We’re talking on-pitch violence here of course.
Whilst we’re perfectly happy to condone, applaud and revel in acts of mindless thuggery on the field, fighting off the pitch should be left to the boxing ring, not the stands.
Make love not war.
1. Zinedine Zidane
Zidane was one of the best players of his generation, a true great who could control a game and dictate play. Sadly for “Zizou”, despite scoring two goals in the 1998 World Cup final he may actually be best remembered for his antics in the 2006 final when, having already been named player of the tournament, he was sent off for a fierce head butt to Marco Materazzi’s chest. Well, as fierce as a head butt to the chest can be.
It is rumoured that Materaazzi insulted Zidane’s mother, called him a terrorist or both, although the Italian claimed it was nothing unusual to be said on a football pitch.
2. Harold Schumacher
West German goalkeeper Schumacher almost decapitated French player Patrick Battiston with a wild challenge during their semi-final but back in the good old days of 1982 when men were men, he didn’t even get booked. His collision – to phrase it as kindly as possible – put Battiston in a coma and took his two front teeth out.
Michel Platini claimed he thought his teammate was dead but the referee didn’t even consider the mid-air body-check to be a foul and awarded a goal kick!
3. Nigel De Jong
The 2010 World Cup final between Spain and Holland was a surprisingly dirty one and English referee Howard Webb issued a staggering 14 yellow cards.
However, he failed to give a red card for De Jong’s attempt to put his foot clean through Xabi Alonso’s torso, a decision he subsequently admitted was wrong.
4. Benjamin Massing
Cameroon’s Massing was dismissed in the first game of Italia 90 for a wild foul on Argentina’s Claudio Caniggia.
The African nation won 1-0 but had to play with 10 men after Massing gave the Argentine forward an almighty clatter, finishing a job that two teammates had started by attempting to down the long-haired striker earlier in his run. He lost his boot, such was the force of the tackle whilst Caniggia managed at least three somersaults, eight twists and 14 rolls as he went down.
5. Portugal v Netherlands, 2006
Rather than a single act of aggression, this game in 2006 was a whole orgy of violence, a match that made the aforementioned Spain v Netherlands game seem like an under-13s girls friendly.
A whopping 20 cards were shown by ref Valentin Ivanov, including two reds to each side, including one for Netherland’s Khalid Boulahrouz. Boulahrouz was dismissed for an elbow on Luis Figo, although the Portuguese was himself fortunate to stay on the pitch after he head butted Mark van Bommel. Not one for the kids to watch again.