With three huge games left to play, it’s still a little too early do a list of the biggest heroes of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. For all we know, some dude named Otto Von Schlitterbahn will score four goals in extra time to help Germany beat Argentina in the final. (FYI, I just made that name up at an example. As far as I know there is no one named Otto Von Schlitterbahn on the German soccer team.)
However, it’s not too early to talk about the villains. For the semifinals and finals, players and officials are usually on their best behavior. So unless somebody pulls a Zidane and completely loses their mind, we’ve probably seen all the incompetence and skullduggery.
So who are the biggest “villains” of the 2014 FIFA World Cup? For you numerologists out there, I’ve narrowed it down to a tidy 14. Take a look, and as always, if I left anybody out, please let me know.
On the whole, the officiating at the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been better than 2010 and 2006. However, there are always a few blown calls, and unfortunately for linesman Humberto Clavijo, he made two of them on the second day of the tournament.
The Colombian linesman made two incorrect offsides calls that cost Mexico two goals—both by Giovani dos Santos—in the first half of their opening game against Cameroon. Fortunately Mexico still won the game 1-0. Unfortunately, the tie-breaker between Mexico and Brazil at the top of Group A was goal differential, with Brazil a +5 and Mexico a +3.
After that horrible first match, Clavijo was sacked by FIFA. The folks running the World Cup will tolerate corruption and bribery but not bad officiating.
14. Humberto Clavijo (Linesman: Mexico vs. Cameroon)
Italy only needed a tie against Uruguay in the final game of the group stage to advance to the knockout round, and no team on earth is better at bunkering down playing for a tie than Italy.
Unfortunately for the Azzuri, early in the second half, big fat stupid head Claudio Marchisio decided it would be fun to jab Egidio Arevalo Rios in the calf with his cleats. That got him a straight red card, and with a man advantage Uruguay would go on to win the game 1-0, sending the Italians home after the group stage for the second World Cup in a row.
13. Claudio Marchisio (Italy)
Speaking of Uruguay, in their first game of the tournament against Costa Rica, Maxi Pereira absolutely lost his cool and chopped Joel Campbell down like a tree, earning the first red card of the tournament.
Now, this may not seem that vicious, since he didn't draw blood or tear ligaments. However, shins are a hell of a lot more fragile than they seem, and if you don't believe this type of thing can have serious, career-threatening consequences, just take a look at this.
12. Maximiliano Pereira (Uruguay)
No one can deny that Netherlands backup goalkeeper Tim Krul isn't a stud. Dutch manager Louis van Gaal subbed him into the quarterfinals game against Costa Rica with a few minutes left in extra time, and the PK specialist wound up making two saves in the shootout, sending Holland to the semifinals.
So why is he a villain? Because, while making those saves and winning the game, he acted like a total douche, taunting, trash-talking, flailing his arms around.
Do the tactics work? Apparently. Would I take him on my team? You know it. But he's not on my team, and statistically speaking he's probably not on your team, either. So that makes him a villain.
11. Tim Krul (Netherlands)
Antonio Valencia got a straight red card for going studs-up into France's Lucas Digne, which is a major no-no in soccer for obvious reasons. Ecuador needed a win over France to have any hope of advancing past the group stage, but this dangerous play from their captain sealed their fate.
What's worse, this was Valencia's second red card in four games. He also got ejected from Ecuador's final World Cup tune-up against England.
10. Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)
Honduras' Wilson Palacios isn't a villain because he was vicious. He's a villain because he was really, really stupid. Just minutes after getting a yellow card for a hard tackle on France's Paul Pogba, Palacios went and did this, getting his second yellow card.
At that point in the match, Honduras was managing to hang with France, and a tie would have put them in a great position to advance. After Palacios got sent off, however, Honduras conceded three goals, pretty much eliminated themselves from the World Cup in the first game.
So yes, Palacios is a big, stupid World Cup villain.
