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World Cup

First XI: World Cup battles

February 24, 2010
By Robin Hackett

Red card
GettyImagesThe World Cup has seen some famous battles

Football may be becoming less and less of a contact sport, but there is little that can be done when tempers flare. The World Cup has seen some extraordinary displays of frustration from petty thuggery to all-out violence.

Some are appalled by these games, some thrilled, but there's no doubting the ability of such games to live long in the memory. Soccernet takes a look at XI games that made headlines for the wrong reasons.

Romania-Peru (1930): The first World Cup dismissal came in the first World Cup but, as you may expect, it did not come lightly. In an ill-tempered match in front of what is said to have been around 300 fans, Adalbert Steiner suffered a broken leg in the first half. Things really kicked off in the second when Peru captain captain Placido Galindo was sent off on 54 minutes following a series of brawls that eventually necessitated police intervention.

Brazil-Hungary (1954): "I thought it was going to be the greatest game I ever saw," referee Arthur Ellis said, "but it turned out to be a disgrace." When the Magical Magyars of Hungary took on a highly fancied Brazil team in the quarter-finals of the 1954 tournament, nobody had expected what became known as the 'Battle of Berne'. Jozsef Bozsik reacted to a bad tackle from Nilton Santos by punching him, resulting in a brawl that saw both sent off, while Humberto Tozzi was dismissed for a particularly unsavoury challenge on Gyula Lorant. A match of violent challenges then spilled over after the match, with a mass pitch invasion and a brawl involving broken bottles apparently taking place in the tunnel. The great Ferenc Puskas, who had not played after an injury in the previous match, was perhaps dubiously alleged to have struck Pinheiro with a bottle, but Hungary boss Gusztav Sebes did need four stitches after a bottling incident. Hungary won the match 4-2, incidentally.

Mario David
GettyImagesMario David is sent off during the 'Battle of Santiago'

Chile-Italy (1962): After the 'Battle of Berne' came the 'Battle of Santiago' and the referee, a World War II veteran named Ken Aston, felt he was back in a warzone: "I wasn't reffing a football match - I was acting as an umpire in military manoeuvres." Tension was in the air even before kick-off - Italian journalists had written of the loneliness and melancholy at the World Cup following the 1960 earthquake in Chile - and the first foul occurred within seconds of the match getting underway. Italy had Giorgio Ferrini sent off on eight minutes but it took until the 12th minute to get him off the pitch as police had to be summoned. Chile's Leonel Sanchez then punched Mario David and escaped punishment, but David was dismissed when he fouled Sanchez in retaliation. Sanchez then broke Humberto Maschio's nose and, again, remained on the pitch. Police were repeatedly called on to break up a series of scuffles afterwards. Aston, who attracted criticism back in Italy, had considered stopping the game but did not for fear of a riot. He later invented yellow and red cards.

Brazil-Portugal (1966): "Oh my word," commentator David Coleman said after Eusebio volleyed in a stunning goal. "Have you ever seen anything like that?" A shame, then, that this meeting between Eusebio and Pele - which resulted in a 3-1 win for the World Cup debutants to send the reigning champions out at the group stage - is best remembered for Pele getting kicked off the field and a decent amount of robust challenges from both sides. Pele had, of course, grown used to getting a kicking, but even Eusebio reprimanded his team-mate Morais for a violent challenge that sent the great man off the field. After the competition, Pele decided he would never again appear at a World Cup, although he was eventually persuaded to return to lead the country to glory in 1970.

Antonio Rattin
GettyImagesAntonio Rattin finally leaves the field against England

England-Argentina (1966): While the Falklands and the 'Hand of God' are often cited as the main reasons for enmity between the two countries, the 1966 quarter-final meeting at Wembley was the real beginning of the football rivalry. There was only one dismissal in the game: Argentina captain Antonio Rattin was sent off in the first half, and it was said to have been the result of "violence of the tongue". He refused to leave the pitch, though, and the sending off caused outrage in the Argentinean press, with claims of conspiracy over that decision and a feeling that the winning goal was offside. Irrespective of those suggestions, Argentina did repeatedly kick England and Sir Alf Ramsey later branded them "animals" after the game, telling his players they were not to swap shirts at full-time.

France-West Germany (1982): The French artisans lost a 3-3 thriller 5-4 on penalties in their 1982 semi-final but, while it is seen as one of the all-time great games, it is predominantly remembered for the actions of West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher. The Germans in particular had been aggressive in the match but only three cautions were issued. That leniency was brought into sharper focus when Schumacher stopped France substitute Patrick Battiston as he ran through on goal by knocking him unconscious: Battiston lost his two front teeth, damaged his vertebrae and Michel Platini said he thought he was dead, but the ref, Charles Corver, saw nothing awry and gave a goal kick.

Uruguay-Scotland (1986):Jose Batista was sent off within 56 seconds of this match for a fearsome tackle from behind, and it set the tone for a match in which Uruguay firmly established their reputation as international hard men. Echoing Sir Alf Ramsey in 1966, SFA chief executive Ernie Walker described the Uruguayans as "animals", and Alex Ferguson, who left the job after the tournament, was similarly horrified by the encounter.

Argentina-Cameroon (1990): As opening matches go, this was a cracker. The defending champions were beaten by Cameroon in every sense: Francois Omam-Biyik's header bizarrely found its way beyond Nery Pumpido; Andrea Kana Biyik saw red for a fearsome challenge on Claudio Caniggia; and Benjamin Massing was dismissed in the dying minutes as he opted to ignore the ball and simply throw himself into Caniggia after a series of failed challenges from his team-mates.

Frank Rijkaard, Rudi Voller
GettyImagesRijkaard has since apologised for spitting on Voller

Netherlands-West Germany (1990): There is a longstanding rivalry between the Dutch and German teams, and this match played no little part in stoking up those tensions. The key flashpoint saw Frank Rijkaard booked for a bad challenge on Rudi Voller before spitting on his hair. Voller was then accused of diving by angry Netherlands keeper Hans van Breukelen. Rijkaard apparently came onto the scene to twist Voller's ear and stamp on his foot. Both Rijkaard and Voller were sent off and the Dutchman then saw fit to spit on Voller's hair again as they departed the field. There were a further three bookings in the match and the enmity between the countries predictably remains.

Argentina-West Germany (1990): Argentina boast the highest number of cautions and dismissals of any side in World Cup history and they boosted both those records with two yellows and two reds against West Germany - the first two sendings off in a final. Pedro Monzon went off for a robust tackle, Gustavo Dezotti for grabbing his opponent round the neck and, in between, the Argentinean players risked an early bath en masse by surrounding the referee aggressively after he awarded the match-winning penalty.

Netherlands-Portugal (2006): The match that equalled the record for most cautions in a World Cup match (16) also surpassed the record for most red cards in a match, with two players from each team dismissed. Deco and Costinha saw red for Portugal while Khalid Boulahrouz and Gio van Bronkhorst went off for Netherlands - but, while an ill-tempered match, the level of punishment meted out in relation to the level of violence probably only goes to serve to show the increasing level of protection offered to players in the modern game.