Gary Neville_England

Bizarre World Cup Facts

When Gary Neville was photographed yesterday with tactics for England’s impending clash with Italy it’s unlikely they included “Eat Pizza”.

But during the 1962 World Cup Chile consumed produce associated with their opponents’ cultures in the forlorn hope it might be of some assistance. It certainly worked initially, securing wins over Switzerland and Italy having eaten cheese and spaghetti before those respective matches.

Even a few shots of vodka before a clash with Russia failed to stem their winning streak but, alas, an intake of coffee couldn’t help them get past Brazil in the semi-finals. Here’s some other bizarre World Cup facts, including a fake one – can you spot it?

• Long before the furore over Qatar’s award of the 2022 World Cup, Arab sheikhs were controversially involved in decision-making at the tournament. In 1982 Kuwait’s Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah was so irate at a goal conceded by his country against France that he threatened to withdraw them from the game unless the goal was overturned. It was, but they still went on to lose 4:1.

• It’s unlikely these days that a player would be so worried about facing Ireland that they could claim to be “sh*tting themselves”. However, in a 1990 group stage match England’s Gary Lineker did just that. He blamed a dodgy spaghetti bolognese rather than the prowess of an Ireland defence for his unfortunate accident in the final turd, sorry, third.

Unfortunately, in an era when fans for some reason threw toilet roll on the pitch, the striker had to make do with wiping himself on the wet surface. Lineker was later substituted for Steve Bull, but the Wolves striker had little time to make an impact. No Bullshit.

• While today’s stars take weeks to acclimatise to the conditions in Brazil, in earlier tournaments players just turned up and did their own thing with little regard for the local environment. In the 1938 World Cup in France, Brazil’s Leonidas scored four against Poland playing barefoot.

The Strasbourg pitch was such a state that he lost his boots in the mud but was later asked to put them back on by the referee. On a similar note, India qualified for the 1950 finals but decided not to travel when they discovered their players would not be allowed play barefoot.

• Not many people know that North Korea, rather than England, actually won the 1966 World Cup. Well, North Koreans of a certain vintage did. Despite a brilliant start, including a shock victory over Italy in Middlesborough, the Koreans were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Portugal in an eight-goal thriller.

However, the Korean Central News Agency reported a 2:1 win for the Asians, which was quite modest – why not detail a comprehensive 7:0 victory. According to the state media, their side went on to beat England in the semi-finals before overcoming West Germany at Wembley in the final. It was only 30 years later, when a North Korean student viewed footage of England’s actual win during Skinner & Baddiel’s “Three Lions” video that the Government ruse came to light.

• There have been many self-inflicted injuries to players over the years – caused by everything from fallen ketchup bottles to using a remote control – but it’s very rare that a coach gets a taste of his own medicine. Managers are usually preoccupied by knocking their opponents out of the tournament, rather than knocking themselves out.

In a terribly one-sided 1930 semi-final between Argentina and the USA, the American trainer galloped onto the pitch to argue with the referee – dropping his medical bag in the process. While he proceeded to berate the ref, a bottle of chloroform which had broken promptly knocked him out and temporarily blinded their star striker. They lost 6:1.