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Frank Rijkaard, Spitting Mad (Italy 1990)
Dutch defender Frank Rijkaard saw red when he was booked for fouling German player Rudi Voller in the second-round matchup between old rivals Netherlands and Germany. Angered by the call, Rijkaard spat into Voller's spongy locks. When Voller complained, the ref penalized the German. Later Voller and Rijkaard got into an argument near the goal and Rijkaard spat on him again. Both men were sent off, with Rijkaard giving one more gob to Voller on their way out.
Zinedine Zidane’s Head Butt (Germany 2006)
French attacking midfielder Zinedine Zidane had already won the Golden Ball and announced his impending retirement when he took to the pitch for the 2006 World Cup Final against Italy, but was determined to leave his mark both on the sport and rival Marco Materazzi. Following an early goal, Zidane was sent off in the 18th minute for delivering a vicious head butt to the chest of the Italian. He would miss the game-deciding penalty shoot-out, which Italy won 5-3.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Wink (Germany 2006)
When English striker Wayne Rooney accidentallystomped on a Portuguese player, then-21-year-old soon-to-be-superstar Cristiano Ronaldo rushed in to demand the ref send Rooney off. When he did, the TV cameras caught Ronaldo giving a sly wink to the sidelines, looking for all the world like a pantomime villain. Rooney, then Ronaldo's teammate at Manchester United, forgave him, but Ronaldo later admitted it was a dirty trick. "I've done a lot of growing up since then," he told the News of the World in 2009.
Battle of Santiago (Chile 1962)
Known as the "Battle of Santiago," the Chile vs. Italy Group 2 clash during the 1962 World Cup was such a bloodbath that the police had to intervene three times and two of Italy's players were dismissed. Tensions were heightened even before kickoff due a the damning description of Santiago by two Italian journalists, but utter lawlessness reigned after the whistle was blown, including scuffles, broken noses and kicks to the head. Chile eventually won 2-0 — but the match will forever be remembered for its violence rather than the final score.
Non-Aggression Pact of Gijon (Spain 1982)
Dubbed the "Non-Aggression Pact of Gijon," the last game of the Group 2 first round, between West Germany and Austria, was so eerily unexciting that it was widely thought to have been fixed. A win by one or two goals for West Germany would have resulted in both them and Austria qualifying at the expense of Algeria, who had beaten West Germany in the first game. The West Germans scored within 10 minutes, after which both sides seemingly bided their time until the final whistle was blown, leading to international outcry and FIFA later revising the group system.
David Beckham’s Death Threats (France 1998)
Manchester United golden boy David Beckham could have been the hero of his nation in the 1998 World Cup until the match versus Argentina destroyed England's dreams of glory. Beckham was red-carded after allegedly kicking and punching Diego Simeone, who later admitted he overreacted to get him sent off. "People were saying, 'You have let your country down, you have let your family down,' " Becks, who received several death threats after the game, later told Sky News. Upon his return to home, effigies of Beckham were hanged and burnt all over England by fans who blamed him for the loss.
Maradona’s “Hand of God” (Mexico 1986)
Argentine legend Diego Maradona was at his best and his worst in the 1986 quarter-final match against England. The worst came first. Six minutes into the second half, Maradona charged the goal and jumped, punching the ball — with his left hand — into the goal. He fooled the ref, though and later said he scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God." Four minutes after that outrage, Maradona was at his best, dazzling with a 200-foot end-to-end dash past the entire English squad to score what many call the Goal of the Century.
The “Wembley Goal” (England 1966)
The 1966 final, decades before goal-line technology. England and West Germany are tied 2-all. English striker Geoff Hurst swivels in the box and shoots. The ball hits the crossbar and bounces over — or was it on? — the line. The ref wasn't sure but his linesman said "over" so the goal counted. In 2010, a study by Oxford University engineers showed the ball was 2 inches shy of being in. The Germans still call a "ghost goal" a "Wembley." It ended up being moot. England scored again anyway and won 4-2.
De Jong’s Kung Fu Kick (South Africa 2010)
The 2010 final between Spain and the Netherlands was a nasty one. The Dutch squad, once synonymous with beautiful soccer, spent more time kicking the Spanish players than the ball. The worst foul came from Nigel De Jong, who channeled Jackie Chan for a high-flying kung fu kick to the chest of Spain's Xabi Alonso. De Jong, amazingly, only received a yellow card warning instead of being sent off. Spain went on to win 1-0.
Andres Escobar Shooting (USA 1994?)
Colombia were favorites going into the 1994 Cup but in their second match, against the USA, defender Andres Escobar, called "The Gentleman" scored an own goal. The U.S. won and Colombia was out. Two weeks later, back in Medellin, a man approached Escobar and shot him 12 times, reportedly shouting "Goal!" as he did so. The killer was a bodyguard of a local drug cartel chief who allegedly lost money betting on the game.
South Korea vs. Spain Match “Rigged” (South Korea/Japan 2002)
The 2002 World Cup that was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan was a hotbed of controversy. Following some questionable calls in the South Korea vs. Italy match, the host nation went on to face Spain. Their tie on penalties following two controversially disallowed Spanish goals forced South Korea into the semifinals (where they would lose to Germany) and prompted Spain's Ivan Helguera to claim: "If Spain didn't win, it's because they didn't want us to win."