9 of the Biggest Scandals in the History of the World Cup

The World Cup is one of the planet's greatest festivals of sport and the pinnacle of the football calendar. But surrounding an event of such magnitude, there is always trouble and controversy to be found.


Here's a look at the nine biggest scandals ever to hit the World Cup.

9. Diego Maradona Kicked Out of USA '94

In 1994, Diego Maradona, one of the greatest players ever associated with the World Cup, was sensationally sent home in disgrace after testing positive for the banned substance ephedrine. He had played in Argentina's first two games, scoring against Greece, which was followed by a manic wide-eyed celebration into a television camera.


Maradona had a long history with drugs, having started using cocaine as early as 1983 when he was with Barcelona. Several years later whilst at Napoli, the club regularly provided him with clean urine samples so he would pass the random tests. He had previously served a 15 month drug ban after testing positive for cocaine in 1991, but despite his reputation Maradona maintained that his failed test was perfectly innocent and was the result of consuming a power drink given to him by a personal trainer. He claimed to have been using the same drink in Argentina, but said it was the American version which contained the banned chemical. He also separately suggested that FIFA had gone back on a private agreement to allow him to use the drug to help with weight loss.


Maradona never played for his country again and retired from playing altogether in 1997. Drugs continued to haunt him until he overcame his addiction in 2005 following near death and subsequent gastric bypass surgery.

8. Bobby Moore and the Bogota Bracelet

Prior to the World Cup in Mexico in 1970, the England squad were making their final preparations in Colombia when captain Bobby Moore was arrested in what would infamously become known as the Bogota Bracelet incident.


One evening Moore accompanied Bobby Charlton to a jewellery shop located near the foyer of the team hotel in Bogota, but on leaving the two players were accused of theft by the store owner. The police were called and the two men were searched, but they soon allowed to leave without further issue. The team then played their scheduled match in Colombia and flew out to Ecuador for their last warm-up game before the tournament. Thinking no more of the incident, the squad then briefly returned to Bogota en-route to Mexico but Colombian police officers arrived at the team hotel and formally arrested Moore on charges of theft.


The rest of the squad had to leave for the World Cup, but Moore was detained under house arrest at the home of the Director of the Colombian Football Federation for four days. The situation threatened to become an 'international incident' and as the allegations began to fall apart, along with pressure from the British government, Moore was eventually granted a conditional release allowing him to rejoin his team-mates in Mexico. He was granted "unconditional freedom" shortly afterwards.

7. Dutch Pool Party

The day before the Netherlands were due to play West Germany in the 1974 World Cup final, German tabloid newspaper Bild ran a sensational story entitled 'Cruyff, Champagne and Naked Girls'. It alleged that a few days earlier several of the Dutch players had enjoyed a 'naked pool party' with some local women, even claiming to have pictures, though none were ever published.


It later came to light that it was most likely Bild who actually hired the women and sent them to the hotel where the Dutch squad was staying to stage the whole event. It put a lot of unnecessary attention on the Dutch player and if it was indeed intended as a sabotage it certainly had an effect. Midfielder Arie Haan later reflected, “I read the paper and we were a little surprised, a little bit confused. This was the first time we were confronted with this kind of journalism. We changed a little bit the night before the final. Before we did not think, but afterwards we knew what it was like to be famous, to be the best. It started with the articles, then came the pressure and the stress."


The night before the World Cup final many of the Dutch players, most notably Johan Cruyff, spent hours and hours on the phone with their wives desperately trying to explain the situation. They went on to lose the final the next day 2-1 at the hands of the Germans.

6. France on Strike

France's 2010 World Cup campaign was altogether one to forget. Their qualification alone was marred by controversy after Thierry Henry's infamous handball helped Les Bleus through the final UEFA playoff round against Ireland, but when the squad arrived in South Africa things exploded for the 2006 finalists.


