Moments that stunned everyone

The Football World Cup is like no other sporting exhibition on the planet. The thrills and spills of the quadrennial event does serve its share of the mundane but the shock value of the tournament leaves everybody wanting for more. 

From Italy’s fascist regime using the tournament to trumpet their system, to French players openly resorting to anarchy against coach Raymond Domenech in 2010, the Finals has offered some fascinating stories. Here are six of the more stunning ones. 

USA: 1 bt England: 0

* Every World Cup has its own tales of shocks. 

United States, coming into the 1950 World Cup match against England, had, among other players, a hearse driver, a dishwasher and a mail carrier, in their roster. But they only went and beat the country that invented the game. 

England even had the gall to rest Sir Stanley Mathews so that he could be fit and firing against Spain. But they were outdone by a Joe Gaetjens goal in the first-half.

And as far as apocryphal stories go, almost nothing can beat this: "Some of the newspapers across the world thought the stadium telegraph operator made a mistake and that England actually won 10-1."

Andres Escobar's death

* Pele had put his money on them to win the 1994 World Cup. They had humiliated Argentina 5-0 in their own backyard just two years ago.

Drug money and football were making a heady success story. The neutrals were in love with the Colombian team – and not just for Carlos Valderrama's magical hair-do.

But tragedy struck - first, on the pitch as they departed United States without qualifying from the group stages.

Then, a few days after their elimination came the news that one of their defenders, Andres Escobar, who had scored an own-goal against USA, was shot dead by the very society that created him in the first place.

Ronaldo's mystery illness 

* Not many know what really happened to Brazil's Ronaldo on the evening of their match against France in the 1998 final. 

The facts say that Mario Zagallo's first team sheet didn't have Ronaldo in the starting line-up and that the precociously talented star suffered seizures on the morning of the match and had to be taken to the hospital.

Ronaldo was reinstated to the starting line-up but was ineffective and sleepwalked through the match. One can only play word bingo on what conspiracy theory to believe. 

Miracle of Bern (West Germany: 3 bt Hungary: 2)

* There was a reason why Hungary were the favourites to win the 1954 WCF. They were unbeaten in four years. Led by the magical Ferenc Puskas, the Mighty Magyars were redefining the art of football.

What's more – Hungary had beaten the same team 8-3 two weeks ago. Hungary scored twice in the first 10 minutes but they didn't know that West Germany were eighty minutes away from winning the Cup. 

Mussolini's black shirts 

* That sport has been used at the centre of many a conflict doesn't really come as a surprise. Fascists and Nazis have openly used sport as a tool of propaganda. 

While Italy did win the WC in home in 1934, 1938 in France offered an opportunity to parade the regime's triumph through sport.

Historians have described the anti-Fascist demonstrations as the tournament's Mexican wave. The Azzurris, dressed in all-black, even performed the Fascist salute before their quarterfinal against France. 

Maradona’s Hand Of God 

* Just four minutes separated Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand Of God’ goal and his ‘Goal Of The Century’ against England in the quarterfinals of the 1986 WC.  While his second goal, when he left everything non-Argentine flat on the deck like a carpet, was sheer genius, it was the first which brough him unnecessary limelight. 

Receiving a cross from the right, the stocky built Maradona jumped with keeper Peter Shilton, before, acting with impudence, raising his arm to score past Shilton.

The referee didn’t see. Shilton and the English players saw but that didn’t count. Given that the Falklands War had raged just four years previously, El Diego had established himself as the pantomime and hero at the same time. 

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