The World Cup has thrown up its fair share of memorable moments – from hand-balled goals touched by the divine, to headbutted Italians felled by Zidane – but everyone's already aware of those. We're more interested in the peculiar, the farcical and the bizarre… Here’s the first five of them.
Free-Kick Farce - 1974
The first and only sub-Saharan African nation to qualify for a World Cup, Zaire (now DR Congo) enjoyed a torrid World Cup 1974, losing all three group games, conceding 14 goals and failing to score. The icing on the proverbial urinal cake was the baffling actions of defender Mwepu Ilunga during a game against Brazil. As the Brazilians lined up to take a free kick, upon hearing the referee's whistle, Ilunga seized his moment to shine. Defiantly striding away from the Zaire defensive wall, he charged toward the ball amidst a sea of baffled onlookers, before triumphantly thwacking it downfield with all the vigour of a dad returning a stray ball in the park. He was immediately booked for his troubles, later claiming that his stunt was actually part of a protest against Zaire authorities over earnings. Nice try Mwepu…
The Battle of Santiago - 1962
A group match between Italy and hosts Chile in the group stages of World Cup 1962, this fixture was one of the most punishing in the tournament's history. As bruising encounters go, this one left permanent scars. Tensions had been fraught even before kick off after two Italian journalists had made disparaging remarks about the Chile capital Santiago. It took just 12 seconds before the first foul of the game and 12 minutes before Italy's Giorgio Ferrini was sent off. Refusing to leave the pitch, Ferrini had to be dragged away by policemen. The man he had fouled, Honorino Landa, even went so far as to punch him, but miraculously escaped punishment himself. Chile's Leonel Sanchez and Italy's Mario David then had a feud which rapidly escalated. Sanchez punched David after being foul minutes earlier, only for David to respond by kicking him in the head. David was given his marching orders and Sanchez, escaping punishment, provoked a skirmish, during which Sanchez would even break Humberto Maschio's nose without being sent off. The police had to intervene three times and the match eventually ended 2-0 to the Chileans. The referee, Ken Aston, would be so affected by the events of the game that he would later go on to invent red and yellow cards.
You Booking At Me? - 1966
In the 35th
minute of the quarter-final between England and Argentina, referee Rudolf Kreitlein blows his whistle during a seemingly innocuous passage of play, only to send off the Argentine captain, Antonio Rattin. Why? It's hard to say…. Feeling a number of decisions were going against his side, Rattin claims he approached the referee, pointed at his captain's armband and asked for an interpreter. Instead of clarity, he received his marching orders. Explaining his side of things, Kreitlein claimed he dismissed the player for a "violence of the tongue", adding later that he didn't "like the look" on his face. Feeling (probably justifiably) aggrieved, Rattin refused to leave the field, indignantly sitting himself down on the red carpet at the side of the pitch reserved for the Queen. In the end, police officers were sent to retrieve him, though he managed to have one final dig as he was escorted away – snatching at a British pennant and crumpling it up on his way to the baths.¿
DaMarcus Pee-asley - 2002
During World Cup 2002, American winger DaMarcus Beasley, one day to briefly feature on loan at Manchester City, found a novel way to multitask whilst on the substitutes’ bench. Warming up on the sidelines and finding himself caught short mid-lunge, Beasley simply urinated on the side of the pitch. Unfortunately for DaMarcus, he was oblivious to the fact that a television camera happened to be currently resting on him and beaming his indiscretion into several million homes around the World.
Premature Jock Elation - 1978
The only British nation to have qualified for the 1978 World Cup, Scotland were so self-assured of eventual triumph they even hosted a pre-emptive open-top bus victory around Hampden Park. Despite a squad boasting the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness, the delusional claims of their maverick manager Ally McLeod were setting the Scots up for an inevitable fall. A draw with Iran, a loss to Peru and an early group exit later, and there was considerably less fanfare greeting the Tartan Army than when they departed. The second instalment of our glance back at some of the stranger tales from the World Cup archives…
Wales’ World Cup 1958 campaign came to an end in the quarter finals, when they met eventual winners Brazil. A single Pele goal put paid to the Red Dragons’ chances, and they returned home never to be seen at the tournament again. Though the Welsh team’s inability to qualify since then has meant they have never been able to properly avenge this defeat, referee Clive Thomas was able to enact his own small payback of sorts. Drawing 1-1 in a group game with Sweden at World Cup 1978, Brazil won a corner in the dying seconds of the match. It was duly dispatched and headed in by Brazilian midfielder Zico, only for Thomas – a proud Welshman – to blow his whistle for full time and annul the goal as after the whistle.
Another incident involving Brazil, a World Cup and a home nations side, this time with the additional unpredictable presence of a dog. Midway through England and Brazil’s 1962 quarter-final, a stray pooch wondered onto the pitch, evading all attempts at capture. Thankfully, England striker and gifted dog-whisperer Jimmy Greaves was at hand to lend his expertise. Kneeling on all fours, Greaves was able to coax the mutt into his arms, at which point it promptly urinated all over his lovely white shirt. Brazilian legend Garrincha was said to have enjoyed the hound’s exploits so much that he took it home as a pet.
There is hushed talk within certain footballing circles that this generation of goalkeepers are playing further up-field than even before. As best typified by the likes of Manuel Neuer and Hugo Lloris, keepers are said to have evolved to the point where they are competent with the ball at their feet and are even comfortable coming out of the area. Is the advent of the ‘sweeper-keeper’ on the horizon? Peru’s Ramon Quiroga scoffs at such talk. He pioneered this form of goalkeeping nearly 40 years ago. The Peruvian, aptly nicknamed ‘El Loco’, spent a group game against Poland at World Cup 1978 inexplicably running up to the half-way line to break up play. His crowning moment came when he ventured as far as the opposition’s half, missed his tackle and simply close-lined his opponent with an outstretched instead. Amazingly, he escaped with just a booking.
Much like this year’s tournament, Brazil were massive favourites to lift the trophy when they hosted World Cup 1950. Back then, the tournament format was in several stages of mini-leagues, and Brazil had been smashing the final group; beating Spain 6-1 and Sweden 7-1. On the other hand, Uruguay scraped past Sweden 3-2 and drew 2-2 with Spain. Brazil needed just a point from the last game against the Uruguayans to claim the tournament and the game looked a foregone conclusion, especially considering it was being held in front of a Maracana stadium packed to the rafters with some nearly 200,000 partisan fans. The Uruguayan manager Juan Lopez had even told his players that losing by fewer than four goals would be a ‘moral victory.’ It looked like plain sailing when Brazil took a 1-0 lead, only for Uruguay to come back in the second half to win 2-1, in doing so clinching the tournament. As deafening silence fell upon the gathered spectators, the organisers realised they had failed to prepare for an eventuality where Brazil wouldn't win – Jules Rimet, the creator of the World Cup, had even written a speech in Portuguese to congratulate the Brazilians on winning. At 1-1, Rimet left his seat to collect the trophy, only to return baffled silence that greeted him as he came up the tunnel. He hurriedly sought out the Uruguay captain and thrust the trophy into his hands. It’s the World Cup podium moment that every kid dreams of…
Taste of Your Own Medicine
The 1930 semi-final between the United States and Argentina bore witness to a delicious bit of irony. A bruising encounter saw the USA physio Jack Coll entered the fray to tend to one of his players, only to drop his medical bag, breaking the container of chloroform inside. The fumes knocked him out instantly, and he had to be helped onto a stretcher and escorted from the pitch by the players. Eat your heart out Gary Lewin.
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