Tears, amazing goals, legendary players, and even a little drama. Are you ready to relive the most shocking moments in World Cup history? Let’s dive into it!
#1 Brazil Germany 1-7 (2014)
Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup and came into the tournament as 3-1 favorites, and both countries entered the semi-final match undefeated. However, no one could have predicted Germany’s incredible thrashing, in which they surpassed Brazil as the highest-scoring team in World Cup history and went on to win their fourth World Cup.
#2 Baggio’s missed penalty (1994)
After a 0-0 draw in regulation, Italian superstar Roberto Baggio and the Azzurri were defeated 3-2 on penalties by Brazil in the 1994 World Cup final. Baggio, also known as the “Divine Ponytail,” missed a penalty kick in what has become a national tragedy. Baggio last played for Italy in 2004, two years before they won the World Cup with a stunning victory over France.
#3 The Divine Hand (1986)
Diego Maradona: beloved, controversial football genius. This is perfectly encapsulated by the goal he scored against England in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Everyone cheered when Maradona scored the first goal, but he later admitted that the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” Nevertheless, Argentina would go on to win the World Cup in 1986, defeating West Germany, with Maradona scoring five goals and assisting on five more.
#4 The Headbutt (2006)
France’s Zinedine Zidane is a legend and one of the greatest football players the world has ever seen, but his rage against Marco Materazzi and Italy in the final in Berlin in 2006 sparked a controversy known as “the headbutt.” The score was 1-1 when Zidane and Materazzi got into an argument, which resulted in the Frenchman violently headbutting the Azzurro and receiving a red card. The final was decided on penalties, and despite the absence of their captain, Les Bleus were defeated 3-5 by Italy.
#5 Betrayal by a teammate (2006)
England and Portugal played each other in 2006, as did Manchester United teammates Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, Rooney collided with a Portuguese player’s… sensitive area. The referee decided to intervene, as did Ronaldo, who persuaded the referee to red-card Rooney. While the Englishman stormed off the field in rage, Ronaldo winked triumphantly at his teammates.
#6 Gentlemen’s Agreement (1982)
The 1982 World Cup in Spain was action-packed! West Germany and Austria were set to meet in the final round of their group, knowing that a one- or two-goal victory for West Germany would advance both teams to the next round. Horst Hrubesch scored the goal after 11 minutes. After that, the players… stopped playing. The final 20 minutes were a farce, much to the chagrin of the cheering crowd. To avoid similar outcomes in the future, FIFA changed the rules so that all four teams in a group must now play their final games simultaneously.
#7 The Bern Miracle (1954)
This moment was so shocking that it was made into a film! Hungary’s undefeated team, known as “the Golden Team,” was playing West Germany. After a 2-2 tie for most of the game, Helmut Rahn scored the game-winning third goal with six minutes remaining, giving West Germany its first World Cup victory. People celebrated the success, now known as The Miracle of Bern, even in East Berlin.
#8 Escobar’s execution following the completion of his own goal (1994)
However, not all World Cup events are joyful. Colombian player Andres Escobar scored an own goal against the United States in 1994, resulting in a 1-2 loss for the heavily favored Colombians and their eventual elimination from the tournament. Tragically, a few days after Escobar, 27, returned home to Colombia, he was shot and killed by gangsters who had allegedly lost money betting on Colombia in the World Cup. The murder of Pablo Escobar shocked the world and severely harmed Colombia’s reputation. The incident was further investigated in the 2010 soccer film The Two Escobars.
#9 South Korea has taken Italy by surprise (2002)
The World Cup was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan in 2002, and Italy arrived as one of the favorites to win the tournament, especially after a strong performance against France in the 2000 Euro final. However, this was not to be. Italy’s first round was marred by coaching changes, resulting in four goals being disallowed. South Korea, on the other hand, won its group with an undefeated record. The two teams battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation, followed by a thrilling sudden-death game-winner scored by South Korea in the 117th minute. The Azzurri (and much of Italy) cried foul, pointing to a series of erroneous calls by lead referee Byron Moreno (quite correctly, it turns out). Conspiracy theories persist to this day… Check out The Guardian’s account for a fascinating deep dive into this match.
#10 Cameroon astounds Argentina (1990)
Italy, 1990. The champions, led by Maradona, believed they had nothing to fear in this match. Instead, they were defeated 0-1 by Cameroon in what is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history, made all the more remarkable because Cameroon had two players sent off with red cards. The victory brought joy not only to Cameroon but to the entire continent, with bursts of joy filling streets across the continent in the summer of 1990.
#11 Rijkaard spits on Völler 11 times (1990)
Another game in 1990 resulted in two red cards: After being sent off by the referee in a Round of 16 matches between West Germany and the Netherlands, Dutch midfielder Frank Rijkaard spat at Rudi Völler. West Germany went on to win 2-1 and go on to win the World Cup over Argentina.
#12 What does ‘Maracanazo’ mean? (1950, 1989)
This refers to two different historical events: in 1950, Uruguay defeated Brazil in the Maracaa Stadium and won the World Cup against all odds. Maracanazo means “beating someone in their own stadium, surprising everyone” in this context. However, this term was also used in 1989, during the World Cup qualification, when Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas pretended to be injured by a sparkler thrown by Brazilian fans as his team was losing the qualification, and he wanted to reverse the result. FIFA eventually suspended him, and he was forced to return home.
#13 Landon Donovan’s goal as time runs out (2010)
Compared to Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Argentina, the United States’ list of World Cup highlights is laughably short. Yet, in the summer of 2010, the entire country watched as Landon Donovan scored the game-winning goal as time expired against Algeria to break a 0-0 tie (which would have resulted in a first-round elimination). Instead, with the victory, the United States won its group for the first time since 1930(!) and advanced to the round of 16…where it was defeated by Ghana. On the other hand, soccer captured the country’s attention for a brief moment, with packed sports bars and strangers belting out the national anthem in the streets.
#14 Luis Suárez bites Giorgio Chiellini at 14 years old (2014)
Brazil, 2014: Another physical attack on an Italian player: in the first half of a knockout match between a surprisingly strong Uruguay team and Italy, Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez bit Italian Giorgio Chiellini after the two collided. Suárez, who has a reputation for dirty tactics, but his opponent in the shoulder and pretended it was an accident. Chiellini attempted to show the mark on his shoulder, but the referee refused. Diego Godin scored two minutes later to advance Uruguay to the next round.
#15 Marco Tardelli’s birthday celebration (1982)
One image that embodies World Cup emotion is Marco Tardelli’s celebration of his goal against West Germany in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Tardelli ran with tears in his eyes, arms raised and screaming with joy after scoring. Years later, he explained his mixed feelings: “I remembered when I was a kid and started playing soccer.” His heartfelt celebration has set the tone for all that has come after.
What do you think about these shocking World Cup moments? If you want to add something, feel free to write us!