Mwepu Ilunga’s reverse free kick (1974)
During a Group 2 game against Brazil, Zaire defender Mwepu Ilunga decided to take matters into his own hands on defense during a free kick. Ilunga, part of Zaire’s wall, took off in a sprint and blasted the ball away before the free kick was taken, confusing both the players and spectators alike. The move earned him a yellow card, though Ilunga later stated that he had hoped to earn a red card in protest of the team’s players not being paid.
Andrés Escobar’s an own goal (1994)
In a match against the United States, Andrés Escobar extended himself in an attempt to deflect a pass from John Harkes. Unfortunately, the ball was deflected past the Colombian goalie and into the back of the net. Sadly, this blooper turned absolutely tragic when Escobar, now the subject of several documentaries, was killed upon his return to Colombia. A bodyguard for members of a Colombian cartel, Humberto Castro Muñoz, was charged with Escobar’s murder.
Roberto Baggio’s penalty kick (1994)
Roberto Baggio is considered one of the greatest players of all time, but his famous penalty kick during the 1994 World Cup final against Brazil is a blemish on his career that few Italians have forgotten. Baggio aimed to place the ball in the direct center of the goal, knowing Taffarel would dive in one direction or the other. Taffarel dove, but Baggio’s shot sailed way over the crossbar, costing Italy the cup.
Rene Higuita vs. Roger Milla (1990)
Known for his showmanship and risky style of play, Colombian goalie Rene “El Loco” Higuita was stripped of the ball 35 yards from his own goal by Roger Milla during a World Cup match against Cameroon. Milla left “El Loco” in the dust and scored on an open goal. For those wondering what Higuita was doing so far from his goal, well, that was one of his trademarks.
Diana Ross’s penalty kick (1994)
Less heartbreaking than the other moments on this list, Diana Ross performed during the 1994 World Cup opening ceremony in Chicago. The performance was meant to be completed with a penalty shot at a makeshift goal, which would split in two as the ball ripped into the back of the net. She missed the shot. The goal still split in two, making it all the more awkward.
Rivaldo’s high drama (2002)
Players are known for taking dives and putting on performances worthy of Academy Awards during the World Cup. Rivaldo made sure no one would forget his. Upon being struck in the knee by a soccer ball kicked in his direction by Turkish player Hakan Unsal, Rivaldo gripped his face, threw himself to the ground with force, and began writhing “in pain.” The Oscar-worthy acting performance earned Unsal a red card. “It doesn’t matter where the ball hit me. It was the intent that mattered,” said Rivaldo.
Josip Simunic’s third yellow (2006)
Typically, two yellow cards warrant a red card, upon which a player is removed from the game. Graham Poll, the officiating referee during a 2006 World Cup match between Croatia and Australia, forgot about this rule. Poll penalized Josip Simunic with two yellow cards, but for some reason allowed the Croatian player to continue. It was only after a third yellow that Poll pulled out the red as well, sending the player off the field.
Jimmy Greaves’ new friend (1962)
During a 1962 match between Brazil and England, a stray dog ran onto the field. The dog evaded every player’s attempt to catch it until Greaves was able to do so by getting down on his knees and calling the dog over. He was rewarded for his valiant efforts with dog urine all over his jersey. England lost the match, too.
Yakubu’s one-in-a-million miss (2010)
Nigerian striker Yakubu had a chance at an open goal during a 2010 World Cup match against South Korea. Mere yards away from the goal, he received a pass (which the goalie unsuccessfully attempted to stop) and was left with an open net in front of him. His foot met the ball, which veered just left of the goalpost. Yakubu redeemed himself by scoring on a penalty kick later in the game, but the final score of 2-2 was not enough for Nigeria to advance past the group stages.
Robert Green’s fumble (2010)
Robert Green was selected last minute as England’s goalkeeper for the 2010 World Cup opening match against the United States. In the 40th minute, American Clint Dempsey fired off an on-goal shot, which appeared a relatively straightforward stop for Green. But the ball bounced in and out of his hands, rolling into the goal. All he could do was watch. The match ended in a draw, and not long after, Green was dropped from the team.