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The Most Vicious Moments in World Cup History

Sometimes the beautiful game can get insanely ugly.

There are those who think of the World Cup as the sports version of a Marvel summer blockbuster: Consider the super-powered stars, colorful costumes, nick of time heroics and, of course, plenty of villainous activity. Well beyond run-of-the-mill red-card behavior, there are a select, highly egregious moments which live on in the soccer hall of infamy. See for yourself.

BATTLE OF SANTIAGO, 1962 Haynes Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images BATTLE OF SANTIAGO, 1962 Thanks to increasingly inflammatory comments by each country’s journalists, tensions were already running high in the lead-up to the match between Italy and host-nation Chile at Estadio Nacional in Santiago. The first foul was committed just 12 seconds into the match by Italy’s Giorgio Ferrini, setting the tone for what is regarded by many as the single filthiest match in World Cup history. The 90 unruly minutes were marked by punches, vicious tackles, intentional injuries, two ejections, and on-pitch police intervention. Oh, and Chile won 2-0. TRAGEDY OF SEVILLE, 1982 AFP/Getty Images TRAGEDY OF SEVILLE, 1982 One of the all-time most violent World Cup fouls occurred in the 1982 semi-finals in Seville, Spain. With France’s Patrick Battiston on a breakaway, West German keeper Toni Schumacher charged from net and launched himself into the Frenchman with aggressive abandon—and knocked him out cold. Battiston was carried off on a stretcher, and ended up in a coma with a cracked vertebrae. To add insult to injury, no foul was called, Schumacher remained in the game, and the West Germans went on to win on penalties. SPITTING IMAGE, 1990 Getty Images SPITTING IMAGE, 1990 Things got a bit, well, let's be kind and call it "unsavory" between fierce foes West Germany and Netherlands in 1990 when Dutch midfielder, Frank Rijkaard (left) spat in the hair of Rudi Voller after the pair were sent off for an earlier tangle. West Germany ultimately prevailed 2-1 to land a spot in the quarter-finals.

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LEONARDO'S ELBOW, 1994 Bob Thomas/Getty Images LEONARDO'S ELBOW, 1994 He may have been one of Brazil’s most skilled and graceful players, but it's hard not to remember Leonardo more for the brutal, bone-rattling elbow he threw to the head of USA's Tab Ramos in a 1994 group match at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California. The blow resulted in a red card (and a whopping four game suspension) for the Brazilian—and a fractured skull for Ramos. TRAGIC MISTAKE, 1994 ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images TRAGIC MISTAKE, 1994 None of the 93,000 fans in the Rose Bowl, or those watching around the world on June 22, 1994 could have possibly known how tragic Andrés Escobar's error really was. The Colombian defender’s own goal ended up being the difference in a 2-1 loss to USA and resulted in the nation’s early exit from the tournament. Days later, the ramifications tragically turned from the unfortunate to the unthinkable, as the 27-year-old was shot and killed in cold blood upon his return to South America. ROONEY'S STOMP, 2006 Alex Livesey/Getty Images ROONEY'S STOMP, 2006 Zidane's head-butt in the 2006 World Cup final may have earned more instant replays, but England forward Wayne Rooney's purposeful, Neanderthal-ish stomp on the groin of Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho a few rounds earlier was just as ruthless—and far more wince-inducing. The 20-year-old was immediately red-carded and sent off in the 62nd minute — just 11 minutes after teammate David Beckham was taken off with an injury. Portugal would go on to eliminate England on penalties. BATTLE OF NUREMBERG, 2006 NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images BATTLE OF NUREMBERG, 2006 It's hard to single-out one moment as the "most vicious" in Portugal's 1-0 win over Netherlands in 2006 — but only because there were so many. Brutal tackles? Check. Headbutts? Check. Wrestling? Check. Injuries? Check. Check. Check. When all was said and done, four players were red-carded and sent off and an astonishing 16 yellow cards were dolled out during the carnage at Nuremberg stadium — the most in any match in World Cup history. ZIDANE'S HEADBUTT, 2006 JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images ZIDANE'S HEADBUTT, 2006 France's Zinedine Zidane will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, but his career will forever be marred by his actions in the 2006 final against Italy when, late in the match, with the game tied-up, he responded to an insult by Marco Materazzi with the quick and slightly crazy headbutt seen 'round the world. Zidane was red-carded and sent off while the crowd tried to make sense of what had happened; Materazzi picked himself up and, later, went on to convert a penalty kick en route to Italy's fifth World Cup title. ORANGE BELT, 2010 Mike Hewitt - FIFA via Getty Images ORANGE BELT, 2010 Normally, a player would immediately see a red card after a leaping, cleats-up, kung-fu-style kick to an opponent‘s torso. Referee Howard Webb disagreed, punishing Nigel De Jong (right) with only a yellow card for his violent "tackle" of Xabi Alonso in the first half of Spain's 2010 victory over Netherlands in the World Cup final in South Africa. SUAREZ'S BITE, 2014 Matthias Hangst/Getty Images SUAREZ'S BITE, 2014 A year prior to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Luis Suarez earned a four-month suspension from all football-related activity after the then-Liverpool striker bit the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during a Premier League match. But the Mike Tyson-style chomping didn't stop there. In Uruguay's group stage match against Italy, Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini, causing a chaotic scene on the pitch, and massive penalty off it: Suarez was banned for nine international matches, which ruleD him out of the rest of the tournament.



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