Frank Rijkaard's spitting shame, Diego Maradona in World Cup villains
This article has been edited and originally appeared on ESPN FC on May 30, 2014.
The World Cup is a tournament where heroes are made, but it's also one that has seen its fair share of villains.
Here are 10 of them ...
10. Frank Rijkaard
If you speak to a footballer, or possibly an "old-school" football pundit, they will probably tell you that the worst thing someone can do on a pitch is spit at an opponent. No leg-breaking tackles or elbows to the face -- the most heinous act is expectoration. Of course to the rest of us a spit-spat is at worst fairly childish and a bit disgusting, but going by the footballers' code then Rijkaard must be the biggest villain in World Cup history. You'll probably be aware that Netherlands and Germany don't get on, so when they met in the second round of the 1990 World Cup, some form of "needle" was inevitable, and that manifested itself in a disagreement between Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voller, leading to the Dutchman repeatedly using the German's luxuriously curly mullet as target practise for his phlegm. The pair were eventually sent off and continued their "discussions" as they marched off the pitch, but they would later kiss and make up -- or to put it more accurately, star in an advert for a Dutch butter company together and make up. Kissing just would have involved more saliva.
9. Omar Borras
Drawn against West Germany, Denmark and Scotland in 1986, Uruguay coach Borras perhaps reasoned the best way of getting anywhere in the tournament was to adopt a physical approach, telling his players to go out and kick anything that moved. Denmark were the first recipients of this method (Miguel Bossio was sent off), but reacted rather cannily by simply being utterly brilliant, taking the Uruguayans apart and winning 6-1, while in the next game against Scotland, Jose Batista managed to get sent off in the first minute for wiping out Gordon Strachan. Uruguay limped through to the second round by virtue of being the fourth-best team that finished third in their group, and were quietly dispatched in the first knockout game by Argentina, a match which they managed to get through without a red card. Well done them.
8. Claudio Gentile
What's Italian for "reducer?" If there is a direct translation, then chances are Claudio Gentile will know it, given his reputation as a rather robust defender for Italy and Juventus. Italy's unlikely run to 1982 World Cup glory is most remembered for Paolo Rossi's remarkable redemption from a betting suspension to tournament top scorer, but Gentile seemed determined to make his own mark on the competition -- or more specifically on the legs of whichever outrageously talented player happened to be passing. In the second group phase Italy faced Argentina and Brazil, so Gentile took it upon himself to boot first Diego Maradona (committing an extraordinary 23 fouls in the process) then Zico up in the air as much as possible. "Football is not for ballerinas," quipped Gentile, although you'd imagine if a dancer was through on goal, he would take them out anyway.
7. Diego Maradona
Some will view Diego Maradona as the greatest to ever play the game and who won a World Cup single-handedly (no pun, etc. and so on), while others will think him a man who still didn't fulfill his talent and cheated his way to one final and was banned from another. The most interesting characters are the ones with contradictions, and by that measure Maradona is perhaps the most fascinating footballer to ever live. La mano de dios -- the Hand of God -- was largely dealt with in the World Cup controversies Top Tenner, but even that was counterbalanced by his brilliant goal in the same game. A little more clear-cut was his departure from the 1994 World Cup. He'd arrived looking in good shape and seemed to emphasise this by scoring a belting goal against Greece. Alas, he subsequently failed a drug test (for ephedrine), which he blamed on a different version of an energy drink given to him by a trainer. FIFA gave this explanation the shortest of shrift.
6. Zinedine Zidane or Marco Materazzi
This is a delete-as-appropriate option for you, dear reader. Either way, the incident in the 2006 World Cup final that saw Zidane sent off was pretty unedifying, but it's really up to you to decide which party is most to blame. Do you direct your scorn at Zidane, probably the greatest player of his generation, playing in his last game of professional football with the chance of winning another World Cup, but instead made his last action in the sport a head-butt to the chest of a relatively average opponent? Or should you instead point the finger at Materazzi, who goaded Zidane into doing what he did by allegedly saying something pretty ghastly -- we still don't really know exactly what words he said, but given Zidane has repeatedly said he'd rather die than apologise, you can be pretty sure it wasn't pleasant.
