Top Tenner: World Cup bloopers and blunders
The World Cup is home to the finest football has to offer, with the elite players on the planet playing on the very biggest stage. Sometimes, though, things go a little wrong. Here are ten of those moments:
10. Green lets it slip It's almost four years since the 2010 World Cup. Since then, Rob Green has changed clubs, been relegated twice and played 152 games for West Ham, Queens Park Rangers and England. But still -- still -- he is haunted by England's first group game against the United States, in which he allowed Clint Dempsey's speculative effort to squirt from his grasp and into the goal, denying England a victory that would most likely have not made a jot of difference to their insipid performances in the rest of the tournament but might at least have added a gloss to head coach Fabio Capello's side. "You let your country down," sing fans up and down the country at Green as he keeps goal, either unfamiliar with the notion that sometimes people make mistakes or just looking for a petty stick with which to beat an opponent. Possibly both. "It hit the outside of one of my thumbs," Green said after the incident. "Do that again 1,000 times and I will save 999."
9. Baggio's penalty Roberto Baggio was the best player at the 1994 World Cup, dragging Italy to the final virtually on his own. Indeed, the Divine Ponytail had even impressed Madonna -- finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist as ever -- who selected him as the sexiest player at the tournament, suggesting she didn't catch Ray Houghton in action for Ireland. It therefore verged on the tragic that Baggio not only missed a penalty against Brazil in the final but missed the crucial spot kick, ballooning the ball over the bar in a fashion that Chris Waddle would have blushed at, to hand the Brazilians the trophy. Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro also erred in that shootout for Italy, but Baggio's is the one that is remembered.
8. Security at Westminster Central Hall, London
Not all bloopers have to happen on the pitch, as shown by the eagle-eyed guards charged with keeping tabs on the Jules Rimet trophy while it was on display in London before the 1966 World Cup. Five guards were supposed to be on duty to keep the cup out of harm's way, but on a Sunday three months before the tournament, some enterprising thieves took advantage of a lax moment to swipe the trophy. A ransom was issued, the thief demanding 15,000 pounds for its safe return, but the police operation to hand over the money went awry and it remained missing, with the nation looking under benches, behind bushes and down alleyways for the trophy. Until, that is, David Corbett and his dog, Pickles, found it underneath a neighbour's car a couple of days later. "I was suspect No. 1," Corbett told the Guardian in 2006. "They questioned me until 2:30 in the morning. I wondered if I should've chucked it back in the road. I was up at six the next day for work." Pickles would become something of a celebrity, sharing an agent with Spike Milligan for a spell and even attending, with his owner, the England squad's party after winning the tournament.
7. Rosas scores the first own-goal
The own-goal is perhaps the purest blooper or blunder in football, going against, as it does, the very basic aim of the sport. There have been 38 own-goals in World Cup history -- some of them have been crucial, some footnotes, some funny, some tragic. The fastest was headed home by Paraguay's Carlos Gamarra to give England a 1-0 win in 2006. Ernie Brandts scored for both teams in the Netherlands' 2-1 win over Italy in 1978, while, sadly, Colombia’s Andres Escobar's 1994 own-goal led to tragedy. However, we must surely go right back to the beginning to truly reach the essence and the root of the World Cup own-goal. Mexico's Manuel Rosas has held quite a few records, from being at 18 the youngest player to score in the World Cup (until that Pele chap came along), as well as being the first player to score a penalty at a tournament, but it is another first that wins him a place on this list. Rosas scored the very first own-goal in World Cup history, in Mexico's second group game in 1930 against Chile, putting through his own net to help his opponents to a 3-0 victory. Some records, one imagines, players are OK with not having.
6. Poll gets his man -- three times
The beauty of the blooper is that it is not merely confined to those who play the game. Oh, no. Graham Poll is living evidence of this, providing a moment of amusement for all those "wronged" by his decisions down the years, as he handed out three yellow cards to Croatia's Josip Simunic in the 2006 group game against Australia. Poll "explained": "In the 89th minute, when I produced the yellow, I wrote down the right jersey number but the wrong name. I had inadvertently given the yellow to the Australian No. 3, Craig Moore. This is the first time something like this has happened to me in my 26-year-long career." That might be true, but once is probably enough for this sort of thing.
