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Strikes, bites, drugs and thrashings: Pick your maddest World Cup moment

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Spitting, headbutting and biting are just some of the bizarre moments that have added to the drama of World Cups
World Cup Top 10 maddest moments on Radio 5 live
Presented by BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Nick Bright, 21:00-22:00 BST on Tuesday, 5 June

Strikes, bites, drugs and thrashings.

The World Cup regularly produces unforgettable moments. Some involve footballing brilliance, but many others have little to do with the on-field action and are just downright bizarre.

We have selected 10 of the maddest incidents and we want you to rank them in order using our list below. The 10 will be discussed in a BBC Radio 5 live special at 21:00 BST on Tuesday. You can read more about each of the incidents below.

1982 – Schumacher takes out Battiston

World Cup moments: Battiston knocked out

The build-up: West Germany’s semi-final win over France – featuring six goals, including four in extra time and a dramatic penalty shootout – is regarded as one of the best World Cup matches of all time, but it was overshadowed by one of the most brutal non-fouls in football history.

The moment: With the score at 1-1 in the second half, France defender Patrick Battiston was sent on as a substitute and within a few minutes was played through on goal by Michel Platini.

Battiston got to the ball first and poked a shot narrowly wide, but was cleaned out by goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s uncompromising body check.

The challenge left the Frenchman needing oxygen, and ending up with three broken ribs, two missing teeth and severe damage to his back.

Battiston said: “All I know is that Schumacher was someone who wanted to win at all costs and he went way over the top that evening.”

Unbelievably, Dutch referee Charles Corver did not even award a foul and the Germans progressed to the final, where they were beaten by Italy in Madrid.

1990 – Rijkaard spits at Voller

World Cup moments: Rijkaard spits at Voller

The build-up: The long-standing rivalry between West Germany and the Netherlands, who contested the 1974 World Cup final, which the Germans won, boiled over when they met in the second round at Italia 90.

Germany striker Rudi Voller and Netherlands defender Frank Rijkaard played against each other in Serie A, but ex-Roma man Voller was the victim of not one, but two of the ugliest incidents in the history of the tournament.

The moment: AC Milan player Rijkaard was given a booking for a late challenge on Voller and, as the two moved back into their positions, the Dutchman spat in the back of Voller’s luscious mullet. The German, in his attempts to show the referee what had happened, was given a booking of his own.

Just a minute later, the two clashed again and Argentine official Juan Carlos Loustau decided he had had enough, sending both players off. As Voller stood with his hands on his hips in disbelief, Rijkaard delivered another gob full of phlegm into the blond locks of his opponent.

Rijkaard said: “That day I was wrong. There was no insult. I always had much respect for Rudi Voller. But I went berserk when I saw that red card. I talked to him after the match and I apologised. I am very happy that he accepted. I have no bad feeling about him now.”

West Germany won the match, defeated England in the semi-finals and went on to beat Argentina in the final to claim the trophy for the third time.

1994 – Maradona drugs bust

World Cup moments: Crazy Maradona

The build-up: Diego Maradona had led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 and to the final in 1990. He came into the 1994 tournament after serving a doping ban and had been given a suspended prison sentence for shooting at journalists with an air rifle. The dream comeback turned into a nightmare.

The moment: Skipper Maradona started the tournament in the USA by thumping a left-footed finish into the top corner against Greece.

His deranged celebration with a wide-eyed scream into the camera led to questions about his mental health.

Maradona played the next game against Nigeria, but little did he know it would prove to be the last of his 91 caps as he was sent home from the tournament for failing a drugs test for ephedrine and subsequently given a 15-month suspension.

Maradona said: “They have retired me from soccer. I don’t think I want another revenge. My soul is broken.”

1998 – Ronaldo and the final mystery

Ronaldo explains what happened before the 1998 World Cup final.

The build-up: Brazil were looking for their fifth World Cup triumph when they faced hosts France in the 1998 final, one which began with the question ‘will he or won’t he?’ hanging over it.

