, The football World Cup, the pinnacle of the game and undoubtedly the largest sporting event on the planet, is just weeks away from bursting onto our screens. Even those of us who spend most of the year complaining of players with ludicrous six-figure weekly salaries and the pain threshold of toddlers find ourselves taken hostage by the avalanching hype.


With all eyes on the elite of all nations cramming into one country, a media frenzy circles like a mob of vultures, opportunistically waiting to pounce upon any shenanigans. And, ineluctably, with the most revered accolade in sport at stake, a scandal or three usually surfaces. Just this week, in fact, organisers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have had to deny fresh allegations of wrongdoing after questions arose about the integrity of choosing the emirate as tournament host. With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at the top 10 scandals to rock World Cups of bygone years.

ANDRES ESCOBAR MURDERED – 1994 , The most harrowing tale in football history, as 10 days after the 1994 World Cup, with host nation Columbia having fallen drastically short of expectations, Andres Escobar, the culprit of an own goal against the USA, was shot dead.

THE BOGATA BRACELET – 1970 , A pre-tournament shopping excursion in Columbia didn’t go quite as expected for Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton. The pair visited a jewellery shop looking for a present for Charlton’s wife, but as they left, Moore – England captain at the time – was accused of stealing a £600 bracelet. A week later, Moore was placed under house arrest for four days – the situation threatened to become an international incident. Fortunately, he was cleared of wrongdoing and released in time to play the first match of England’s campaign, but the case was not officially closed until two years later.

HAND OF GOD – 1986, A painful topic for any English fans, as Diego Maradona scored the goal which become known as the Hand of God due to the blatant use of his hand rather than head escaping the notice of the ref. To then rub salt into the wound, three minutes later his tore England’s defence to pieces, sieving his way through five players and keeper Peter Shilton to score a goal dubbed ‘Goal of the Century’.

MARADONA FAILS DRUG TEST – 1994, One of the all-time controversies. Maradona, once again, one of the game’s leading icons, was sensationally removed from the tournament after testing positive for the banned substance ephedrine. Suspicions arose following his infamous wide-eyed celebration after scoring against Greece in the group stages. He would never play for his country again.

FRENCH STRIKE – 2010 , A campaign that involved heated arguments between coaching staff and the players, the sending home of Anelka for unleashing a barrage of abuse towards Raymond Domenech, the boycotting of training, and the resignation of Team Director Jean-Louis Valentin. France finished bottom of their group with just a solitary point. A tournament to forget.

RONALDO FITNESS – 1998, The Ronaldo story which preceded the 1998 final still remains something of a mystery. The Brazilian superstar was left off the team sheet to face France, only to reappear in the nick of time for kick-off. Early rumours hinted towards an ankle injury, then an upset stomach and possibly poison. It eventually transpired that he had been rushed to hospital after suffering convulsion in his sleep, and severe allegations suggested that he had been forced to play regardless. Brazil lost the match 3 – 0.

DUTCH POOL PARTY – 1974, The story goes that the night before the 1974 World Cup final between the Netherlands and West Germany, the host nation, German tabloid newspaper Bild bribed security guards of the hotel where the Dutch players were staying and sent in a number of scantily-clad girls to the pool area. As the women mingled, out popped the paparazzi and a scandal was born. The Dutch players consequently spent hours on the phone with their wives desperately trying to explain the situation. They went on to lose the final the next day 2-1.

GERMANY AND AUSTRIA CONSPIRE – 1982, Possibly the most blatant act of World Cup injustice – the victims being Algeria. The Germans were in danger of failing to make it past the group stages after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Algerian underdogs. However, with Germany and Austria due to play the last remaining game of the group, both teams knew that a 1-0 win for the Germans would send them both through at Algeria’s expense. After a 10th-minute German goal, the game plummeted into what must be the most boring match to have featured at any World Cup.

ZIDANE HEADBUTT – 2006 , The fall of hero. Despite playing a major role in helping to get France to the final, Zidane then disgraced himself under the watch of millions around the world as he ruthlessly headbutted Marco Metrazzi, leaving France a man down for the remainder of the game. Italy went on to win the World Cup on penalties.

ARGENTINA GIFTED SIX – 1978 , It was a crucial game for the host team as they needed to win by four goals to overtake Brazil and make the final. Peru stood in their way, and despite a competitive start, soon crumbled easily, gifting the Argentineans 6 goals and easy passage. Rumours circulated that the game was rigged, not helped by the fact that Peru fielded an Argentine-born goalkeeper, Ramon Quirgoa.

By Patrick Tillard

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