9. Wilson Palacios (Honduras)
With the other straight red cards we've seen so far, the player could at least plausibly say he didn't intend to harm his opponent. Not so with Belgium's Steven Defour, though. The guy went out of his way to stop on the shin of South Korea's Kim Shin-wook.
I mean seriously, what a douche.
8. Steven Defour (Belgium)
One of the most shocking moments of the 2014 FIFA World Cup came during the Cameroon-Croatia match, when Alex Song suddenly made a fist, cocked his arm, and punched Mario Mandzukic in the back. This act not only got Song a red card. It got him a three-game suspension and a fine, as well.
The really weird thing is that, while Cameroon has been known to play rough over the years, this was very uncharacteristic of Song, who plays club ball for Barcelona.
But hey, at least the guy apologized after the game.
7. Alex Song (Cameroon)
When Pepe headbutted Germany's Thomas Mueller in Portugal's first game of the World Cup, it didn't just affect him.
After getting sent off, Germany tacked on two more goals. That meant Portugal would have to win their final two games if they wanted to advance, because their goal differential was shot. However, beating the USA proved impossible without Portugal's second-most important player, so by the time they got around to playing Ghana the team was all but cooked.
So yeah, Pepe deserves a lot of the blame for Portugal's disappointing tournament.
6. Pepe (Portugal)
If FIFA had an award for flopping at the World Cup, Arjen Robben would get it. Even if you think the penalty he drew in extra time against Mexico was totally legit—and you're an idiot, because it wasn't—the guy admitted after the game that he did flop earlier in that match. And by the end of the Netherlands' game against Costa Rica, Brazilians in the stands were booing the guy every time he touched the ball.
Do you know how much flopping a guy has to do for Brazilians to get sick of it? A lot. That's how much.
So yeah, Robben is a World Cup villain.
(By the way, sorry for being such a jerk. You're not an idiot.)
5. Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
On the field, Ghana played alright at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Off the field they were a total disgrace in every way. The players threatened to boycott their final game against Portugal—with a trip to the knockout round on the line—if they didn't get their World Cup bonus money. Members of the Ghanian Football Association were investigated and later arrested for match-fixing. And star players Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari both got kicked off the team for insubordination before the final game.
These guys seriously gave the 2010 French squad a run for their money as the most contemptible World Cup team of the modern era.
And again, this was a talented side that was this close (I'm holding my index fingers about an inch apart) to advancing. What a waste!
Luis Suarez wasn't the biggest douchebag at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He wasn't even close.
Sure, biting people is bad, but the only career it threatens is that of the person doing the biting. In terms of pure viciousness, almost all the guys who got red cards were far worse.
That being said, because of his immense talent and the fact that he got kicked out of the tournament, sending Uruguay to play Colombia without their most dangerous player, Suarez was far more maddening than those other guys.
And seriously, who bites people?
3. Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
If Brazil doesn't win the World Cup this year, go to Rio in twenty years and ask people what they think about Zúñiga. I guarantee you'll get some passionate and colorful responses.
Zúñiga, of course, is the Colombian defender who drove his knee into Neymar's back and fractured one of a vertebra, knocking Brazil's biggest star out of the tournament. And seeing as how there are 200 million people in Brazil, that might just make Zúñiga the most hated man on earth.
2. Juan Camilo Zúñiga (Colombia)
Of course, as hated as Juan Camilio Zúñiga may be in Brazil, he's not the biggest villain of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. That honor belongs to referee Carlos Velasco Carballo, the one who allowed things to get so thoroughly out of hand during that vicious Brazil-Colombia game.
Velasco called 54 fouls in that game, but only four yellow cards. Four! When a ref lets players get away with that much, things escalate.
Making matters worse for Brazil is the fact that Zúñiga himself should have been ejected for spiking Hulk's knee long before he got the chance to break Neymar's back. However, Velasco didn't even give Zúñiga a yellow card for this brutal tackle.
Now that's incompetence.
1. Carlos Velasco Carballo (Referee: Brazil vs. Colombia)
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