The moment: At the age of just 21, superstar Inter Milan striker Ronaldo was the world’s most expensive player and all hopes were pinned on him to lead Brazil to victory at Stade de France.

Ronaldo had scored four goals in the tournament but there was amazement and confusion when his name was left off the initial teamsheet for the final.

But a revised line-up then saw him back in the starting XI, although he was clearly not at his best as he and his side struggled badly and were beaten 3-0 by France.

Ronaldo said: “I had a convulsion, after lunch in the afternoon. I was unconscious for three or four minutes. I don’t know why it happened. Nobody knows. Was it pressure or nerves? It could be.”

Theories were voiced that team sponsors and the Brazilian FA had forced an unwell Ronaldo to play in the final, or that Ronaldo had a secret medical problem.

2002 – Keane walks out on Ireland

Roy Keane walks out of the Republic of Ireland’s Saipan training camp in 2002

The build-up: The Republic of Ireland missed out on France 98, but qualified for South Korea and Japan four years later. They were supposed to be led by Manchester United captain Roy Keane, but things soon turned sour.

The moment: Triggs the puppy and the island of Saipan were words on everyone’s lips in the fallout from captain Keane being sent home from the Republic’s World Cup squad before the tournament even began.

The Manchester United midfielder was unhappy with the training facilities and his mood was not helped when the kit and footballs failed to arrive. Keane decided to go home, before changing his mind and staying on.

But things came to a head in a team meeting when Keane launched an unprintable verbal tirade at manager Mick McCarthy.

Striker Niall Quinn said: “It was the most surgical slaughtering I have ever heard. Mick McCarthy is dismantled from A to Z – his personality, his play, his style, his tactics, his contribution. On it goes.”

Keane was banished and spent the summer walking his dog, while his team-mates reached the last 16, where they were beaten on penalties by Spain.

2002 – South Korea, Italy and the Ecuadorean referee

Korean ‘golden goal’ eliminates Italy

The build-up: Giovanni Trapattoni and Italy would have been relatively pleased to draw hosts South Korea in the second round but what followed was one of the biggest shocks in footballing history, on or off the pitch.

The moment: Christian Vieri had given Italy an 18th-minute lead and they held on until two minutes from time, when Seol Ki-hyeon, who went on to play for Wolves, Reading and Fulham, popped up with the equaliser.

And deep in extra time, Ahn Jung-hwan flicked in the golden goal to eliminate the Italians.

Ecuadorean referee Byron Moreno turned down Italy’s calls for a penalty, disallowed a goal for offside and sent Francesco Totti off for diving.

Ahn, who was playing in Serie A for Perugia, was sacked by the club’s president Luciano Gaucci and, although the Italian then had a change of heart, Ahn refused to return and joined a team in Japan.

South Korea coach Guus Hiddink said: “It’s a childish reaction. Sports means players are all playing in different countries. It’s almost too ridiculous to talk about.”

2006 – Zidane headbutts Materazzi

World Cup moments: Zidane’s headbutt

The build-up: Zinedine Zidane, then at Real Madrid, had announced his decision to retire after the 2006 World Cup.

The France captain had inspired his country to another final, eight years after scoring twice against Brazil to lift the trophy for the first time, and his last match as a professional was unforgettable.

The moment: Zidane’s seventh-minute penalty, a casual chip down the middle which went in off the crossbar, gave France an early advantage, but former Everton defender Marco Materazzi headed in the equaliser 12 minutes later.

The match was heading for penalties when the two goalscorers squared up, leaving Italy defender Materazzi in a heap on the ground. Initially, the television cameras missed the incident.

But replays showed the two players exchanging words, before Zidane stepped forward and butted Materazzi in the chest.

Referee Horacio Elizondo was informed of the incident by the fourth official and showed Zidane a red card, ending his wonderful career in disgrace.

BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer said: “It is so sad for Zidane, for a great player to finish his career like that. Only he will be able to tell you what was going through his mind at that time.

