USA players and fans were outraged after Malian referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed a late Maurice Edu goal, denying their team a famous World Cup victory against Slovenia
Replays have failed to show what offense Coulibaly saw as Landon Donovan’s free-kick found Edu free in the Slovenian penalty area.
The goal would have completed a magnificent comeback by Bob Bradley’s men, who were down 2-0 at halftime but finished the match with a 2-2 draw.
It was an awful decision by the Malian, but is by no means the worst in World Cup history.
We present our top 10 worst World Cup refereeing decisions of all-time.
It might not have happened at the World Cup itself, but a Thierry Henry handball missed by Swedish referee Martin Hansson is one of the most controversial refereeing decisions in recent memory.
In the tense second leg of a play-off for the 2010 World Cup, Ireland had pulled back France’s 1-0 lead from the opening leg with a Robbie Keane goal.
The game went into extra-time and seemed to be heading for a decisive penalty shoot-out when Henry twice controlled a pass with his hands before crossing for William Gallas to finish.
The Irish players protested furiously, but Hansson allowed the goal to stand, ending Ireland's World Cup dreams.
One of the pre-tournament favorites, Brazil got off to a very slow start in their opening game against Spain in the 1986 World Cup.
With the score at 0-0, Spanish midfielder Michel appear to have scored with a shot from distance, but the referee bizarrely concluded that the ball hadn’t crossed the goal line.
Brazil went on to win the match with a Socrates goal in the second half.
Possibly the funniest of all the bad referring decisions was committed by highly regarded English referee Graham Poll.
Officiating an exciting 2-2 draw between Croatia and Australia at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Poll showed Croatian defender Josip Simunic a yellow card in the 90th minute.
What Poll failed to realize was that the player had already been booked earlier in the half and should have received a red card for two bookable offenses.
Watching the disbelieving Simunic realize that Poll hadn’t sent him off and not really being sure what to do about it is one of the highlights of the tournament.
As Poll blew the final whistle, an angry Simunic pushed the referee, who showed the player his third yellow card and finally sent him off.
The referee was devastated when he discovered his error after the game, and he was not permitted to referee another game at the tournament.
He later explained that when booking Simunic the first time he had mistakenly written down the Croatian’s number in the column for Australian players.
It is perhaps fitting that the 1990 World Cup, dominated by negative tactics and gamesmanship, should be decided by controversial refereeing decisions.
The final between West Germany and Argentina appeared to be heading for extra-time when West German striker Rudi Voller fell over in the Argentinean penalty area.
The referee was duped by a fine piece of Teutonic trickery and awarded the penalty, which Andreas Brehme coolly converted, sealing his country’s third World Cup victory.
Group 3 of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina began with a match between Brazil and Sweden.
The game appeared to be heading for a 1-1 draw when Brazil won a corner in injury time.
Brazil thought they had earned a dramatic winner when the ball was sent into box and headed home by Zico.
However, the goal was disallowed by Welsh referee Clive Thomas, who had blown the full-time whistle as the ball was in the air.
Thomas was a controversial figure, known as “The Book” for his strict interpretation of soccer’s laws. He has never conceded that his oddly timed final whistle may have been a mistake.
South Korea’s progress to the quarterfinal of the 2002 World Cup it was co-hosting with Japan had been aided by some debatable refereeing decisions in games against Italy and Portugal.
But Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour and his assistants proved themselves to be the biggers homers yet.
An excellent Spain side totally dominated the hard-working Koreans and thought it had taken the lead when South Korea’s Kim Tae Young knocked a Spanish free-kick into his own net.
To the disbelief of the Spanish players, Ghandour disallowed the goal, judging that Spain’s Ivan Helguera had fouled the unfortunate Korean player.
That was not the worst of it.
As the scoreless game went into extra time, Spain striker Fernando Morientes headed in a Joaquin cross from the byline. However, the assistant referee flagged for a goal-kick, having decided that the ball went out of play before swinging back in.
Replays proved he was wrong, but the game finished 0-0 and a seething Spain lost the game on penalties.
Just to prove that bad refereeing decisions are as old as the World Cup itself, here’s one from from the very first tournament in 1930.
After opening the inaugural World Cup with a win over Mexico, France played Argentina in its next group match.
After falling behind to a Luisito Monti goal, France pressed for an equalizer with time running out.
With six minutes remaining, France forward Michel Langiller ran clear on the Argentine goal and looked set to score.
But before he could strike, Brazilian referee Antonio Rego blew his whistle for full-time.
Argentinean fans invaded the pitch in celebration before Rego realized he had made a mistake and insisted on restarting the game for the final six minutes.
After finally clearing the pitch of supporters, the game was finished but a devastated France did not get an equalizer.
The team lost its next match against Chile and was eliminated as Argentina qualified for the semifinals.
Actually, this is a bit harsh concerning Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst, as the big blunder in the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany was made by his assistant Tofik Bakramov.
With the game in extra-time following a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes, England striker Geoff Hurst crashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar.
The ball bounced on the line and Bakramov concluded it crossed the goal line.
England went on to win the game, 4-2, with Hurst completing the first ever World Cup final hat-trick.
Since then controversy has surrounded the goal and the debate over whether the ball actually crossed the line or not. Television replays seem to conclude it did not.
Perhaps the most famous refereeing decision in World Cup history belongs to Tunisian Ali Bin Nasser.
Argentina’s 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match with England was delicately poised at 0-0.
Early in the second half, Argentina’s star player Diego Maradona chased down a poor back pass by England midfielder Steve Hodge.
With the ball in the air just inside the England penalty area, 6’1” goalkeeper Peter Shilton seemed the favorite to collect the ball.
But unbelievably, the diminutive Maradona appeared to beat the goalkeeper’s outstretched arm and head Argentina into the lead.
At least that’s what the referee saw.
Shilton and other England players protested that Maradona had used his hand, but Nasser waved them away and awarded the goal.
Replays later showed that Maradona had indeed punched the ball, but when questioned about it the player said that the goal “was a little of the head of Maradona, a little of the hand of God”.
This refereeing decision, or rather non-decision, is at the top of our list not because it had a direct effect on the result of the match, but because Dutch referee Charles Corver failed to see the World Cup’s worst foul ever.
With the score level at 1-1 in a thrilling semifinal match between bitter rivals France and West Germany, France’s Patrick Battiston raced clear on the German goal.
As West German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher advanced from his penalty area, Battiston neatly flicked the ball over his head.
As he moved to run around the goalkeeper, Schumacher simply jumped straight into the Frenchman.
The ball rolled wide of the post and Corver, seeing no foul, awarded a goal-kick.
Meanwhile, Battiston had collapsed on the ground, Schumacher’s assault having knocked him unconscious.
Play was held up for several minutes as emergency teams gave Battiston oxygen before carrying him off on a stretcher.
After slipping in to a coma Battiston soon recovered, but had damaged vertebrae and lost three teeth.
West Germany went on reach the World Cup final after beating France on penalties.