Harald Schumacher & the 10 Most Violent World Cup Incidents

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2014

Harald Schumacher & the 10 Most Violent World Cup Incidents

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    Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

    The 2014 FIFA World Cup is just weeks away, and football's top international sides are now in the midst of preparations for the summer tournament in Brazil.

    Previous World Cups have brought some of the best football ever seen. But, for every glorious moment, there have been downsides—with some individuals and teams so desperate for success that they got carried away and made some ugly challenges.

    One of the most notable examples of reckless violence is the case of West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher flying into France's Patrick Battiston in the 1982 semi-final, an event that left the defender comatose.

    Schumacher's challenge was, sadly, no anomaly, and B/R has compiled a countdown of the Top 10 most violent incidents in World Cup history. Selections were made on the balance between damage caused, recklessness and intent to do physical harm.

    Click "Begin Slideshow" to start the countdown.

10) Jose Batista on Gordon Strachan, 1986

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    When Uruguay took on Scotland in the 1986 World Cup group stage, it didn't take long for the horrible challenges to fly in. In fact, Jose Batista made a nightmarish tackle on Gordon Strachan within the opening minute.

    After about 37 seconds of tame, ordinary football, Strachan touched on a throw-in, and Batista lunged at him from the side with both feet. The ball was long gone by the time of the players' contact, and Batista caught Strachan high on the ankle.

    Although early in the game, referee Joel Quiniou made no hesitation in sending off Batista. To this day, the player insists he is innocent, telling FourFourTwo that "the referee overreacted."

    Uruguay held on for a draw and advanced to the knockout rounds, but without Batista in their ranks were defeated by Argentina in the last 16.

9) Nigel de Jong on Xabi Alonso, 2010

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    Known as a hard-nosed and often rash player, Nigel de Jong's lived up to his reputation in the 2010 World Cup final.

    With just under 28 minutes gone in a spirited and physical encounter, De Jong and Alonso contested for a ball in the air. The Spaniard led with his head and won the ball, the Dutchman led with his leg and caught Alonso squarely in the chest with his studs.

    In fairness to De Jong, his eyes were always on the ball and the collision appeared to be unintentional. That perhaps saved him a sending-off; he only was shown a yellow card. But it was an extremely reckless challenge, one that coined the verb to "De Jong."

8) Joao Pinto on Park Ji-Sung, 2002

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    Entering the last match of the 2002 World Cup group stage, Portugal desperately needed a win over South Korea in order to progress. Attacking midfielder Joao Pinto didn't do his team any favors by getting sent off in the 27th minute.

    Although there were many dubious decisions than went the co-hosts' way in 2002, Angel Sanchez's action to dismiss Pinto was not one of them. The Portuguese midfielder committed early to a very reckless challenge, leading with both legs. As Pinto leaped through the air, Park won the ball and turned. Pinto hit Park in the back of the knee and scissored his leg before he landed on the Korean's foot.

    It was miraculous that Park avoided a knee or ankle injury. He'd go on to have the last laugh, scoring the only goal of the match in the 70th minute, simultaneously confirming South Korea's first-place finish in Group D and eliminating the Portuguese.

7) Joao Morais on Pele, 1966

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    Pele was 25 years of age during the 1966 World Cup and at the top of his game. The natural response from opponents was to do everything possible to take him out of the game. So when Portugal came up against Brazil, Joao Morais hacked the superstar twice in rapid succession.

    This video shows a detailed account of how opponents attacked Pele throughout the 1966 World Cup, with Morais' tackle showcased at 1:03. The Portuguese's initial challenge did enough damage in itself, but he added another a moment later for good measure.

    Somehow, Morais was not sent off and Pele was able to continue the match. However, the Santos legend was visibly hurt and only used his right foot to run. Brazil would go on to be eliminated in the group stage.

6) Benjamin Massing on Claudio Caniggia, 1990

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    There is almost always some appeal in rooting for underdogs, but the 1990 Cameroon team didn't make it easy for neutrals to give them their support. To call them "physical" would be soft; the word "brutal" is more applicable. A case in point was Benjamin Massing's bone-jarring challenge on Argentina's Claudio Caniggia in the group stage.

    Caniggia had already skipped past two defenders, but Massing was determined not to be the third beaten by the galloping Argentine, fairly or unfairly. Caniggia was first to the ball and poked it forward, but Massing lunged into his path, treading on his foot and simultaneously body-checking his opponent.

    Suffice to say, Caniggia was floored and Massing sent off. Curiously, the Cameroonian, who had been booked previously, was shown a second yellow card for what surely was sufficient to earn a dismissal regardless of any prior infractions.

