The World Cup brings us moments of high drama, creative play and spectacular goals but over the years there has been more than a fair share of comedy too. Some of it has been intentional while other players and coaches inadvertently have had us laughing at their expense.
Here are some of the funniest moments since the World Cup began way back in 1930:
Jimmy Greaves turns dog catcher – 1962
The intrusion of animals onto the field of play is a rare sight in world cup finals and one that is usually restricted to non league football. However, in 1962 in Chile, a canine invader held play up for a consider time before England striker Jimmy Greaves came down to its level.
England had drawn eventual winners Brazil in the quarter finals of the tournament and the South Americans dominated the game – securing a 3-1 victory. There was little for English players to smile about but when a dog entered the pitch, it tried to act as a supporting attacker for the Brazilians.
Play was stopped as the hound got too close to the action and the first player to attempt to stop it was England keeper Ron Springett. The mutt proved a little elusive however and after it continued to evade several challenges, Greaves’ novel solution was to get on all fours and make direct eye contact.
The plan worked but England must have wished for an equally effective system against their opponents. As a postscript and according to an unverified story, Brazil’s two goal hero Garrincha was so taken with the dog that he kept it as a pet.
Josip Simunic gets three yellow cards – 2006
Since their formation, Croatia have provided some of the most talented footballers in the game but their performance at the 2006 World Cup in Germany was a disappointing one. The Croatians may have had Brazil in their section, but they were fully expected to progress from a group that also contained Australia and Japan.
After taking just one point from their first two matches, Croatia needed a decisive win over the Aussies to go through but what followed was a bad tempered affair that referee Graham Poll struggled to keep under control. After 81 minutes, the English official had already sent off two players – one from each side – before Croatian centre half Josip Simunic committed a bookable offence. Poll reached for a yellow but made a grave error as the defender had already gone into the ref’s book.
He escaped only temporarily as, deep into injury time, Simunic transgressed again and received his third yellow card and finally, a red to go with it. The match finished in a 2-2 draw that saw Croatia eliminated while Poll’s error meant that he played no further part in the tournament.
Diana Ross’ penalty – 1994
Perhaps the most amusing World Cup incident of all time didn’t actually come from one of its playing participants. In 1994, the tournament headed to the USA whose opening ceremony provided us with some traditional, over the top razzmatazz.
As a conclusion to the spectacle, world renowned singer Diana Ross was to take a soft penalty in front of a set of collapsible posts. Ross took an unnecessarily long run up and from a distance of just a few feet, proceeded to hook the ball to the left – no matter, the posts collapsed in two and kept their part of the deal. It was a horrific miss but perhaps it was no worse than some of England’s efforts in penalty shoot outs of the past 24 years.
Rivaldo’s Fake Injury 2002
Brazil won the World Cup in 2002 but their path to the final wasn’t without its controversy. The squad also returned some pretty dour performances that were by no means typical of the great Brazilian sides of the past and their opening match against Turkey was particularly forgettable – at least as far as the football was concerned.
Brazil were hot favourites to win the match but were making hard work of the tie and with just five minutes left on the clock, the teams were locked at 1-1. The Brazilians then won a controversial penalty which Barcelona’s Rivaldo duly despatched.
Even at 2-1 with two minutes to go, Brazil were far from comfortable and deep into injury time, the same player began to waste time over a corner. Incensed by his actions, Turkish defender Hakan Unsal kicked the stray ball towards Rivaldo, hitting him on the leg. The midfielder collapsed but comically, he clutched at his face which was some distance from the ball.
In a World Cup that was marred by poor refereeing, the officials sent Unsal off leaving Rivaldo to face a paltry retrospective punishment of a £1,000 fine.
Scottish false hope – 1978
There’s nothing particularly funny about a team losing but the bravado that accompanied Scotland’s 1978 World Cup campaign in Argentina had really set them up for a fall. The boasting inside the UK was amplified because England had failed to qualify for the second tournament in a row as the Scots took their place – seemingly, the balance of power in British football had shifted.
Scotland were accompanied by a World Cup song – Ally’s Tartan Army – which includes the immortal line, ‘and we’ll really shake them up when we win the World Cup’. A harmless lyric perhaps but it transpired that many actually believed it.
In their opening group 4 match against Peru, it looked as if the hype may be justified as Joe Jordan put the Scots into an early lead but their opponents were a strong side in familiar South American conditions. Two goals from Teófilo Cubillas sealed a 3-1 win and it was fully deserved.
This was a setback but the result wasn’t terminal for the Tartan Army who would now face lowly Iran. Unfortunately for the travelling Scots, the outcome – a 1-1 draw against one of the weaker teams in World football – was even more humiliating.