5. Slaven Bilic
In terms of naked play-acting, Rivaldo's flounce against Turkey in 2002 takes some beating ("I am not sorry about anything," said the Brazilian after being fined $7,350), but Hakan Unsal, the man red-carded in that incident, missed only one group game because of it. Laurent Blanc, on the other hand, missed the World Cup final in his own country, largely because Bilic carelessly mistook which part of his body had been struck by the Frenchman. In truth, Blanc was foolish at best to strike out at all ("It is entirely my fault," he told L'Equipe a couple of years ago), but would the referee have shown the red card had Bilic not dropped like an anvil and clutched his face? For his part, Bilic is unrepentant. "I panicked and collapsed," Bilic said before the two men faced each other as national team coaches in 2011. "Why did I panic? Because only one thing mattered; not to get a yellow card because I would have been suspended after taking a booking against Romania in the previous round. I'm sorry that Laurent missed the final, genuinely, but the one to blame is him."
4. Joao Morais
Pele is, of course, one of the few men to play in four World Cups but he only really made a significant impact in his first and last. In 1962 he injured a groin taking a shot in Brazil's second game, but in 1966 he was basically booted out of the tournament by Bulgaria, and then Portugal. Several Portuguese hackers tried to take Pele out, aware that he was still fragile from the kicking he'd received from the Bulgarians, but Morais was the man who delivered the foul that would leave him hobbling around the pitch for the remainder of the game, slicing the great man down twice with challenges that would easily have both earned red cards today. Even by 1966 standards, it's tricky to see exactly why referee George McCabe let so many brutal fouls go, but let them go he did as Portugal won and Brazil crashed out, with Pele vowing never to play in the World Cup again. The keen students of football history among you will note that he changed his mind.
3. Mauro Tassotti
If awards were handed out for acts of brutality on a football pitch, then at the 1994 World Cup Leonardo would have felt very hard done by to finish second. In any other tournament, his elbow to the head of Tab Ramos would have ensured he walked away with the top prize, but unfortunately for him he had to compete with a masterpiece of the genre. In the quarterfinal between Italy and Spain, Tassotti and Luis Enrique were tussling in the penalty area, off the ball, and the Italian attempted to gain an advantage -- specifically by smashing his opponent in the face with his forearm. Blood started spurting out of Enrique's face like an out-of-control water sprinkler, something perhaps emphasised by him storming around the pitch, demanding justice and calling Tassotti names that even the most amateur lip-reader with the loosest grasp of Spanish colloquialisms could make out. Enrique apparently lost a pint of blood, while Tassotti went unpunished on the pitch but was later banned for eight games and never played for Italy again. Seventeen years later while coaching Roma and AC Milan respectively, Enrique and Tassotti shook hands, so all's well that ends well.
2. Chile and Italy, 1962
The 1962 World Cup in Chile was something of a war zone. Violent play characterised the tournament (Yugoslavia's Muhamed Mujic was banned for a year after breaking an opponent's leg, for example), and it is the first-round clash between the hosts and Italy, which became known as the "Battle of Santiago," that is most remembered because of the extreme nature of the violence. Tensions were heightened between the two countries after a couple of Italian journalists had written less-than-flattering things about the Chilean capital (they went home from the tournament early for their own safety), so when the match came round it was already a tinderbox. That tinderbox was ablaze after all of 12 seconds, when the first foul was delivered, and it went downhill from there. Two men were sent off -- one, Giorgio Ferrini, refused to leave the field and had to be carted off by the police -- but it could/should have been many more, with assorted punches, kicks and other forms of violence liberally sprinkled throughout the game, the high/lowlight of which was Leonel Sanchez breaking Humberto Maschio's nose with a textbook left hook. Referee Ken Aston, who it's fair to say didn't sign up for anything like this, claimed he didn't see it. Chile won 2-0, by the way.
1. Harald Schumacher
This was another incident to feature in a previous Top Tenner, but it really is worth emphasising what a moment incident Harald Schumacher taking out Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup was. Michel Platini thought that his teammate was dead because "he had no pulse and looked pale" after Schumacher had raced from his goal and brutally smashed directly into the France defender. What's particularly spiteful about the foul is (not that this would justify it, of course) it wasn't even a preventative measure -- Battiston's effort on goal had already long gone by the time Schumacher barrelled into his opponent, spreading the player's teeth across the Seville turf. Referee Charles Korver didn't penalise the German keeper, but later admitted that he had made a mistake. "It was difficult to judge what happened, because I followed the ball. I thought: it was going to be a goal," he said. Schumacher later apologised, but in a newspaper poll to determine the least-popular man in France, he was voted above Adolf Hitler.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.