In the lead-up to the tournament the French media had been very critical of the team, several of the players had been questioned by police after a raid on a seedy Paris nightclub and the French Football Federation had already announced that coach Raymond Domenech would be leaving his position upon the World Cup's conclusion.


France drew their opening game with Uruguay 0-0 and the second game against Mexico was heading the same way at half time when all hell broke loose in the dressing room as Nicolas Anelka directed a profanity laden tirade towards Domenech. The forward didn't return for the second half as France slumped to a 2-0 defeat and was quickly sent home after refusing to apologise. The next day, captain Patrice Evra was seen in a heated argument with a member of the coaching staff which required the intervention of others and the players subsequently boycotted training in protest over Anelka's expulsion. Team director Jean-Louis Valentin then sensationally resigned his position, stating "They don't want to train, it's unacceptable. I'm leaving the Federation. I'm sickened and disgusted."


Winger Franck Ribery later conceded, "everyone in the whole world is mocking us now. I'm gutted because we're not playing football anymore". France went on to lose their final game of the tournament against South Africa, finishing bottom of the group with just a solitary point.

5. West Germany and Austria Conspire Against Algeria

Algeria made their World Cup debut in Spain in 1982 and caused an incredible upset in their opening game by beating West Germany, one of the tournament favourites. They lost the second game 2-0 against Austria, but were still in with a chance of qualifying for the next round after beating Chile 3-2.


The next day West Germany and Austria met to play their final game. The Germans had recovered from their opening defeat to keep their chances alive, while with two wins from their first two games Austria were already assured of their place in the second round. The two teams knew that a German win by one or two goals would secure safe passage for both. Horst Hrubesch scored for West Germany after 10 minutes and the game ended almost there and then. Both sets of players were content to see the match out as things stood and no-one made an effort to do anything any different, while a number of Algerian fans and locals in the crowd showed their disdain. When the final whistle blew Algeria were eliminated and West Germany and Austria knew they were through without even breaking a sweat.


It was this farce of an encounter that prompted FIFA to introduce simultaneous final group games at future tournaments.


West Germany went all the way to the final where they lost to Italy. But on the way to the showpiece event one German was guilty of another heinous crime when goalkeeper Harald Schumacher committed a shockingly violent, and more shockingly unpunished, assault on French player Patrick Battiston.

4. Ronaldo's Mystery Fit

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Even at just 21 years of age Ronaldo was already a global football superstar. The Brazilian had lit up the world with his form for PSV Eindhoven and then Barcelona in the mid 1990s and was a two time FIFA World Player of the Year when he arrived at the World Cup in 1998.


Just as they had been in 1994, Brazil were expected to be crowned champions and Ronaldo scored four goals as they negotiated their way to the final once more. It was billed as Ronaldo's final, with comparisons to Pele in 1958 the order of the day. However, what happened next remains one of football's greatest mysteries. A little over an hour before kickoff the player's name was conspicuously absent from Brazil's team sheet, but 30 minutes later a revised list had him set to play. Various rumours from poisoning to different injuries tried to explain his initial absence, but no one was any the wiser.


Ronaldo did play, but neither he nor the rest of the Brazilian team were their usual selves and France ran away 3-0 winners to lift the famous trophy. It was later revealed that the night before, under crushing expectation from the whole world, Ronaldo had suffered a seizure followed by sickness. Roberto Carlos, with whom he was sharing a room, later admitted "the pressure had got to him and he couldn't stop crying".


There were severe allegations that sponsors Nike had forced the hand of the Brazilian management, to make him play, though this has always been acutely refuted. But experts have since agreed that given his neurological state following the seizure Ronaldo never should have taken part in that final. 

3. Argentina Put Six Past Peru

In 1978, Argentina's World Cup was supposed to be a show of strength by the military junta that had seized political power two years earlier. By that token it was imperative that the team of the host nation be crowned champions. The period, defined by the state terrorism against political dissidents was known as the 'Dirty War' and there are conspiracy theories that the military regime facilitated a 'Dirty World Cup' as well.