5. Bin Nasser misses the hand
Poll's wasn't the most high-profile refereeing blunder in World Cup history, though. That honour has to go to Ali Bin Nasser, the official who somehow missed Diego Maradona punching the ball past Peter Shilton in the 1986 quarterfinal between Argentina and England. Nasser was a fair way behind play, so it is perfectly conceivable that he did simply think Maradona managed to rise above Shilton and head the ball home, and, indeed, he did later blame missing it on some hemorrhoid cream that affected his eyesight. Obviously. An interesting side story has emerged in recent years, as Nasser and his linesman on the day, Bogdan Dotchev, became involved in something of a war of words. Nasser claimed Dotchev, who was much closer to the incident, should have flagged, to which the Bulgarian assistant responded in rather robust fashion. "A European referee would never recognise the validity of such a goal. What is there for Bin Nasser to referee in the desert, where there is nothing but camels? With the ref having said the goal was valid, I couldn't have waved my flag and told him the goal wasn't good -- the rules were different back then."
4. Barbosa leaves his near post open The Maracanazo has been covered in previous lists, but it's difficult to overstate the impact of the most dramatic moment, from perhaps the most dramatic game, in the history of the World Cup, both on a single country and on the game as a whole. In truth, Moacir Barbosa allowing Alcides Ghiggia's relatively weak shot to elude him at the near post was a fairly run-of-the-mill error -- and not in itself a colossal blooper or blunder -- but the Brazilian keeper was treated as if it was for basically the rest of his life. Barbosa was a pariah, banished from games and team reunions because he was deemed a bad-luck charm and said the worst moment of his life was not conceding the goal itself, but when, 20 years later, a mother pointed to him and told her child "That's the man that made Brazil cry." Before he died, penniless in 2000, Barbosa would often say, "Under Brazilian law, the maximum sentence is 30 years, but my imprisonment has been for 50."
3. Higuita goes walkabout
"With Rene as sweeper, we have 11 outfield players," Colombia coach Francisco Maturana said before the 1990 World Cup. "Jan Jongbloed, the Holland keeper in the 1974 World Cup, also operated as a sweeper. With a difference. The Dutchman came out just to boot the ball into the stands. Higuita can do much more." Sometimes, though, less really is more, a perfect example of which came in Colombia's second round game against Cameroon. The 90 minutes had finished with neither goal breached, but Roger Milla had already given the Africans the lead in the first half of extra time, when Higuita decided to display some of that sweeping that Maturana so admired, advancing outside his box to collect an errant punt upfield, and squared to defender Luis Carlos Perea. At this stage, it should probably be pointed out that Perea stitched his keeper up somewhat, playing the mother of all hospital passes back to the wandering goalie, but Higuita's method to get himself out of this mess -- a drag back 35 yards from his own unguarded goal -- was unorthodox, to say the least. Milla gratefully accepted the donation, dispossessed him and ran the ball home, just avoiding a last desperate lunge at his heels by the floundering Higuita. 2. Mwepu boots the ball away
Zaire, it's fair to say, were no-hopers at the 1974 World Cup. Drawn in a group with Scotland, Yugoslavia and Brazil, they lost to the former teams 2-0 and 9-0, respectively, but their most (in)famous moment came in the match against the defending champions. Brazil were lining up a free kick when Mwepu seemingly inexplicably ran out of the defensive wall and hoofed the ball clear down the pitch as everyone looked on, more than a little baffled. Of course, it was viewed as a comic incident, but it was actually a calculated move on Mwepu's part. Shortly before the game, the players had been told they would not be paid, and many of them said they would not play, only to be persuaded otherwise by some of Zaire president Mobutu's heavies, so Mwepu staged a protest of his own, hoping to be sent off. "I did that deliberately," he told the BBC years later. "I was aware of football regulations. I did not have a reason to continue getting injured while those who will benefit financially were sitting on the terraces watching." Unluckily for him, and perhaps because the referee was as confused as everyone else, he was only booked.
1. Resting Leonidas for the final
To give you a peek ahead at what is coming with these World Cup top tenners, there is no list for the biggest acts of hubris. Therefore, Brazil coach Ademar Pimenta's team selection for the 1938 World Cup semifinal has to be filed under the bloopers. Leonidas da Silva had scored five goals in the tournament, including a hat trick versus Poland in the first round, so one would think his place for a game as crucial as the semifinal against holders Italy was nailed on. Not so, as Pimenta was thinking ahead and left out both Leonidas and the splendidly named Tim (Elba de Padua Lima to his mum), wanting them to be fully fit and rested up for the final. Of course, Brazil didn't make it there, losing 2-1 to the eventual champions, and, although Pimenta has subsequently claimed his star forward was injured, that Brazil booked the only available plane to Paris and made no plans for travel to Bordeaux -- where the third-place playoff was staged -- suggests there was a certain amount of chicken counting going on. One wonders if it was any consolation to Pimenta that at least his theory of keeping his players rested was sound -- Leonidas scored twice in the third-place playoff against Sweden.