Willie Johnston doping farce
A free spirit in the mould of English players such as Charlie George and Tony Curry the Scottish winger had looked to have put his woeful bad boy reputation behind him when he moved from Rangers to West Bromwich Albion. He hadn't lost his unconventional approach to playing — among other things he sipped from a spectator's can of beer while preparing to take a corner. However, having played so well that even the Scottish Football Association (SFA), who had all but said to successive national managers he was not to be picked, couldn't resist Ally McLeod's pleas to select him for the 1978 World Cup. His campaign did not last long as following the opening surprise 3-1 defeat by Peru he stepped in to undergo the dope test as Archie Gemmill couldn't provide a sample. He tested positive for a banned stimulant which was in a medicine for hayfever he had bought in a chemist. However, the SFA, who he described as 'amateurs', were almost gleeful in sending the 32-year-old home early and he all but became a scapegoat for Scotland's disastrous first round exit. He never played for Scotland again. "I was in the best form of my life and had no need for artificial stimulants," he told the Guardian.
Fake whistleblower prompts Kuwaiti walkout
Kuwait's only appearance in the finals will never be forgotten, but for the wrong reasons. The players walked off the pitch in protest at a French goal during their group game as they claimed they had stopped playing thinking they had heard a whistle. The referee, who had not blown his whistle, turned down their protests and allowed the goal but the players refused to desist and Sheikh Fahad al-Sabah the president of the Kuwaiti Football Federation watching from the stands was forced to intervene. After intense negotiations the players returned to the pitch, the referee disallowed the goal but the French, who had lost their opening game and badly needed to beat the minnows in the group, went on to win 4-1. Sheikh Fahad was later to be shot dead by Iraqi troops when they invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
The Non-Aggression pact of Gijon
Perhaps one of the most disgraceful matches in World Cup history as Austria and neighbours West Germany contrived to ensure both went through at the expense of debutants Algeria. Algeria had stunned the Germans beating them 2-1 and the North Africans having beaten Chile on the eve of this match the Germans needed to win to progress and their opponents needed to avoid defeat by more than two goals to join them. The lumbering German striker Horst Hrubesch scored an early goal and then all went quiet as neither side made any effort to attack, content to pass the ball around at the back. Spanish spectators shouted 'out out' while one German fan burnt his flag. "We wanted to qualify not play football," was the unrepentant response from coach Jupp Derwall. The German press were outraged with one headline reading 'Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón' ('Non-aggression pact of Gijon'). Justice of a kind was meted out when Italy beat the Germans in the final while FIFA reacted by ordering the final round of group matches were all to be played at the same time to avoid a repeat from the following World Cup.
Schumacher's night of shame
The Germans weren't done yet in making themselves one of the most unloved teams to appear in a World Cup finals. To say that their goalkeeper Harald 'Toni' Schumacher left an indelible imprint on the tournament would be an understatement. The curly-haired netminder became a hate figure in the 58th minute of the semi-final with France with the match level at 1-1 substitute Patrick Battiston had just shot at goal only for Schumacher to charge and elbow him deliberately in the head. Battiston, whose shot went agonisingly just wide of the goal, slumped unconscious to the ground and required minutes of treatment. The Dutch referee Charles Corver remained impervious to the assault "I was just following the ball", he said afterwards and didn't book the goalkeeper. Schumacher for his part didn't go over to see how Battiston was and stood chewing gum on the byeline preparing to take the goalkick while also inciting the French fans behind the goal. Battiston was stretchered off the pitch accompanied by his close friend Michel Platini. He suffered three broken teeth and a damaged vertebra. "Tell him I'll pay for the crowns," was Schumacher's unrepentant response after the match which had seen Germany win on penalties after coming back from 3-1 down in extra-time and with the French unable to call on a fresh pair of legs as they had used their second substitute when Battiston had to go off. Schumacher received death threats and was pilloried in the press earning the sobriquet the 'Butcher of Seville' while the German press accused him of restoring old French prejudices of the Germans. Battiston in an extraordinary gesture of peacemaking invited Schumacher to his wedding.....not as best man.
