What makes a World Cup villain?
Perhaps a player receiving a red card in a World Cup final? How about a world-class player who fails to perform on the biggest stage? Or maybe a disgraceful tackle or spitting incident?
The World Cup has had its fair share of villainy throughout its history but this list looks back at the ten most memorable villains and their footballing crimes.
10. Lionel Messi – Argentina, World Cups won: 0, World Cups: 2006, 2010
Messi is perhaps the biggest let-down in World Cup history. The all-time record goalscorer for Barcelona has consistently failed to reproduce his club form for his country at the World Cup. Having played eight times in World Cup Finals, his only goal was against Serbia and Montenegro in a 6-0 drubbing. His lack of goals and uninspiring World Cup performances are a paltry return for a player held as a deity in his native Argentina.
9. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal, World Cups won: 0, World Cups: 2006, 2010
Like Messi, the Portuguese wonder has never replicated his club form at a World Cup finals. He has registered just two goals in two World Cups and was also partly responsible for getting England’s Wayne Rooney sent off after a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. A subsequent wink to his bench suggested ‘job done’ and for those controversies he will remain a villain unless he can produce something spectacular in Brazil this June.
8. David Beckham – England, World Cups won: 0, World Cups: 1998, 2002, 2006
At France ’98, Beckham entered the tournament with a burgeoning reputation as both a footballer and a style icon. Engaged to Posh Spice and with golden locks, it would seem Beckham could do no wrong – until he played Argentina in the last 16. Feisty Argentine midfielder Diego Simeone fouled Beckham with a strong challenge but, while Beckham was on the floor the Englishman kicked out and earned himself a red card before England lost 4-3 on penalties. The Mirror immortalised the incident with their ’10 Heroic Lions, one stupid boy’ headline the following day.
7. Luis Suarez – Uruguay, World Cups won: 0, World Cups: 2010
He had enjoyed a fabulous tournament up to the quarter-final stage, scoring three goals, but Suarez would have another scandal embellished on his reputation after a handball against Ghana in extra-time. A goalmouth scramble presented Dominic Adiyiah with a chance to score a winner with seconds remaining but Suarez’s shocking handball prevented him from claiming a life-changing goal. Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant penalty and Ghana never recovered, losing 4-2 on penalties. Who said cheats never prosper?
6. Wayne Rooney – England, World Cups won: 0, World Cups: 2006, 2010
Rooney’s major tournament debut at Euro 2004 bore fruit with four goals in four games. His next was to end in shame. A World Cup quarter-final against Portugal at Gelsenkirchen was the backdrop for a deliberate, unaggravated stamp in Ricardo Carvalho’s gentleman’s region. Rooney was sent off after his Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo had a word in the referee’s ear. Rooney is also famous for being a World Cup let-down having failed to score in any of his eight World Cup games.
5. Frank Rijkaard – the Netherlands, World Cups won: 0, World Cups: 1990, 1994
The Dutchman disgraced himself during Italia ’90 when he spat in the hair of German striker Rudi Voeller – twice. In an ill-tempered match, Rijkaard was booked for a late clip on Voeller and subsequently spat in the German’s hair. Another free-kick, which resulted in a theatrical dive by Voeller to avoid the onrushing Dutch goalkeeper, incensed Rijkaard again. Rijkaard twisted Voeller’s ear and stood on his foot before both players earned a red card. Rijkaard had unfinished business though and landed another gob of spit at Voeller.
4. Harald Schumacher – West Germany, World Cups won: 0, World Cups: 1982, 1986
During a World Cup ’82 semi-final between West Germany and France, Michel Platini aimed a through ball to defender Patrick Battiston, who shot wide. Normally a goalkeeper might try to save the ball, but not on this occasion. Harald Schumacher leapt viciously into Battiston and the Frenchman was knocked unconscious, later slipping into a coma, losing three teeth and suffering a damaged vertebra. Schumacher would go on to lose two consecutive World Cup finals. Karma?
3. Nigel de Jong – the Netherlands, World Cups won: 0, World Cups: 2010
This incident did much to spice up a dour World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands. Nigel de Jong, who had inflicted some crunching challenges on his Spanish counterparts, finally went one bigger and thumped his studs into Xabi Alonso’s midriff. Dubbed the ‘karate kick’, de Jong’s ‘tackle’ went unpunished by referee Howard Webb, much to Spain’s obvious discontent.
2. Diego Maradona – Argentina, World Cups won: 1 (Mexico 1986), World Cups: 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994
Having already featured on the ‘heroes’ blog, Maradona also earns a high placing in the villains blog for his infamous ‘hand of God’ goal and a failed drugs test at the 1994 World Cup. The ‘hand of God’ at Mexico ’86 was the first of a brace against England as Argentina ran out 2-1 winners. The English defence was enraged but the referee failed to spot what the TV cameras picked up – there was Maradona’s fist, punched high into the air, hitting the ball and deflecting it into the goal. The Argentine would later go on to lift the World Cup. Eight years later he was sent home from the World Cup in shame after testing positive for ephedrine.
1. Zinedine Zidane – France, World Cups won: 1 (France 1998), World Cups: 1998, 2002, 2006
Like Maradona, Zidane also featured prominently in the earlier ‘heroes’ blog, but he claims top spot in the villains blog for his horrendous headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final. France and Italy were locked at 1-1 and embroiled in extra-time when Zidane traded insults with Marco Materazzi. The French legend then headbutted the Italian defender in the chest in what is seen by some as the most shocking incident in World Cup history. The foul was unseen by the referee but his fourth official saw it and advised that Zidane be sent off. Zidane had opened the scoring with a penalty, but his international career ended in both disgrace and disappointment as Italy won the penalty shoot-out 5-3.
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