Top 10 World Cup embarrassing moments

Nobody saw the sniper in the crowd
Unless he does something spectacular like saving a penalty against Brazil in the World Cup semi-final, or getting caught in bed with John Terry’s Missus, Rob Green will forever be remembered for the clanger that gifted the USA a point in their opening group game in South Africa.

But Green is not alone in humiliating himself before watching millions. The World Cup of Plenty would not be the World Cup of Plenty without similar tales of abject failure and so we have thoughtfully compiled a World Cup Clanger Top Ten list.

Top 10 World Cup clangers
10. Robert Green (2010, Group Game, England v USA)
After much debate over which of England’s goalkeepers should start against USA, Green got the nod and, like his team-mates, looked quite composed in this first group game, until he allowed Clint Dempsey’s poorly struck long-shot to bobble slowly towards him, onto his hand and over the line in one of the worst goalkeeping blunders ever witnessed by man or beast.

9. Rene Higuita (1990, Second Round, Columbia v Cameroon)
Higuita was something of a showman and renowned for making saves like the Scorpion Kick, where he would save a shot by springing in the air and flicking the ball with the back of his feet. Against Cameroon in the World Cup first knockout round, the colourful custodian took it upon himself to come out of goal to receive a back-pass and then try and dribble around Roger Milla. But the experienced striker nicked the ball from him, raced away and tucked the ball away into an empty net, leaving Rene looking like a perm-haired fool with a silly moustache.

8. Christian Vieri (2002, Second Round, Italy v South Korea)
Italy were undoubtedly hard done by as a result of some highly dubious refereeing in favour of South Korea. The World Cup co-hosts were granted a dodgy penalty, which they missed, avoided having a player sent off despite elbowing an Italian, and then benefited from Francesco Totti being sent off for diving, even though he had actually been fouled. The 10-man Azzurri then had a Golden Goal disallowed for offside, before losing to Ahn Jung-Hwan’s winner, but despite all that they still would have gone through themselves had Vieri not missed a sitter my wheelchair bound grandma would have tucked away.

7. David Seaman (2002, Quarter-finals, England v Brazil)
One of the best goalkeepers to have played for England, Seaman should nonetheless have done better with Ronadinho’s free-kick. Brazil were down to ten men and there for the taking – but unfortunately so was Spunky, who thought the silky Samba Boy was going to cross, rather than shoot from 35 yards. He was wrong. The ball just sailed over his greasy ponytail and rather than bother to jump, Uncle Dave just stood frozen to the spot, with tears welling in his eyes.

6. Graham Poll (2006, Group game, Croatia v Australia)
It’s not often you have much sympathy for referees. A bit like traffic wardens, if ill fate befalls them you can’t help but smirk. And so the world guffawed as Graham Poll ruined any chance he might have of officiating the World Cup final, after forgetting to send off Croatia defender Josep Simunic despite showing him two yellow cards. In Poll’s defence you could argue that Simunic, who was brought up in Canberra, had an Australian accent and could be easily mistaken for an Oz. But then again he wasn’t wearing an Australian shirt. And anyway Poll’s a referee; a referee who eventually sent Simunic off after showing him a third yellow card.

5. Rivaldo (2002, Group Game, Brazil v Turkey, Group Game)
Rivaldo may have been one of the best players in the world at the time but he did himself no favours here when he threw himself on the ground after Hakan Ünsal kicked the ball at him in the dying seconds. The ball had hit him on the leg but the South American writhed around as though someone had thrown acid in his face in a successful bid to get the Turk sent off. Poor form, albeit quite funny in a school playground kind of way.

4. Clive Thomas (1978, Brazil v Sweden, Group Game)
When it comes to men in black the UK has got a lot to answer for. With Brazil and Sweden one apiece in the first group stage, the South Americans had a corner kick in the final minute, which Zico met to head into the net, only for Old Jobsworth to blow the whistle for full-time as it went in. Although the Brazilians still progressed, they did so in second place meaning they had to face the much fancied hosts and eventual winners Argentina in the second group stage. Clive Thomas? John Thomas more like.

Zidane next to me
3. Zinedine Zidane (2006, France v Italy, Final)
Sticks and stones might break my bones but words will never hurt me. Words, it seems, that Zinedine Zidane’s mother failed to utter to her son when he was growing up. In fact, she must have said something quite the opposite because after Marco Materazzi whispered a few sweet nothings in his ear during the final in Berlin, the France captain took it upon himself to head-butt the Italian defender. Zizou was sent off and ten-man France went out on penalties without their skilful talisman. It made for great TV though.

2. Diego Maradona (1986, Argentina v England, Quarter-final)
It is only because Maradona is the greatest player to have walked the earth that he is remembered for that, rather than his goal against England. I don’t mean the one where he danced around the whole team to score – which admittedly wasn’t a bad effort – but the one where he outjumped Peter Shilton to punch the ball in the net in the most flagrant display of blatant cheating you’re ever likely to see. Had he been sent off, he would have never scored THAT goal; maybe not even won the World Cup – but then credit to the poisoned dwarf for outjumping a man twice his size and then cunningly attributing the goal to the Hand Of God.

1. Andres Escobar (1990, Colombia v USA, Group Game)
This is not so much an embarrassing World Cup moment as a shocking one, but one which should bring Rob Green’s mistake into harp relief. Not to be confused with the Colombian warlord Pablo, Andres Escobar was a Colombian footballer, but tragically he met the same fate as the drug-trafficker of the same name. While Pablo’s crime was to be the most wanted man in Central America, Andres’ crime was to score an own goal in the defeat to USA, which meant the end of Columbia’s involvement in the competition. Unfortunately, it also meant the end for the defender, who was gunned down upon his arrival in his hometown of Medellin, by a gangster vexed at having lost a bunch of football bets.