FIFA World Cup 2018: Recounting superstitions, red cards and displays of extraordinary skill, from 1974 to 2014

Editor's note: The 2018 FIFA World Cup is in the offing, and another set of historical football memories will soon be created. Noteworthy losses, legendary goals and personal feuds have dotted the history of this tournament, which make it such a fulfilling viewing experience.

Before we turn our eyes to Russia, here's a look at some unforgettable moments from previous years' World Cup matches — from Maradona’s 'Hand of God' to Suarez biting Italian defender Chiellini. In part two of this series, sportswriter Austin Coutinho flips through the pages of the years between 1974 and 2014.


Would you believe it if I told you that the Brazilians, who were massacred by Germany 7-1 in the World Cup semi-finals of 2014, actually lost because of a legendary singer’s presence in the VIP box? At least that’s what Brazilian fans think.

Rolling Stones star Mick Jagger was on a world tour around the time of the World Cup. He had predicted at various times that England, Italy and Portugal would win the title. All three had crashed out at the group stage. He had then told Bill Clinton that USA had a good chance of winning the Cup, but the Americans lost to Belgium in the round-of-16. Hence, when he turned up for the Brazil-Germany semi-final to support the home team, the Brazilians – who had nicknamed him ‘The Jinx’ – were a worried lot. They even had cutouts of Jagger in German colours, but that did not help as Brazil went down like a punch-drunk boxer.

Illustration courtesy Austin Coutinho

Illustration courtesy Austin Coutinho

Despite the supposed ‘carnage’ caused by the presence of Jagger, the match became the most tweeted sport event in history. Twitter users sent more than 35 million tweets during the match. How many of them trolled ‘The Jinx’, I wonder?

To make World Cup 2014 more memorable, Luis Suarez bit Italian defender Chiellini in one match and received a nine-match ban. In the Italy-England encounter, the English physio Gary Levin stepped on a bottle while celebrating the equaliser and broke his ankle. In the final, German midfielder Christoph Kramer received a blow on his head from a collision and opted to play on. He collapsed later, but before that inquired with the referee whether the match that he was playing in was the World Cup final.

My favourite memory of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, besides the ‘tiki-taka’ of the toreadors, was of Colombian heartthrob Shakira’s rendition of ‘Waka Waka’ at the opening ceremony on 11 June.

Luis Suarez, who usually bit opponents in the field, had a ‘hand’ in Ghana’s ouster in the quarter-finals of 2010. With the score tied at 1-1, and just a minute to go, he stopped a goal-bound ball with his hand. He was red-carded but Asamoah Gyan missed the consequential penalty. To the horror of Ghanaian fans, Uruguay won the match 4-2 in the shoot-out. Suarez said later that he had made the ‘best save of the tournament’. He also boasted that the ‘Hand of God’ goal now belonged to him, obviously referring to Maradona’s infamous goal against England in 1986.

The ‘Rainbow Nation’ had organized a great World Cup, but it was marred by allegations of corruption and of course, the revolt in the French team had left a bitter after-taste. Raymond Domenech, the coach who was partly responsible for France’s decline, was a part-time astrologer. He had kept Arsenal star Robert Pires out of the 2006 team because he was a Scorpio. He believed that Scorpio is a negative sign and he also avoided picking defenders with the star sign Leo because they tended to show off.

In World Cup 2006, played in Germany, a record number of 345 yellow and 28 red cards were shown. In a match known as the ‘Battle of Nuremberg’, Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handed 16 yellow and 4 red cards to players from Portugal and Netherlands, in a round-of-16 match. In another match, English referee Graham Poll showed three yellow cards, mistakenly, to Josip Simunic of Croatia.

Oleg Blokhin guided Ukraine to the quarter-finals that year. However, Ukraine’s opening match against Spain was a disaster, Blokhin’s boys losing 0-4. Speaking to the media after the match, the coach blamed the noisy frogs outside the team’s hotel, which wouldn’t let players sleep at night, for the defeat. Zinedine Zidane famously head-butted Italy’s Materazzi in the final of 2006 and got a red card. However, that didn’t stop him from winning ‘The Golden Ball’.

In 2002, it almost seemed as if referees Byron Moreno (Ecuador) and Gamal Al-Ghandour (Egypt) had plotted to win the Cup for joint hosts, South Korea. In the round-of-16, Moreno disallowed an Italian goal, ruling it off-side and then sent Francesco Totti off for diving. In the quarter-finals, Ghandour disallowed two legitimate goals by the Spaniards and helped the Koreans win 5-3 on penalties.

This tournament also saw Turkey’s Hakan Sukur score a goal in the third-place match against South Korea, in 10.8 seconds flat — straight from the kick off. Also, Korean forward Cha Doo-Di received the quickest yellow card in World Cup history. Coming in as a substitute in injury time, he was booked 20 seconds later.