“It didn’t look like Materazzi had done anything – so for Zidane to go and do something as stupid as that, in a game of this size in front of hundreds of millions of people watching, is incredible.”

2010 – France players go on strike

Captain Patrice Evra led a French revolt in 2010

The build-up: France had lost the 2006 final to Italy on penalties and came into the 2010 tournament following Thierry Henry’s controversial handball which led to their decisive goal in the play-offs against the Republic of Ireland.

Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka had not scored an international goal for seven months and despite that run continuing in the Group A opener against Uruguay, was given a reprieve and started the second game against Mexico. Then it kicked off.

The moment: Another lacklustre performance from Anelka saw him taken off at half-time by coach Raymond Domenech. The French went on to lose the game 2-0, but that was by far the end of the matter.

It emerged that Anelka had verbally abused Domenech in the dressing room during the interval and, after refusing to apologise, he was sent home from South Africa. There was worse to come.

A statement was released by the players “declaring their opposition” to Domenech’s decision, and the whole squad refused to train, unhappy at a “leak” from inside the camp, and returned to the bus instead of the training pitch.

Domenech said: “The decision to exclude him was the right one. I am sorry for the children for whom the French team represents something. Anelka does not have the right to say such things.”

France were beaten 2-1 by the hosts in the last game to finish bottom of the group.

2014 – Suarez bites Chiellini

World Cup moments: Suarez bites Chiellini

The build-up: Four-time champions Italy were facing the ignominy of failing to reach the knockout stages of the competition for a second straight World Cup, having finished bottom of their group in 2010.

The Azzurri beat England in their opener, but a shock defeat by Costa Rica left them needing to collect three points against Uruguay to progress to the last 16.

They faced a Uruguay side that had reached the semi-finals four years earlier, thanks in no small part to Luis Suarez’s goalline handball in the last minute of extra time in their quarter-final to deny Ghana a certain winner.

After the criticism they faced during that tournament, Suarez and his Uruguay team-mates were hungry for success.

The moment: With 10 minutes remaining, Uruguay were on the attack when striker Suarez and Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini clashed and tumbled over in the box. Chiellini pulled down his shirt to reveal bite marks on his left shoulder, although Suarez held his mouth claiming he had been elbowed.

The referee took no action and to make matters worse for the Italians, it was Suarez’s cross a minute later which led to Diego Godin’s headed goal. Italy went home, Uruguay went through.

Suarez said: “It was just the two of us inside the area and he bumped into me with his shoulder.

“There are things that happen on the pitch and you should not make such a big deal out of them.”

Fifa did not agree and handed the Liverpool striker, who had two previous suspensions for biting during his career, a four-month ban from all football-related activity – the longest in World Cup history.

2014 – Germany run riot against Brazil

World Cup moments: Germany destroy Brazil

The build-up: Brazil, the World Cup hosts and the most successful country in the tournament’s history, dreamed of adding a sixth title in front of their own fans. It was supposed to be a glorious few years for Brazilian sport, with the Olympics in Rio to follow two years later.

The script was written. Neymar, one of world football’s great talents, was the poster boy and was supposed to guide his team to glory. However, the Selecao made stuttering progress to the semi-finals, and then lost Neymar and captain Thiago Silva to injury.

To the disbelief of a nation, things unravelled in spectacular fashion.

The moment: Unbeaten in competitive matches at home for 39 years, Brazil entered their semi-final against Germany with history on their side.

But their air of invincibility was shattered as Germany scored five goals in 18 first-half minutes, their brilliant attacking play combining with a shambolic defensive performance from the Brazilians to leave the Maracana – and millions of viewers worldwide – scratching their heads in disbelief.

Germany added two more in the second half to lead 7-0, before Oscar scored one of the most futile consolation goals in history as the match finished 7-1.

Joachim Low, manager of eventual champions Germany, said their opponents “cracked up”, while Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari lamented the “worst day” of his life.

It was a major comedown for the man who guided Brazil to the title 12 years earlier.

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