Scotland only came to life in their final match which saw Ally MacLeod’s men record an impressive 3-2 win against the Dutch. The Scots had saved their best performance for last but it wasn’t enough as one of the most overhyped World Cup campaigns ever, ended in abject embarrassment.
Kuwait and the phantom whistle 1982
Kuwait were given little chance when they travelled to Spain in 1982 but they didn’t bank on the crowd being against them. Despite being the rank outsiders in group 4, the Kuwaitis actually started the tournament positively with an unexpected 1-1 draw against a strong Czech team who had taken the European Championships six years earlier.
The next game against France ended in a more predictable fashion however as a Michel Platini inspired display helped the eventual semi finalists to secure a comfortable 4-1 win. Kuwait were up against one of the strongest teams in Europe but their cause wasn’t helped when, at 3-1 down, a phantom whistle looked to have helped France to seal the match.
With ten minutes remaining, Platini put Alain Giresse through on goal but the Kuwaiti defence stopped as they heard a whistle. The French midfielder continued but believing that the referee had blown for offside, Giresse was unchallenged as he fired a fourth goal past the keeper.
Chaos ensued as the Kuwait players surrounded the official but it became evident that the whistle, which was clearly audible on TV replays, must have come from the crowd. Under the laws of the game the goal had to stand but nothing could placate the Kuwaitis who left the field under the instruction of Prince Fahd Al-Ahmed Al-Jabar, the president of the national FA.
Incredibly, Ukrainian referee Miroslav Stupar buckled under pressure and ruled the goal out. It was an incorrect decision but perhaps it was the only way diffuse the tension and get the match to restart.
Zaire defend a free kick – 1974
Zaire were unexpected qualifiers for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany and after a creditable 2-0 defeat in their opening game against Scotland, it all went wrong in their second match which ended with a 9-0 thumping at the hands of Yugoslavia.
Their campaign was already over when they lined up for the final fixture against reigning champions Brazil but Zaire were still to provide us with one of the most memorable and comical moments of any tournament.
The Brazilians lined up to take a free kick but as they waited for the referee’s whistle, Mwepu Ilunga burst out of the defensive wall and hoofed the ball upfield, receiving a yellow card for his trouble. Ilunga had produced one of the most hilarious footballing moments ever but later he claimed that there was a serious side to his actions.
“I did that deliberately,” he said.
“I was aware of football regulations. I did not have a reason to continue getting injured while those who will benefit financially were sitting on the terraces watching.”
Zaire went down by three goals to nil and finished their campaign with three straight defeats and no goals scored. On the footballing front, it had been a forgettable World Cup for a team who have failed to qualify ever since but the unorthodox defensive approach of Mwepu Ilunga means that Zaire will never be forgotten.
Ramon Quiroga’s booking – 1978
Nobody quite does crazy goalkeepers like the South Americans but Peru’s Quiroga was arguably the maddest of them all. The fact that he would receive a booking in any game would surprise nobody but the comedy element to this incident sees the stopper pick up a yellow card in the opposition half, some 70 yards from his own goal line.
Peru took a strong side to the 1978 tournament in Argentina and when they met Poland in the second round, both teams had hopes of progressing further. The game itself was a largely unremarkable 1-0 victory to the Poles but Quiroga’s antics lifted the tie.
Having charged out of goal to break up a previous Polish attack, Peru looked exposed when Lato broke free but out of TV shot, Quiroga appeared from nowhere and rugby tackled the forward to the ground. Peru were out of the World Cup but their keeper had left a lasting impression on the tournament.
Benjamin Massing takes on Argentina – 1990
When Argentina’s squad arrived at the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy they were the defending champions and having taken two World titles in their last three attempts, the South Americans were expected to do well.
At that stage, African football had enjoyed little impact in the tournament but that all changed as Cameroon shocked the holders in the opening tie. A 1-0 victory, secured by a François Omam-Biyik header stunned the football world but it doesn’t quite tell the full story of the match.
Coming forward, Cameroon were highly entertaining with pace and skill but their attitude to defending could generously be described as ‘uncompromising’. Cameroon had already picked up three yellow cards by the time that André Kana-Biyik received a straight red for a foul on Claudio Caniggia.
With just two minutes to go, Cameroon had pushed too many people forward when they should have been protecting their lead and as Caniggia broke clear, he somehow escaped one cynical effort to bring him down before Massing made no attempt to get the ball. He took down the man, lost his boot in the process and as the Argentinian lay writhing on the floor, a day of high drama ended in a comical farce.
2014 in Brazil should prove to be one of the best tournaments ever. There will be goals, sendings off and some high drama all at the same time. The tension at the World Cup finals is almost unbearable for fans and spectators alike but let us hope that we get some more comedic moments such as this that will help to lighten the drama.