'Hand of God' strikes down England
This World Cup was all about Diego Maradona, the very good and the very bad side of him. Both were seen in the quarterfinal against England, the very good being his extraordinary individual goal that put them 2-0 up in a game they would win 2-1. However, his first goal is equally as famous but for all the wrong reasons as somehow he managed to beat the far taller England goalkeeper Peter Shilton in the air and the ball went into the net. All the England players in the penalty area immediately claimed he had used his hand to score the goal but neither the Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser nor his linesmen had seen the infringement and allowed it to stand. Maradona in the post match press conference made the now historic remark that the first goal had been: "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God." While there was outrage in England there was undiluted joy in Argentina with many seeing it as a measure of revenge for the defeat in the Falklands War (or Las Malvinas as they were known in Argentina). Maradona revealed years later that he was nervous himself that the goal would not be allowed. "I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came... I told them, 'Come hug me, or the referee isn't going to allow it," he told CNN in 2005.
Maradona's decline and fall
Maradona's fourth and final World Cup bookended nicely as in his first he had been sent off against Brazil and this time he was sent home in disgrace after failing a doping test. Still a potent force, indeed he and the Argentinians were a far more vibrant and creative team than the one that fouled and dived their way to the 1990 World Cup final, it looked as if he might enjoy a glorious swansong in the international limelight. Having scored a goal in the win over Greece — his celebration running to and then yelling into a pitchside camera prompted former Arsenal goalkeeper turned pundit Bob Wilson to remark 'I would have punched him in the face' if he'd been the cameraman — and then played in the 2-1 win over Nigeria he subsequently failed a dope test for the stimulant ephedrine. Despite his protestations of innocence that he had used an American version of the energy drink 'Rip Fuel' which unlike its Argentine counterpart had ephedrine as an ingredient he was sent home and never played for his country again. Argentina imploded after that losing to Bulgaria in the final group match and then went out in the last 16 to Romania.
Zidane loses his head
In contrast to the different virulent opinions expressed about Maradona, Zinedine Zidane was seen as a role model and an icon in France. The 2006 World Cup final appeared to be the ideal setting for perhaps their greatest ever player to bid farewell and perhaps add a second World Cup to the one he had won in 1998. All started well with him opening the scoring but Marco Materazzi levelled and an increasingly fractious game went into extra-time. Materazzi an old style hardman central defender with a penchant for provoking opponents with foul comments finally 'scored' his second goal when Zidane, unable to take any more of his remarks about his sister, headbutted him in the chest 10 minutes from the end of extra-time. A red card was the only option and he trod disconsolately from the pitch past a stony-faced French coach Raymond Domenech and the World Cup trophy down the tunnel. Italy won the game on penalties. While he was lambasted in the French press in the immediate aftermath L'Equipe piously demanding what should French people tell their children who held him up to be a role model, then French president Jacques Chirac saw the bigger picture. "You have honoured the country with your exceptional qualities and your fantastic fighting spirit, which was your strength in difficult times, but also in winning times," he said. Zidane for his part had already said he would retire, but even four years later unlike with Battiston and Schumacher, there was no question of a rapprochement with Materazzi. "I would rather die than apologise," he told ESPN.
French busboys snub coach
To say France's 2010 World Cup campaign was a public relations catastrophe would be doing an injustice to the term....it was far worse than that. The omens were already not good with the manner in which Raymond Domenech's side had reached South Africa, by dint of Thierry Henry's helpful hand in setting up the decisive goal against Ireland in the play-off. Nicolas Anelka's penchant for self destruction returned as he was sent home for a foul mouth outburst against the largely unloved Domenech and it reached its nadir when the players, angry at the treatment of the 'Incredible Sulk' aka Anelka, refused to get off the team bus and train all the worse for their image as it was to be in front of some of the locals from Knysna their base. Severe sanctions followed post the World Cup for Anelka, captain Patrice Evra, who had a stand up row in front of the cameras with the coach, and midfielder Jeremy Toulalan. "What upsets me the most is the psychodrama of last weekend," said then French federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes, who was to fall on his sword afterwards. "Where, for me, 50 years of values crumbled. I thought at the time of this shame that football brought to France - that's far worse than poor results." Domenech himself departed the international scene in inglorious fashion having refused to shake South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's hand after the final group game which saw France eliminated. Domenech refused to answer why he had snubbed Parreira and the latter remarked "It was lamentable behaviour." Which perfectly summed up their campaign.