Theories initially surfaced around the Albiceleste when they were given the privilege of playing all their games at night, in full knowledge of how the other teams in their two groups had fared. But cries of foul play kicked into overdrive when it came to the final game of the second round group stage against Peru. The Argentines knew they simply needed to win by four goals to make it into the final. Peru hit the post twice with the game still tied at 0-0, but by half time the hosts were two goals to the good. After the interval Peru simply capitulated and Argentina scored four more to win 6-0 and progress to the final.


It was heavily claimed that the dictatorship interfered and threw the game in favour of their home team. Peru even had an Argentine born goalkeeper which only helped to accelerate the rumours. Shipments of grain and the return of political prisoners are just two of the various things alleged to have paid for the 'agreement', though no match fixing has ever been proven. However, in 2012 a Peruvian senator claimed that the result of the game had been pre-arranged by the Argentine dictatorship before kickoff.


Argentina went onto win the World Cup by beating the Netherlands in the final under the iconic ticker tape shower at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires.

2. Jules Rimet Trophy Stolen

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The iconic Jules Rimet Trophy was the original prize handed to World Cup winners, eventually kept by Brazil in 1970 after a hat-trick of wins. However, the small trophy had a patchy history and during its lifetime was stolen twice, possibly even a third time, and hasn't been seen in more than 30 years.


It is suggested it was lost or stolen for the first time in the mid 1950s, following Germany's win in the 1954 tournament. The trophy that Germany returned to FIFA prior to Sweden '58 had a different look than before, seemingly slightly taller with a different base. The trophy then went missing for definite in 1966 in England, later to be famously discovered by Pickles the dog in a bag alongside a £15,000 ransom note. The final time the Jules Rimet was stolen was in Brazil 13 years after it was permanently awarded to the country. Two men allegedly broke into the building where the famous trophy was being housed, detached it from the wall, display case and all, and made off with it.


No one in Brazil was ever charged for the final theft and nobody knows for sure what happened to the original trophy, though most believe it was melted down and sold for its gold content. However, it seems FIFA weren't entirely convinced of the story, even buying a replica commissioned by the English FA in the 1960s at an auction in 1995 for £254,000 just to make sure.

1. Andres Escobar Murdered

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Colombia entered the 1994 World Cup as many people's dark horse contender. Alongside heralded defender Andres Escobar, the team featured the likes of Carlos Valderrama, Freddy Rincon, Leonel Alvarez and Faustino Asprilla and had topped their qualifying group en-route to the USA, even rounding things off with a storming 5-0 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires. They were expected to do well, but in the tournament itself the Colombians didn't get off to a good start and were beaten 3-1 by Romania.


The South Americans were hoping to turn things around in the second game against the host nation. However, the US went ahead after half an hour when Escobar, attempting to cut out a pass, scored an own goal. Shortly after half time, Colombia were two down and despite a late consolation, a country's World Cup dreams were over. However, the story was far from over as less than a week later Escobar was tragically murdered, believed to be punishment from a drug cartel who had lost millions gambling on Colombia's progression.


Despite invitations to visit family in Las Vegas, Escobar had chosen to return to Colombia immediately and six days after the elimination was fatally shot in a car park in his home city of Medellin. After meeting with friends, Escobar was alone in his car in the early hours of the morning when he was approached by four men. An argument ensued and two of the would-be attackers revealed handguns. The footballer was then shot six times by one of the men, who allegedly shouted 'Gol!' after each round. The group fled and Escobar was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.


The same night Humberto Castro Munoz was arrested for the crime. A bodyguard for members of a powerful drug cartel, Munoz admitted to the murder and was sentenced to 43 years in prison. However, his sentence was reduced to 26 years in 2001 and he was released in 2005 after 'good behaviour' having served just 11 years.

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