World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Germany 2006

Zidane’s headbutt

“I’d prefer your whore of a sister.” Marco Materazzi

Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materrazzi are jogging out of Italy’s penalty when the Italian puts his arms around the Frenchman and tugs on his shirt.

“If you want my shirt that badly I’ll give it to you at the end of the match,” Zidane says and starts to run past him.

As he is still within earshot Materazzi retorts: “I’d prefer your whore of a sister.”

Zidane slows down, turns on his heels, and just as Materazzi cathches up with him he recived a headbutt square to the chest.

That is the sequence of events, with the words provided by Materazzi, which bought the curtain down on a glittering carer.

Before the game had kicked off, Zidane, fresh out of retirement to lead the French, had been named player of the 2006 World Cup.

It was Zidane’s second appearance in a World Cup final and his superb dinked penalty earned him a place among a select group of players who had scored in two separate finals.

France went on to lose the game on penalties, David Trezeguet missing the final spot-kick, which may have been Zidane’s if he had managed to stay on the pitch.

The headbutt incident transcended football and was even lampooned on US animated comedy Family Guy.

Some time after the game, Italy manager Marcelo Lippi said: “Too much importance has been put on this incident. It’s almost as if there is more talk about that head butt than Italy’s World Cup victory.”

The incident was the last act committed by Zidane in his career. The Frenchman announced his intention to retire from both his club side Real Madrid and France before the match.

And many commentators, outside France, have claimed that the incident has left an permanent stain on an other wise glittering care.

But Zidane himself – despite his critics – remains unrepentant.

When asked by ESPN if we hould apolgize for the incident in March, Zidane said: “Never, never. It would be to dishonour me. I’d rather die. There are evil people, and I don’t even want to hear those guys speak.”


World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Japan/South Korea 2002

Bitter Italy

Italy are one of the greatest nations in World Cup history, winning the tournament four times. But if 2002 taught us anything they are terrible losers.

The Italians did not have the best of tournaments and limped to the round of 16. They were convincing in their opener against Ecuador but went down 2-1 to Croatia in their second match. A late Alessandro Del Piero goal from the bench secured a 1-1 draw and a date with co-hosts South Korea.

On the other hand the Koreans were playing the football of their lives in front of their home fans. The Asians topped their group beating both Portugal and Poland and grabbing a deserved draw against fellow surprise package the United States.

There were bad omens for the Italians going into the game. They had famously lost to North Korea in 1966, a goal by Pak Doo-Ik knocking them out in the group stages. However, the star-studded Italians, with a side featuring Paolo Maldini, Del Piero and Francesco Totti, led the game for around 70 minutes with a first half goal from Christian Vieri.

Not knowing when they were beaten, the Koreans grabbed an equaliser with just two minutes remaining and, with the momentum swinging their way, Perugia’s Ahn Jung-Hwan settled the tie with a golden goal with just three minutes on the clock.

In fairness, South Korea were lucky, they were awarded a controversial penalty after just four minutes, which they missed, Totti was harshly dismissed in extra-time and at least two good goals were ruled out.

The Italians, not used to being upset, cried foul play, with conspiracy theories touted from Milan to Napoli.

Even worse was the treatment of Korean hero Ahn. The day after the game Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci cancelled his contract and was quoted as saying, “I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football.”

Guacci later did a u-tun but Ahn held firm. “I will no longer discuss my transfer to Perugia, which attacked my character instead of congratulating me for a goal in the World Cup,” he said.

Four years later, after many of Italy’s top players were embroiled in the calciopoli scandal, Italy went on to win the tournament.

And none of Italy’s overseas players were threatened with the sack.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – West Germany 1974

Ilunga Mwepu vs Brazil

In footballing terms the emergence of Holland, Total Football and Johan Cruyff were the real story of the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.

However, the most entertaining moment, at least at the time, was Ilunga Mwepa and the free-kick incident against Brazil.

Zaire’s appearance at the World Cup in 1974, the first sub-Saharan African side to appear in the finals, must have been a proud moment for black Africans.

However, the team did not fare well and they crashed out of the tournament in the group stage without scoring a goal and conceding 14 – including a 9-0 thrashing at the hands of Yugoslavia.

