World Cup 2014: 5 'villains' blamed for England's premature World Cup exits

World Cup 2014: 5 'villains' blamed for England's premature World Cup exits
Uruguay's Luis Suarez is the latest in a long line of "villains" blamed for England's premature World Cup exits.

Arriving with much hype, beginning with much hope, leaving with much heartache: this vicious circle encapsulates the journey of England's football team at nearly every major tournament over the last 30 years.

Even as the country claims to be the home of football and boasts of an immensely-popular domestic league, the Three Lions can't quite get their act together on the international scene. The latest cohort booked an early flight home from Brazil after losing their opening two World Cup group matches against Italy and Uruguay.

And so begins another favourite pastime of English fans and media - finding a 'villain' to blame for a premature World Cup exit. Here's the top five scapegoats who earned the scorn from England's faithful.

1) Shoved by the "Hand of God"

The roots of the English World Cup 'curse' can be traced back to one of the most iconic moments of cheating in sport. Diego Maradona's left fist - rather than his glorious left foot - will always be credited with the opening goal in Argentina's 2-1 win at the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals in Mexico.

Continuing his run into the England penalty area after a trademark mazy dribble, the 1.65m Maradona beat goalkeeper Peter Shilton to Steve Hodge's looping clearance by deftly extending his arm to knuckle the ball into the net. Inexperienced Tunisian referee Ali Nasser and his linesman failed to spot the infringement and the goal stood. England midfield icon Glenn Hoddle chased the official back to the centre circle, but his protests were in vain.

There was no remorse from Maradona, who claimed it had been scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God".

2) "10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy"

David Beckham entered the 1998 World Cup as the rising star of English football. One of the world's most exciting wide midfielders at that time, the 23-year-old was also dating Spice Girl Victoria Adams, earning him envious looks from men and women alike.

But it all came crashing down with one petulant moment from the boot that had delivered countless set-piece beauties. The Manchester United player was sent off for a donkey kick on Argentina's Diego Simeone in retaliation for a crunching tackle. Simeone later admitted to feigning injury in order to get his famous opponent dismissed.

Still, after England eventually lost the Round of 16 clash in a penalty shoot-out, Beckham was vilified by the English press for his perceived naivety and petulance on the international stage. One newspaper headline described the England side as '10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy'.

United even had to assign a 24-hour security detail to Beckham the following season as he came under intense abuse from supporters at away grounds. During an away game at West Ham, a Beckham effigy was seen hanging from a noose - and not just because they hate Posh Spice's music.

3) The Wink

Wayne Rooney's dismissal in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Portugal was overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo's infamous wink, which was roundly condemned within the England camp as the pair were Manchester United teammates at the time.

A tussle ensued between the duo when Ronaldo harassed the referee to take stern action for Rooney's brazen stamp on Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho. As the red card was flashed, Ronaldo winked at his bench - a gesture that was beamed live to millions around the world.

Rooney later admitted that the subsequent backlash against the Portuguese phenomenon did him a favour as his rash action was largely overlooked by the football community, who hit out at Ronaldo for his 'betrayal' of a club-mate.

4) The Goal That Never Was

England were trailing 2-1 to arch-rivals Germany when Frank Lampard's 20m thunderbolt looped over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer during their Round of 16 tie in 2010. The ball crashed against the underside of the crossbar before bouncing over the goal-line.

Lampard and his team-mates turned away to celebrate but were left stunned as referee Jorge Larrionda was seen to laugh and shake his head before allowing play to continue. Instead of drawing level, the demoralised English went on to lose 4-1. Larrionda was later said to have gasped "Oh my God!" after seeing a replay of the incident, which showed the ball had clearly crossed the line.

Unsurprisingly, the English press hounds focused their fury on Larrionda, exposing his involvement in a corruption scandal that earned him a six-month ban from football back in 2002. The Uruguayan did not officiate in any major international matches after the Lampard debacle.

Larrionda, who would have been helped by today's goal-line technology, has never apologised for his decision not to award the goal.

5) Suarez Bites Back

Even Liverpudlians will have lost a little love for Luis Suarez after he bagged a devastating brace to lead Uruguay to a 2-1 win over the Three Lions, who were eliminated before their final group match for the first time.

Barely a month after undergoing knee surgery, Liverpool's No. 7 returned to inflict pain on his country of residence. Even as England stalwarts Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney failed to shine, Suarez bears the 'villain' tag for saying his goals were revenge against those who questioned his discipline and loyalty over the course of a turbulent but tantalising career.

 


This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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