In any drama worth watching, you have a good guy and bad guy. The drama of the World Cup is no exception. The tournament has produced its heroes over the years, but it's also featured players distinguishing themselves for bad behavior. They make our list of the tournament’s all-time sinners.
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In this World Cup round of 16 match, England defended bravely with 10 men but ultimately lost in a penalty shootout. Beckham was made the scapegoat and was shamed by both press and fans until the 2002 World Cup when he scored the winning goal against Argentina in group play.
The Uruguayan bad boy was scintillating at the 2010 World Cup until he made the “save of the tournament” in the quarterfinals against Ghana. The match had gone to extra time when he used his hands to block a goalbound header from Dominic Adiyiah, earning a red card in the process. The resulting penalty kick crashed against the crossbar. The Uruguayans then prevailed in a penalty shootout but justice was done as they lost in the semi-finals. To this day Suarez defends the decision to switch from striker to goalkeeper in that decisive moment.
In the French playmaker’s swan song at the 2006 World Cup, he was pretty much flawless until extra time in the final where he headbutted Italy’s defender Marco Materazzi in the chest and was unceremoniously sent off. Zidane insisted that he was provoked in an unacceptable manner. Allegedly, Materazzi said something about his sister. So Materazzi probably deserves to be on the list as well. In any case, Zidane wasn’t able to participate in the penalty shootout, which France lost 5-3.
Germany’s Harald "Toni" Schumacher might be the scariest goalkeeper in history. Known for his aggressive antics, he executed the “crime of the century” in the 1982 World Cup semi-finals against France. In the second half, French legend Michel Platini played a beautiful through ball to Patrick Battison only for Schumacher to rush out of the penalty area and collide violently with the French substitute. The clearly insane referee called no foul. Battison was stretchered off the pitch. Allegedly, he lost three teeth in the collision and was supplied with oxygen. His coach feared Battison was dead. Later, Schumacher became a hero in the penalty shootout. But the German 'keeper's karma finally came back to bite him: Germany lost the final to Italy.
The ultimate anti-hero, the Argentinian legend scored perhaps the most infamous goal in soccer history at the 1986 World Cup. Battling England in the quarterfinals, Maradona continued his run into the penalty area after England’s Steve Hodge made a mess of a clearance. The ball looped toward England goalkeeper Peter Shilton who at six-foot-one should have easily out-jumped the diminutive Maradona.
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But the Argentinian managed to strike the ball with his left arm, sending it into the net. The referee and England were both bamboozled. Four minutes later, Maradona redeemed himself in the eyes of neutrals with his “goal of the century”—a mazy run starting in his own half that finished with Maradona slotting home from up close. Argentina won the match 2-0 en route to winning their second championship.
The England-Argentina rivalry goes way back. In a 1966 World Cup quarter-final, Argentina captain Antonio Rattin led a cynical approach full of hard tackling and attempted intimidation. He was warned and cautioned by the German referee who finally lost his patience, sending Rattin off in the 35th minute—only the Argentinian refused to leave the pitch. He waged a senseless debate with the ref—neither spoke the other’s language—before finally leaving and taking a seat on a red carpet meant exclusively for the Queen of England. Her Majesty’s team scraped by 1-0 and ultimately won the tournament.
The Netherlands and Germany have feuded on and off the pitch - World War II a notable example. Early in a round of 16 match at the 1990 World Cup, Rudi Voller and Frank Rijkaard got into a spat that resulted in red cards for both players. Dutchman Rijkaard was so disgusted that he spat in the West German’s face as both players left the pitch. West Germany won the match 2-1 and later prevailed in the final.