The hand of God, Lampard's 'ghost' goal & the 10 biggest controversies in World Cup history

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Ahead of the World Cup in Russia, Goal looks at the most controversial dives, handballs, fouls and referee decisions in the tournament's history

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    #10 Simunic's three yellow cards - 2006

    English referee Graham Poll saw his international career end in shame at the 2006 World Cup when he gave three yellow cards to one player.

    During the group stage match between Croatia and Australia, Poll had already sent two players off before showing Josip Simunic a second yellow card without sending him off. Simunic carried on and committed another foul later on and was booked again, this time getting his marching orders.

    The game finished 2-2 and Australia carried on to the next round, while Poll was cut from the competition and subsequently retired from international level because of the decision.

    "What I did was an error in law. There can be no dispute. It was not caused by a FIFA directive, it was not caused by me being asked to referee differently to the way I referee in the Premier League," he said. "The laws of the game are very specific.

    "The referee takes responsibility for his actions on the field of play. I was the referee that evening. It was my error and the buck stops with me... Nobody got hurt and nobody died and it's a game even though it is very important."

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    #9 Lucky La Roja - 1982

    The 1982 World Cup was a disastrous one for host country Spain. They ended the tournament with just one win from five games and scored just four goals, but they still managed to make it a round further than they should have thanks to some dodgy refereeing.

    After drawing with Honduras in their opening match thanks to a contentious penalty, La Roja took on one of the pre-tournament favourites in Yugoslavia and fell behind after 10 minutes. Just four minutes later, they were given a chance to level it with a penalty, even though the offence happened outside the box and just in front of the referee. When Lopez Ufarte sent the effort wide, the referee offered a retake, which Juanito buried.

    Spain eventually went ahead and won the game to seal their spot in the second round despite losing the next group game to Northern Ireland while Yugoslavia went crashing out.

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    #8 The Disgrace of Gijon - 1982

    The group stage clash between West Germany and Austria in 1982 proved so controversial that FIFA had to bring in a new rule to prevent a repeat of the situation.

    It is because of the 1-0 West German win that each team in the group plays their final match of the round at the same time.

    Algeria had recorded a shock win over West Germany and lost to Austria before closing their group campaign with a win over Chile the night before, meaning it was still all to be decided when the contentious affair kicked off. A West German win of one or two goals would be enough to send both European teams through to the next round, and they were more than happy to do each other the favour.

    The German side consisting of the likes of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Paul Breitner, Felix Magath and Uli Stielike attacked furiously from the beginning until Horst Hrubesch opened the scoring 10 minutes in. Once the deadlock was broken, both sides took the game down to a walking pace, merely passing between themselves and then back to the goalkeeper to run down the clock.

    The crowd were understandably enraged. The watching Algerians jeered and burned money in protest while even the supporters of the qualifying teams were disgusted with what they saw to the extent that a German fan burned his country’s flag.

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    #7 The Battle of Santiago - 1962

    The clash between host nation Chile and Italy in their second game of the 1962 World Cup goes down as one of the most brutal in the history of the tournament, maybe the sport as a whole.

    By the time English referee Ken Aston blew the whistle for the first foul 30 seconds in, he had already overlooked three obvious ones. The tone had been set for complete chaos and the first of two red cards was given after eight minutes when Giorgio Ferrini kicked out at Eladio Rojas. During the melee that followed, Italy’s Humberto Maschio walked up to Lionel Sanchez and punched him in the face even though he was standing right beside Aston, who did not see it.

    The referee’s reputation in England was immaculate and his impeccable display in Chile’s opening game against Switzerland saw FIFA make a late change to put him in charge of the match. But Aston had no chance of keeping control of a game of monstrous challenges from all angles, heavy aerial battles and sheer barbarism. The nasty atmosphere started well before the game kicked off and persisted throughout it, needing police intervention several times.

    This game was held before yellow cards were introduced, but a few years later, Aston proved instrumental in their introduction, taking inspiration from traffic lights: "Yellow, take it easy; red, stop, you're off," he recalled. They made their first appearance in the 1970 tournament.

  5. #6 Zidane's headbutt - 2006

    Zinedine Zidane has done incredibly well to build a reputation as a coach grand enough to wipe away the final moment of his playing career as the ever-lasting image of an iconic figure.

    Having been awarded the Golden Ball for player of the tournament before the final, the stage was set for the France star to bow out of the game with a second World Cup.

    It was all going smoothly when he put France ahead with a chipped penalty that struck the bar before Marco Materazzi equalised 12 minutes later. Les Bleus were looking strong as the game went into extra-time and Zizou came close to putting them ahead again, only to see Gianluigi Buffon knock his header over the bar.

    But the tone of Zidane’s display changed completely in the second half of extra-time when he headbutted Materazzi in an incident off the ball.  

    The Frenchman was immediately dismissed and the shot of him walking past the World Cup trophy and through the tunnel with his head down was a painful one for his adoring fans watching across the world.

    Materazzi later admitted that he had insulted Zidane’s sister in retaliation to his jibe that he would give his shirt to the defender after the game.

    Materazzi said years later: "You see on the images that he's talking to me. I asked him two times to repeat himself to be sure that I understood. The third time I responded because I understood that he was making fun of me.

    "In fact, we were playing the same match, we had both scored but he was the great champion and I was useless — I wasn't in the same world. That's how I took his mocking, and I reacted."

    Now a record-breaking coach after his time in charge of Real Madrid, Zidane has restored his image from that infamous moment.

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    #5 Lampard's ghost goal - 2010

    It was Lampard’s goal that didn’t count that led to a game-changing moment in the tournament.

