoru

    Great one again from the prof himself.
    Football is not fare at all in all ways.
    How can someone collapsed and lost his teeth due to the contact from the keeper and the Ref still had the balls to award a goal kick?
    Na waooo.
    For England, it was a case of what goes around comes around

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