It took 16 World Cups and 68 years for France to win their first title, after two Frenchmen had initiated the world contest. Zidane scored a brace with his head and Petit scored in the closing moments to give France a 3-0 win over Brazil in the 1998 final. The Brazilians were lacklustre in that match, and it was rumoured that Ronaldo had had a fit in his room and was unwell on the morning of the match. He, it is alleged, was forced to play the final by his sponsors, Nike.

In 1994, when hosts USA played Colombia, Andres Escobar scored an own goal, helping USA win. A few days later, he was shot dead outside a bar in Medellin, the killer shouting ‘Goal!’ before pumping in 12 bullets. Also, the USA-Switzerland match was the first ever to be played indoors in World Cup history.

Gianfranco Zola received a card on his 28th birthday in 1994; a red card! Playing against Nigeria in a round-of-16 match on 5 July, he was sent off by referee Brizio Carter of Mexico.

In 1990, Walter Zenga, playing under the goalpost for hosts Italy, did not concede a goal in 617 minutes of play. In the semi-finals against Argentina, he was beaten in the 67th minute, and that led to the host nation’s ouster from the championships. During this match, the referee Michael Vautrot extended the first half by eight minutes because his watch was wrongly set.

Salvatore ‘Toto’ Schillaci scored consistently for Italy in World Cup 1990. As a sub, he netted against Austria and Czechoslovakia. He scored in the round-of-16 and in the quarter-finals too. In the semi-final, Schillaci netted again to help Italy hold Argentina 1-1. In the penalty shootout that followed, though, he wasn’t among the penalty takers and watched helplessly as Italy lost.

The World Cup of 1986 will be remembered not only for Diego Maradona’s brilliance, but also for his ‘Hand-of-God’ goal against England in the quarter-finals. After the match, he insisted that the goal was off Maradona’s head, aided by the ‘Hand-of-God’. Much later, in his autobiography, he confessed that the goal was indeed the ‘Hand-of-Diego’ and that he had pick-pocketed the Englishmen. Argentina, after beating England 2-1, had beaten West Germany 3-2 to win the Cup.

In that World Cup, Uruguayan Jose Batista created a record of sorts when he was given the marching orders after only 56 seconds of play. Hanna Basil of Iraq spat on referee Diaz Palacio during the Iraq-Belgium match and received a one-year suspension. Ray Wilkins of England threw a ball at the referee, playing against Morocco, and received a two-match suspension.

The worst foul ever committed in a World Cup was perhaps the collision between German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher and French striker Patrick Battiston in the semi-final of 1982. With the score level at 3-3, Battiston chased a ball and shot wide as Schumacher charged at him. In the resulting collision, the striker lost two teeth, damaged a vertebra and received oxygen on the pitch. Platini said later, “I thought he was dead.” After the incident, referee Charles Corver awarded a goal kick!

In 1982, after France had scored a goal against Kuwait, the latter’s defenders protested that they had heard a whistle for off-side and had stopped playing. Prince Fahid, the Kuwaiti football chief, walked onto the field and threatened to pull out his team, after which referee Miroslav Stupar reversed his decision. France won 4-1, but Stupar was suspended and Prince Fahid was fined $14,000.

Netherlands’ attacking mid-fielder, Dirk Nanninga, played a match each in the first and second phases of World Cup 1978, coming in at the end of regulation time. In the match against West Germany, after he was expelled for laughing at the referee, he predicted that he would come in as a substitute in the final and score in the last 10 minutes. He did exactly that, taking the match into extra time. However, goals from Kempes and Bertoni in the 105th and 116th minutes won the Cup for Argentina.

The most popular goalkeeper in the 1978 edition was Ramon Quiroga of Peru. He would regularly leave the penalty area to help in defence. In a match against Poland, however, he carried it too far when he entered the opponents’ half and brought down Lato with a rugby-like tackle. He was promptly booked. In another Brazil-Sweden encounter, with the score level, Zico headed a corner into the Swedish goal. The Welsh referee disallowed the goal saying that he had blown for full-time when the ball was in the air!

In the 1974 World Cup, in Germany, the FIFA World Cup Trophy designed by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga was presented to the winners. The Jules Rimet Trophy had been retired by Brazil in 1970.

In an epic final at the Olympiastadion in Munich, in July 1974, West Germany overcame the ‘total football’ of the Dutch to win the brand new trophy. But the opening goal in the first minute of play was a classic. The Netherlands started off with insightful passing and Cryuff was brought down in the box. Johan Neeskens scored off the penalty and the first German to touch the ball, in the final, was goalkeeper Sepp Maier – who picked the ball from the net!

Extra Time: Just before the World Cup of 2014, Brazilian coach, Luis Felipe Scolari was asked if his players were allowed to have sex before matches. He replied, “I don’t mind players ‘scoring’ the night before a game as long as they don’t do anything ‘acrobatic’.”

Read part one of this series here.

The author is a caricaturist and sportswriter. A former cricketer and ex-President, Mumbai Dist. Football Association, he is now a mental toughness trainer.

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Updated Date: Jun 09, 2018 19:31:38 IST

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