    England recovered from a disastrous start to their last-16 game against Germany in South Africa and Lampard seemed to have made it 2-2 before half-time when his shot hit the bar, bounced behind the line, hit the bar again and then was caught by Manuel Neuer. The game carried on, as it all happened too quickly for the officials to notice and Germany were able to take control, going on to win 4-1.

    The Uruguayan official reflected on the incident later, saying: "It was a very fast shot that I did not see properly, even though I was located in the right place. We didn't see a replay in the dressing room at half-time but you could sense what had happened. It was only when we saw the TV that we realised what happened.

    "I feel quite sad about it because we had prepared for such a long time for the World Cup. It could have happened to anyone, unfortunately it was us. You just have to accept it. Life goes on."

    FIFA introduced goal-line technology for the next tournament, and Lampard took solace in the fact he had made such an impact on the World Cup after all.  

    "I don't think much about it," he said years later. "I can't see much point in having sleepless nights about it. It changed the game for the better, so I'm pleased about that. It's a positive move for the game as a whole with the introduction of goal-line technology."

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    #4 Suarez's super save - 2010

    Luis Suarez will forever go down as a villain and a cheat in Ghana after ending their World Cup dream in 2010.

    For Uruguayans, however, it was an example of his incredible self-sacrifice when the attacker slapped Dominic Adiyiah's header off the line late in extra-time of their quarter-final tie. 

    The Black Stars were given a penalty and Suarez was sent off, but he celebrated wildly on the sideline as Asamoah Gyan smacked the bar from the spot, taking the game into a shootout where the South Americans squeezed through.

    Suarez played up to the role of the antagonist, claiming it as the "save of the tournament" and taking Diego Maradona's title of having "the hand of God".

    He was already known as a controversial figure before then and would be involved in many more controversial moments afterwards, including one at the next World Cup when he bit Giorgio Chiellini in the game against Italy

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    #3 The Koreanspiracy - 2002

    Atrocious refereeing throughout the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan had turned the tournament into a farce by the time the semi-finals came around.

    Signs of favouritism towards South Korea emerged in their 1-0 win over Portugal that saw them take top spot in the group stage. Red cards to Beto and Joao Pinto reduced Portugal to nine men midway through the second half, leaving them with little chance of recovering from Park Ji-sung’s 70th minute goal.

    The controversy reached a new level in the next round when Guus Hiddink’s team faced Italy. Referee Byron Moreno awarded a penalty just five minutes in, which was saved by Buffon, and  then overlooked some heavy and violent clashes throughout the game. He sent Francesco Totti off in extra time for an alleged dive, even though there was contact, the Italian seemed to lose his footing and the referee was far away from the action.

    Italy seemed to have overcome it all when Damiano Tommasi scored the golden goal, but he was incorrectly ruled offside. Instead, it was Ahn Jung-Hwan who put the game to an end with three minutes to spare. The attacker had spent the previous season at Perugia, but had his contract cancelled the next day.

    Moreno was accused of corruption and FIFA opened an investigation into him months later because of incidents at the tournament and in Ecuador. By that time, though, he had been banned for 20 matches in his homeland and his return lasted just one game because he was quickly suspended again for sending off three of the away side’s players. He did not return to refereeing, but the spotlight was on him once again a few years later when he was caught smuggling heroin into New York.

    South Korea’s quarter-final against Spain was surrounded in controversy, too. La Roja had two goals incorrectly disallowed and were subsequently knocked out on penalties. Spain star Ivan Helguera said his side had been the victims of a “robbery”, adding: “Everyone saw two perfectly good goals. If Spain didn't win, it's because they didn't want us to win. I feel terrible about this game."

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    #2 Hurst's 'Phantom goal' - 1966

    As Geoff Hurst’s shot in extra-time during the World Cup final struck the crossbar bounced behind West Germany goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski, England’s Roger Hunt was in no doubt it had crossed the line, running away in celebration instead of following up to knock it in before it was cleared. The centre-forward and the linesman were the only ones convinced the whole ball had gone behind the line, though, as the Germans protested and the referee took his time to give the goal.

    Hurst went on to complete his hat-trick in the dying seconds to make it 4-2, but the decisive and controversial moment has dominated discussion of the 1966 tournament ever since.

    “I was standing at the back of the box and saw exactly that the ball didn’t cross the line,” West Germany captain Uwe Seeler said years later. “We were all in a state of commotion, none of us knew what was going on. No one [in the West Germany team] could understand why the goal was given.”

    Computer simulations have since suggested that the ball did not cross the line and there have been claims of bias from linesman Tofiq Bahramov ever since. The Soviet is said to have revealed his anti-German bias on his deathbed when asked why he insisted Hurst’s goal was legitimate, stating it was because of the battle of Stalingrad – the largest conflict of World War II between the Soviet Union and Germany.

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    #1 Maradona's Hand of God - 1986

    The 1986 quarter-final between England and Argentina produced two iconic goals from Diego Maradona, but one was as controversial as the other was incredible, going down with the unmistakably titles of the “hand of God” and the “goal of the century”.

    With the game tied at 0-0, Maradona ran onto a poor clearance from Steve Hodge and nipped in ahead of Peter Shilton, punching it past the goalkeeper. The officials failed to spot the handball and the legendary attacker put his side ahead. Minutes later, he would score one of the best individual goals of all time when he tore through the England team and putting Shilton on his backside before adding a fine finish.

    That incredible 10-second run did not completely overshadow his handball, though, and Maradona owned up to it, naming it the “hand of God” and said it was revenge for the Falklands War, which had played a key role in rising tensions around the tournament.

    “We played that game with boots and rifles,” he said 30 years later. “After the game we celebrated until we cried. It felt like we had done justice, well maybe not justice but made good for the mothers who had lost sons in the Falklands [the war between the two nations which took place in 1982].”