The infamous moment of the tournament came against Brazil. The Brazilian’s were awarded a free-kick 30 yards from the Zaire goal. Zaire form a wall and the referee blows the whistle.

Hearing the whistle, and appearing to not to have the first clue about the rules of football, Zaire right back Ilunga Mwepa charges out of the wall and smacks the ball 70 yards down the pitch.

The incident was a microcosm of Zaire in Germany that year, with the team becoming the farce of the tournament. However, according to Mwepa there was a more sinister side to their World Cup campaign.

In an interview with Brazillian FourFourTwo Magazine in 2002, Mwepu claimed that the players had to perform without pay and the threat of serious violence.

“Before the Yugoslavia match (which Zaire lost 9-0) we learnt that we were not going to be paid, so we refused to play.

“After the match, he (then Zaire leader President Mobutu) sent his presidential guards to threaten us. They closed the hotel to all journalists and said that if we lost by more than three goals to Brazil, none of us would be able to return home.”

He added: “I panicked and kicked the ball away before he (Rivelino) had taken it. Most of the Brazil players, and the crowd too, thought it was hilarious. I shouted, ‘You bastards!’ at them because they didn’t understand the pressure we were under.”

The incident, and the corruption and despair surrounding the Zaire side, set black African football back years and reinforced stereotypes, perhaps with foundation, that the team was naïve and ignorant to the rules.

Black African footballers would have to wait until Cameroon and 1990 before they were taken seriously again.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Switzerland 1954

Miracle of Berne

In 1954 the Swiss city of Berne hosted the World Cup final not knowing that the 90 minutes played at the Wankdorff stadium would changed the course of footballing history.

The final of Switzerland ’54 is significant for the way West Germany, cast in the role of David, emerged from under the cloud of World War II to produce a stirring comeback and beat the Goliath ‘Magic Magyars’ Hungarians.

It is still a surprise to many that the Hungarian side of the 50’s failed to win football’s most famous crown. Going into the game they had not been beaten in 32 matches over five years and had recently smashed six past England at Wembley.

Meanwhile the West Germans, still effectively run under allied influence, debated whether or not to attend the tournament, after being banned from entering the 1950 World Cup.

In the final, led by their talisman Ferenc Puskas, the Hungarians opened up a quick 2-0 lead with early goals, many expecting them to rack up a huge total and stroll to victory.

But the West Germans, who were excelling in the poor weather conditions using recently developed screw in studs devised by a young Adi Dassler, were able to erase the deficit and go in level at the half.

In the second half, West German keeper Toni Turek pulled of a number of fine saves to keep the Hungarians at bay before Helmut Rahn grabbed his second goal of the game with just five minutes remaining.

And the face of European football changed forever after inspirational West German captain Fritz Walter lifted the trophy.

The failure marked the end of the great Hungary side, a side which innovating a number of tactical triumphs and coaching techniques with very little to show for their efforts. After the uprising of 1956 the team was never to be the same again.

However, rising from the ashes of 1945, Germany, were allowed to take pride in their nation once again. The team from 1954 are the embryos of the team that we know love to hate.

Their record since the game, after which they became the powerhouses of European football, wining the World Cup twice more and the European championships three times, speaks for itself.

Football really hasn’t been the same since.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Spain 1982

Tardelli’s Joy

In modern football, celebrations are almost as corporate as the game itself.

A number of players, lacking spontaneity, repeat choreographed moves which seem to have been trademarked.

From Jurgen Klinsmann’s self parodying dive, to Nicolas Anelka’s flapping bird wings, via Fabrizio Ravanelli’s shirt over the head, goal celebrations are copied time and time again on football pitches all over the world.

There were many great moments during the 1982 World Cup in Spain but it was a celebration which stole the show.

The Brazil side, featuring Socrates, Zico and Falcao are widely considered to be the one of the greatest teams never to take home the crown, while the West Germans, eventual runners up, are one of the most underrated teams in the world game.

But the pinnacle of the tournament was Marco Tardelli. The Italian midfielder, now assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland, scored two goals in the tournament, the first in the group stages against Argentina but it is the aftermath of the second for which he is remembered.

For neutrals, the fact that Italy won the cup is largely unimportant, even the build up to the goal and Tardelli’s slip as he strikes the ball into the back of the net is irrelevant.

