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Four of the most bizarre moments in World Cup history

World Cup
Photo: Getty Images


Four of the most bizarre moments in World Cup history

The Boot Room relives some of the most bizarre World Cup moments.

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia currently in full flow football supporter’s across the globe are tuning into what has been an incredibly entertaining tournament so far.

However, whilst the World Cup may be seen as being the pinnacle of the ‘beautiful game’ by many it also has the potential to bring out the worst in the players on the pitch.

From head-butts and devastating capitulations to strikes and walk-outs – the most prominent international tournament in the world is not always characterised by unity and fair play.

Zidane headbutts

The 2006 World Cup in Germany will be forever remembered for one controversial, and somewhat bizarre, incident that occurred in the closing stages of the final between France and Italy.

Zinedine Zidane, one of the most decorated players of the modern era, was playing the final game of his career after announcing his retirement prior to the start of the tournament.

The Frenchman had captained his side to the final following a array of glittering performances throughout the tournament and it seemed written in the stars that he would end his career by lifting the World Cup.

(Photo by John Macdougall/Getty Images)

However, with the final tied at 1-1 in extra time and heading for penalties, Zidane inexplicably head-butted Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

The ball had been on the opposite side of the pitch at the time and replays showed the pair exchanging words before the French captain descended into a moment of madness.

Zidane was sent off, Italy won the contest via the penalty shoot-out and the last contribution that the legendary Frenchman made on a football pitch as a player was receiving a red card.

Brazil 1, Germany 7

In the summer of 2014 Brazil had been overcome by what can only be described as football fever.

The nation had come to an almost standstill during the hosting of the World Cup and had successfully created one of the most colourful and vibrant tournaments in living memory.

The Brazilian team, backed by a fervent home crowd and containing the enigmatic Neymar, were expected to go all the way in the competition and had reached the knock-out stages without much incident.

However, they were drawn against Germany in the semi-finals and suffered one of the most astonishing collapses in World Cup history.

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

The hosts went into the game as favourites but were ruthlessly torn apart by a German side that were at their peak and would ultimately win the tournament outright.

Joachim Low’s side scored 5 goals in 18 first-half minutes and continued to build an unassailable 7-goal lead prior to Oscar’s late consolation in injury time.

It was complete chaos among the Brazilian ranks. There were tears in the crowd whilst the team produced one of the most shambolic defensive displays ever witnessed at an international competition.

A World Cup that most Brazilian’s thought they were destined to win ended in embarrassment and one of the heaviest defeat’s in the nation’s history.

France go on strike

A World Cup very rarely proceeds without some form of fallout or controversy, but in 2010 the French national team took things to the next level in an extraordinary ‘strike’.


Raymond Domenech’s side were already in chaos after a defeat against Mexico left the team unlikely to qualify from their group and facing an early exit from the tournament with the French media highly critical of the manager and players.

During the game Nicolas Anelka had a very public verbal dispute with Domenech on the touchline and it was later announced that the striker would be sent home from the tournament after refusing to apologise.

The following day, the French squad were due to participate in an open training session.

However, after the team had arrived and signed autographs in the crowd, onlookers were astonished to witness the players simply walk back to their bus before the session had started.

(Photo by Patrick Hertzog/GettyImages)

Captain Patrice Evra was caught on camera in a heated argument with trainer Robert Duverne. The pair had to be separated, before a statement was read on behalf of the players in which it was claimed they had boycotted training due to the decision of to send Anelka home.

The situation was only resolved when French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot was flown in to mediate and, although they completed their final group game, defeat against South Africa resulted in their exit.

The so-called ‘strike’ had long lasting repercussions for French football.

The entire French team was suspended for their next international game against Norway by the French Football Federation whilst Domenech was dismissed.

Anelka was banned for 18 games whilst Patrice Evra, Frank Ribery and Jeremy Toulalan were all handed suspended after being identified as being key instigators in the boycott.

Roy Keane walks out on Ireland

By the turn of the twenty-first century Roy Keane was one of the most dominating central midfielders in Europe.

The Irishman had helped Manchester United to achieve a sustained period of success at club level and was famed for his no-nonsense attitude and sheer desire to win.

Keane had also become a key figure at international level and had emerged as the prominent personality in the Republic of Ireland dressing room.

He captained the side to qualification for the 2002 World Cup, producing a string of impressive displays along the way, but had a somewhat rocky relationship with Football Association of Ireland (FAI) officials.

The island of Saipan was selected by the FAI as an initial base for the international team ahead of the World Cup but their preparations for the tournament were thrown into chaos following a, what is now infamous, behind the scenes bust-up between Keane and the manager Mick McCarthy.

Ultimately, Keane was unhappy with the facilities and general preparation in Saipan and, after initially deciding to go home before changing his mind, he gave an interview to The Irish Times and The Sunday Independent in which he aired his concerns.

McCarthy confronted Keane about the subsequent article in a team meeting which evolved into a full-blown argument between the pair in full view of the rest of the players and backroom staff.

Niall Quinn later described Keane’s ‘10-minute oration’ towards his manager as ‘clinical, fierce [and] earth-shattering to the person on the other end’.

The Republic of Ireland captain was sent home the following day and the team were left to compete in the tournament without their inspirational leader on the pitch.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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