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The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
The referees a… perfectly reasonable but, in this instance, misguided fellow (Pictures: Getty/Rex)

Its World Cup year. That means magnificent goals, astonishing footballing skills and incredible saves.

From Baggio to Waddle: The worst misses in the history of the World Cup

But well mainly end up talking for years to come about a man in blacks inability to spot a blatant dive in the penalty area three yards in front of him, and thus awarding a dubious spot kick.

With the start of the 2018 World Cup fast approaching, heres a look back at some of the most notorious refereeing blunders in the tournaments history.

Charles Corver: West Germany v France, 1982

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
(Picture: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

You are the ref: a player in an attacking position in a World Cup semi-final latches on to a lofted through ball with only the goalkeeper to beat – a goalkeeper who launches a head-high flying challenge to take out his opponent.

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As the outfield player lays prone, requiring oxygen, suffering from three cracked ribs and two of his teeth laying on the pitch, do you:

a) Send the keeper off and award a penalty

b) Immediately call 999

c) Award a goal kick

According to Dutchman Charles Cover – the actual ref – the answer is C.

Harald Schumachers brutal shoulder charge on Frances Patrick Battiston has gone into footballing ignominy.

And, despite Schumachers apparent lack of concern for his opponent in the aftermath, he never faced any official punishment for the incident.

Byron Moreno: South Korea v Italy, 2002

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
(Picture: Ben Radford/Getty Images)

South Koreas passage to a World Cup semi-final had more than an element of luck.

Their quarter-final match, eventually won on penalties by that years co-hosts, saw two valid Spanish goals disallowed.

But mention the name Byron Moreno to an Italian football fan and youll probably expect to endure a two-hour tirade featuring the romance languages most inventive swear words.

Moreno officiated the second-round match between South Korea and Italy, awarding a dubious penalty to the former and showing a questionable red card to the latters star player, Francesco Totti.

South Korea scored a Golden Goal winner, but not before Damiano Tommasi had his own effort ruled out for offside, and sent the Italian coaches, public and press into an apoplectic meltdown.

Ali Bin Nasser: Argentina v England, 1986

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
(Picture: Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

First off, lets try to be fair to footballs most famous Tunisian referee.

While giving Maradonas first goal in the quarter-final match, Ali Bin Nasser was probably mesmerised by the sheer bravado displayed by Steve Hodge in hoiking an attempted backpass 15ft into the air into his own penalty area with the ball hotly pursued by the worlds greatest player.

In turn, if Peter Shilton – all 6ft of him with arms like a swinging gibbon – hadnt been out-jumped by the whole 5ft 5ins of Maradona then all this would be moot and wed only have the Argentinian captains goal of the century to talk about from that match.

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As it is, Bin Nasser and his Bulgarian linesman Bogdan Dochev both failed to spot Maradonas Hand of God, and thus became subject of tens of thousands of pub quiz questions for years after.

Graham Poll: Australia v Croatia, 2006

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
(Picture: Sandra Behne/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Polls three-card trick to Josip Šimunić has gone into football folklore.

It took three yellow cards, and for Šimunić to continuously remonstrate with the English ref, for the Croatian defender to see red.

Poll was removed from officiating for the rest of the World Cup and announced his retirement soon after as a direct consequence of the incident.

He later said that, given the nationality of his opponents, Canberra-born Šimunićs Aussie accent had led to a case of mistaken identity.

Clive Thomas: Brazil v Sweden, 1978

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
(Picture: Popperfoto/Getty Images)

It takes a bit of chutzpah to award a team a corner in the final seconds of a match and then blow the whistle for full-time as soon as they take it.

Even more so to wave your hands in defiance at the subsequent protests when the attacking team scores from it.

But Thomas managed just that, and like a man whos just goaded a pub car park full of drunks into a mass brawl, the Welshman calmly walked away from the scene of the chaos wondering what the fuss was about.

Jorge Larrionda: Germany v England, 2010

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
(Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

In fairness to referees, most controversial incidents are only revealed to be a genuine blooper once the action relay comes on, revealing the dive/foul/handball/shouted swear word in super slow motion to be just that.

Not, however, Frank Lampards goal against Germany: a 20-yard belter that slammed against the underside of the bar.

It was obviously a goal to cheering fans in pubs and homes the moment the ball landed a full 18 inches over the goal line.

It was obviously a goal to a 100,000 bug-eyed, refreshed fans watching on the big screens at that years Glastonbury.


It was obviously a goal to everyone in the global audience.

Obvious to everyone, except Uruguayan ref Jorge Larrionda and his assistant Mauricio Espinosa, who promptly disallowed it.

It would be churlish not to suggest that England hadnt been dominated by their opponents and were worthy losers, defeated in the end 4-1, but Lampards strike would have made the score 2-2 and given the game a whole new complexion.

Edgardo Codesal: Argentina v West Germany, 1990

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
(Picture: Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Its a mark of shame on the absolutely terrible 1990 final that the most notable thing to say about it is the referees decisions.

Codesal was suckered into two key decisions by West German theatrics.

Firstly, Jürgen Klinsmanns infamous and extraordinary forward-twisting pike that ensured Pedro Monzon gained the first red card in a World Cup final.

This was followed by a dubious foul on Rudi Völler in the penalty area, with Andreas Brehme converting from the spot for the games winning goal.

Ioan Igna: Brazil v France, 1986

The worst refereeing decisions in the history of the World Cup
(Picture: Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/TempSport/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Its hard to think of a more blatant professional foul that went unpunished than Brazilian keeper Carloss (Carlos Roberto Gallo) lunge on Bruno Bellone.

Bellone was clean through and 20 yards out when Carlos made his rugby tackle on the Frenchman to deny a goal.

Ignas reaction? Play on.

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