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The Seven Biggest Scandals in World Cup History

With the World Cup in Qatar fast approaching, the competition regarded by many as the biggest sporting event on the planet, will have the eyes of every nation, whether competing or not, focused very much on everything that takes place during the month long tournament. Especially when it comes to biggest favourites of the tournament, like England, which is full of big football names and can make a lot of noise not only on the pitch, but also outside of it.

There will be frantic activity as World Cup 2022 betting tips are released by bookmakers keen to encourage punters to their own brand and their special offers, like the bet365 bonus code for example, which can give access to a lot of special promotions for players. There will be no shortage of football betting predictions and World Cup odds will fluctuate. However, very few, if any of the previous tournaments have passed without contentious issues, with many situation escalating into scandals that are still talked about decades later.

Here are some of the most scandalous:     

Andres Escobar

The most tragic of World Cup scandals occurred in 1994, when Colombian star Andres Escobar was executed by a powerful drug cartel, days after his unfortunate own goal knocked his country out of the competition. 

Having been well fancied to make a mark on the tournament, Escobar’s own goal in a 2-1 defeat to the US, meant Columbia exited at the group stages.  The drug barons had huge sums of money riding on the game and had ordered his murder, as retribution for their losses.

He was shot six times while sitting in his car outside a nightclub in the Colombian city of Medellín. Bodyguard, Humberto Castro Muñoz, was arrested the next day and confessed to the murder. An estimated 120,000 people attended the funeral, and the anniversary of his death is still marked at matches in Colombia, each year.

Hand of God

One of the most replayed scandals in World Cup history occurred during the 1986 Quarter-Final clash between Argentina and England. After a goal-less first-half, Diego Maradona put the Argentines one up early in the second half when he deliberately deflected the ball over England goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s head… with his hand. 

Incredibly, the officials failed to spot the offence and allowed the “goal”.  It was as blatant an act of cheating that has probably ever been carried out and not been penalized. Later when quizzed about the incident, Maradona refused to admit his calculated actions and instead preferred to say that it was righteous, and delivered by the “hand of god.”

Harald Schumacher’s assault on Patrick Battiston 

In the 1982 Semi-Final between France and West Germany there was a double scandal surrounding the same incident. In a French attack Patrick Battiston was through on goal when the German goalkeeper Harold Schumacher charged off his line and clattered into the small striker with so much force that it knocked the Frenchman clean out. He suffered cracked vertebrae, lost two teeth and briefly slipped into a coma.

Incredibly, the referee awarded a goal-kick and Schumacher escaped without even a warning for his savage assault. Had it been carried out in a street, he’d probably receive a prison sentence, such was its brutality. Germany went on to win the match on penalities and to everybody’s revulsion Schumacher showed no remorse and joked about the incident afterwards.

Conspiracy of Germany and Austria

In an astonishing act of cheating, Germany and Austria conspired to knock Algeria out of the 1982 tournament. Germany were in danger of being eliminated, but knew a 1-0 win in the final group game would see both teams progress. 

An early goal saw the Austrian’s fall behind, but for the rest of the game they made no attempt to get on level terms. They played keep-ball and a procession of time-wasting back passes. It was a crime against football and from then on it was ruled that all final matches in groups had to kick-off at the same time; little consolation to the Algerians. 

Maradona Drug Cheat

Maradona was up to his cheating antics again in 1994 when he was removed from the tournament after testing positive for the banned substance ephedrine. Suspicions had arose following his infamous wide-eyed celebration as he stared intensely down the camera after scoring a group game. He would never play for his country again.

Argentina in fixing claim

In their crucial game against Peru at their home tournament in 1978, Argentina needed to win by four goals to pip Brazil to the final. The Peruvians had conceded only six goals in their previous five games, so it seemed an impossible task. Argentina won the match 6-0 and rumours circulated that the game was rigged, not helped by the fact that Peru fielded an Argentine-born goalkeeper. However, nothing has ever been proved.

Pele the human billboard

Possibly the greatest ever player, Pele, controversially held up the kick-off of the 1970 Quarter-Final against Peru by asking the  referee for time to tie up his Puma boots. Knowing that cameras would be trained on him, he effectively took part in the world’s first viral advertising promotion. He was paid a reported US$120,000 for just a few seconds work. 

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