    Despite being down to nine men by full-time, Cameroon would go on to beat Argentina. But it was the South American side that would be the greater success in the tournament, advancing to the final where they lost to West Germany.

5) Zinedine Zidane on Marco Materazzi, 2006

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    The most infamous headbutt in world football history came in the 2006 World Cup final, when in a moment of madness, Zinedine Zidane assaulted Marco Materazzi.

    Italy and France were deadlocked at 1-1 in extra time and heading for penalties. And indeed it did, but the French had to manage without their captain and player of the tournament, after the midfielder was sent off for a cold, deliberate and vicious headbutt to his opponent's sternum.

    Exactly what Materazzi said to prompt Zidane's headbutt will never be known, but the incident was to be the Real Madrid legend's last action as a professional footballer.

4) Leonardo on Tab Ramos, 1994

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    Many of the incidents on this list were challenges for the ball, or at least could be interpreted as such. One that absolutely, by no stretch of the imagination, cannot be misconstrued as an attempt to win the ball is Leonardo's elbow of Tab Ramos in the 1994 World Cup.

    After backheeling the ball off his opponent, Ramos locked arms with Leonardo. The Brazilian didn't take kindly to being pulled back and was deserving of a free-kick, but reacted in a foolish and violent way—sharply elbowing Ramos in the face.

    The incident resulted in Leonardo's dismissal and a four-match suspension, but also took Ramos out of the match. The Uruguay-born midfielder sustained a fractured skull and was hospitalized for weeks. He wouldn't return to the football pitch until 1995.

3) Muhamed Mejic on Eduard Dubinski, 1962

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    It's rare that a tackle can be said to have directly contributed to the death of a footballer, but in the case of Muhamed Mujic's challenge on Eduard Dubinski, a case can be made.

    In the group stage of the 1962 World Cup, Mujic's Yugoslavia met Dubinski's USSR. The Bosnian tackled his Russian counterpart with a crunching challenge that was overlooked by the referee, despite Dubinski carted off the field with a broken leg.

    Mujic would later be suspended by the Yugoslav football federation and would never again represent his national team. But his fate paled in comparison to that of Dubinski, who, in part due to the injury, developed a rare form of cancer (sarcoma) and died seven years later at the age of 34.

2) Harald Schumacher on Patrick Battiston, 1982

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    As far as specific incidents of violence are concerned, it's hard to look past Harald Scumacher's assault on Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup semifinal between West Germany and France.

    The semi-final was an especially memorable match for a number of reasons, perhaps the greatest of which, sadly, was Battiston's body being mangled as though he'd been in a car accident. The pair raced for a ball from opposite directions, with the Frenchman being first to make contact. Schumacher hurled himself into his opponent, leaping into the defender's face.

    The resulting trauma was utterly devastating: Battiston lost three teeth, damaged his spine and was rendered comatose. He was motionless as he was stretchered off the pitch.

    Referee Charles Corver was extremely lenient towards Schumacher, completely ignoring the player's infraction and signalling for a goal kick after the ball had gone out of play. West Germany would go on to come back from a two-goal deficit to equalize in extra time before Schumacher saved two penalties in the resulting shootout.

    After the match, Schumacher had (via The Guardian) this to say to Battiston: "I'll pay his dentist's bill."

1) The Battle of Santiago

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    Chile and Italy's encounter at the 1962 World Cup will forever be remembered as the "Battle of Santiago."

    Whereas other incidents on this list were singular instances of violent play, some more intentional than others, this encounter some 52 years ago was more or less a continual brawl with the occasional moments of football.

    It took just five minutes for the first scuffle to break out, which featured several incidents that, had they occurred in today's game, would have merited dismissals.

    Play continued and the first red card came in the 12th minute, when Giorgio Ferrini kicked Honorino Landa with no attempt made to play the ball. The Italian midfielder refused to leave and was escorted off by police. No shrinking violet himself, Landa later responded with a punch but was allowed to continue.

    Later on, Italy defender Mauro David repeatedly kicked Leonel Sanchez to concede a free-kick, to which the Chilean responded with a direct punch to the face. Neither player was sent off, but David would soon be given his marching orders for a kung-fu kick to Sanchez's neck and face.

    Sanchez recovered enough to punch Humberto Maschio in the face, breaking his opponent's nose without being penalized.

    Police had to intervene on several occasions throughout the match, which BBC commentator David Coleman described at the time as "the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game." It remains so to this day.