The lasting moment is the celebration The sheer joy and relief of Tardelli’s face as he realises he has scored the goal that has won his country the World Cup.

Not knowing what to do with himself the midfielder runs towards the camera pumping his fists and shaking his head, his wide eyes filling with tears.

It is a celebration which can not be repeated – a moment of sheer joy for a goal that meant everything.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – France 1998

The Ronaldo Final

For mere mortals who can only dream of kicking the leather for a living, the life of a professional footballer seems like a cushy one.

Being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for international acclaim and all the celebrity trimmings are world’s apart from the drudgery of daily life.

But the pressure of the World Cup is like nothing else ever experienced. Case in pont – Ronaldo in 1998.

The Brazilian front man scored an astonishing 47 goals in 49 appearances for Barcelona before sealing a move to Inter Milan in 1997.

He was undoubtedly the best striker in the world the season before France ’98, leading the Nerazzuri to the Uefa Cup, hitting the net 34 times in all competitions.

In the run up to the final the all conquering Brazil squad entertained the world with impressive wins over Denmark and Chile, with Ronaldo, the eventual Golden Ball winner for player of the tournament, scoring four goals.

At times it seemed like the hosts France were destined to win the their first crown but a double from Zinedine Zidane and a third from Emmanuel Petit in a 3-0 victory over the reigning champions didn’t tell the whole story.

The night before the match, fraught with nerves, Ronaldo suffered a severe convulsive fit and almost swallowed his tongue.

Paul Chevalier the director of the Chateau de la Grande Romanie – the team hotel – told France Info radio station after the game that a number of the Brazil squad thought that the forward was dead.

Chevalier said: “For a time we heard people saying ‘he’s dead, dead, dead. It created a terrible atmosphere around the team which was clearly demonstrated later on the pitch.”

He added: “I suppose Ronaldo’s nerves broke. He has been under dreadful pressure and he is young,”

Initially Brazil coach Mario Zagallo left him out of the starting line-up, only reinstating the clearly unfit striker – then just 21 – to the side just an hour before the match.

In all the nationalist fervour it is easy to forget that footballers are not Gods but are still expected to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.

And for one brief moment we were all reminded that Bill Shankly was wrong. Football is not more important than life and death.

World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Brazil 1950

The Maracanazo

Never count your chickens before they hatch – even if you’re the Brazilian national football team.

Brazil were the hosts of the 1950 World Cup and, after cruising through their group then hammering Spain and Sweden 6-1 and 7-1 respectively, looked like favourites to clinch the crown.

Uruguay, on the other hand, champions from the first world up in 1930, had battered the Bolivians 8-0 but could only scrape a draw with the Spanish.

Rather than a straight knock-out format following the first group stage, this tournament entered a second round robin phase and prior to the game Brazil were just one point ahead of Uruguay.

With that slender lead going into the all-important game at the Maracana, which had opened earlier that year, Brazil only needed a draw to claim their first title.

The hosts, intent on attacking, threw wave after wave of attacks at their opponents, which the Uruguayans managed to fend off. After Brazil managed to claw their way in front on 47 minutes, rather than powering on to victory, the momentum swung in favour of the visitors.

While Juan Alberto Schiaffino’s equaliser may not have dampened the crowd, one point being enough to hand the trophy to Brazil, the atmosphere changed 11 minutes before time when Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia struck the winner.

The extent of Brazilian over-confidence is still cringeworthy even 60 years on.

The host’s football federation had to bin a batch of engraved gold medals which would never be worn as well as ditching a Brazil victory song, which would never be heard.

Not even entertaining the belief that they may actually lose the game, the Brazilian crowd stood silently aghast believing Brazil’s name to be on the trophy.

The victory ceremony, one of the most bizarre and low-key in history, saw a stunned FIFA president Jules Rimet hand the trophy, without pomp and ceremony, to Uruguay captain Obdulia Varela.

What was the follow changed the face of Brazilian football forever, the white shirts with blue trim worn in the final were discarded, with Brazil adopting the famous yellow shirts worn today.

On a more sinister note, the brunt of the blame went on Brazil keeper Moacir Barbosa, with the national side not picking another black keeper until Nelson Dida, for fear they were bad luck.

The match hit the bewildered Brazilian public so hard it has been labelled the Maracanazo – roughly translated the Maracana Blow.