Roberto Baggio's skied penalty, Graham Poll's three-card trick in top World Cup bloopers

Roberto Baggio's skied penalty, Graham Poll's three-card trick in top World Cup bloopers
From ESPN - April 16, 2018

This article has been edited and originally appeared on ESPN FC on May 30, 2014.

The World Cup is home to the finest football has to offer, with the elite players on the planet playing on the very biggest stage. Sometimes, though, things go a little wrong.

Here are 10 of those moments.

10. Green lets it slip

It's almost eight years since the 2010 World Cup but Rob Green is haunted by England's first group game against the United States, in which he allowed Clint Dempsey's speculative effort to squirt from his grasp and into the goal, denying England a victory that would most likely have not made a jot of difference to their insipid performances in the rest of the tournament but might at least have added a gloss to head coach Fabio Capello's side. "You let your country down," sang fans up and down the country at Green thereafter, either unfamiliar with the notion that sometimes people make mistakes or just looking for a petty stick with which to beat an opponent. Possibly both. "It hit the outside of one of my thumbs," Green said after the incident. "Do that again 1,000 times and I will save 999."

9. Baggio's penalty

Roberto Baggio was the best player at the 1994 World Cup, dragging Italy to the final virtually on his own. Indeed, the Divine Ponytail had even impressed Madonna -- finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist as ever -- who selected him as the sexiest player at the tournament, suggesting she did not catch Ray Houghton in action for Ireland. It therefore verged on the tragic that Baggio not only missed a penalty against Brazil in the final but missed the crucial spot kick, ballooning the ball over the bar in a fashion that Chris Waddle would have blushed at, to hand the Brazilians the trophy. Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro also erred in that shootout for Italy, but Baggio's is the one that is remembered.

8. Security at Westminster Central Hall, London

Not all bloopers have to happen on the pitch, as shown by the eagle-eyed guards charged with keeping tabs on the Jules Rimet trophy while it was on display in London before the 1966 World Cup. Five guards were supposed to be on duty to keep the cup out of harm's way, but on a Sunday three months before the tournament, some enterprising thieves took advantage of a lax moment to swipe the trophy. A ransom was issued, the thief demanding 15,000 for its safe return, but the police operation to hand over the money went awry and it remained missing, with the nation looking under benches, behind bushes and down alleyways for the trophy. Until, that is, David Corbett and his dog, Pickles, found it underneath a neighbour's car a couple of days later. "I was suspect No. 1," Corbett told the Guardian in 2006. "They questioned me until 2:30 in the morning. I wondered if I should have chucked it back in the road. I was up at six the next day for work." Pickles would become something of a celebrity, sharing an agent with Spike Milligan for a spell and even attending, with his owner, the England squad's party after winning the tournament.

7. Rosas scores the first own-goal

The own goal is perhaps the purest blooper or blunder in football, going against, as it does, the very basic aim of the sport. There have been over 30 own goals in World Cup history -- some of them have been crucial, some footnotes, some funny, some tragic. The fastest was headed home by Paraguay's Carlos Gamarra to give England a 1-0 win in 2006. Ernie Brandts scored for both teams in Netherlands' 2-1 win over Italy in 1978, while, sadly, Colombia'sAndres Escobar's 1994 own goal led to tragedy. However, we must surely go right back to the beginning to truly reach the essence and the root of the World Cup own goal. Mexico's Manuel Rosas has held quite a few records, from being at 18 the youngest player to score in the World Cup (until that Pele chap came along), as well as being the first player to score a penalty at a tournament, but it is another first that wins him a place on this list. Rosas scored the very first own goal in World Cup history, in Mexico's second group game in 1930 against Chile, putting through his own net to help his opponents to a 3-0 victory. Some records, one imagines, players are OK with not having.

6. Poll gets his man -- three times

The beauty of the blooper is that it is not merely confined to those who play the game. Oh, no. Graham Poll is living evidence of this, providing a moment of amusement for all those "wronged" by his decisions down the years, as he handed out three yellow cards to Croatia's Josip Simunic in the 2006 group game against Australia. Poll said: "In the 89th minute, when I produced the yellow, I wrote down the right jersey number but the wrong name. I had inadvertently given the yellow to the Australian No. 3, Craig Moore. This is the first time something like this has happened to me in my 26-year-long career." That might be true, but once is probably enough for this sort of thing.


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