World Cup nightmares: Messi's Iceland miss and 10 other horror moments
It's been the worst possible start to Russia 2018 for Lionel Messi, but he's not alone in feeling World Cup pain
Lionel Messi, now the wrong side of 30, is running out of opportunities to lift the World Cup.
It's the one trophy which has so far eluded the best, or second-best player in the world, depending on where you rank the Argentine and his rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Coming into this tournament on the back of another stellar season for Barcelona and heroics during Argentina's qualifying phase, it looked set up for him to star on the grandest stage – until he missed from the penalty spot in his side's opening 1-1 draw with Iceland.
A fluffed penalty during the group stage is forgivable, but when put into the context of it coming a day after Ronaldo's sensational hat-trick for Portugal against Spain, it feels like the world has caved in on Messi.
He's not alone in feeling the pain of suffering of a World Cup nightmare, so here are 10 more occasions when it has all gone wrong:
1. Andres Escobar's own goal
There have been loads of own goals in the World Cup, but none have had the fatal consequences suffered by Colombia's Andres Escobar after he diverted the ball past his own keeper against the United States on June 22, 1994. His side lost 2-1 and were knocked out. By July 2 he was dead, gunned down in a nightclub car park in the city of Medellin, reportedly as revenge for his role in Colombia's early exit from the competition. "No matter how difficult, we must stand back up," he wrote in a newspaper column following his side's elimination.
2. Roy Keane and Ireland in 2002
Ireland have had some happy moments at World Cups, and then there's the Roy Keane episode. Captain, star player and a stickler for high standards, Keane was unimpressed with Ireland's preparations as they arrived in Saipan. He walked out once, agreed to return, and was then on a plane home after what witnesses described as one of the most chilling character assassinations they had ever seen when he rounded on manager Mick McCarthy. While Keane took his dog on endless walks around Cheshire in the UK, Ireland made it through the group stage before being beaten by Spain on penalties, but would they have gone further with Keane driving them on?
3. Brazil 1-7 Germany, 2014
It's as if Brazil were made for the World Cup, and the World Cup was made for Brazil. The style, the colour, the success – the nation could do no wrong when it came to football's biggest tournament. Having reached the semi-final on home turf in 2014, they were closing in on another trophy, until it all went spectacularly wrong as Germany inflicted Brazil's first competitive home defeat in 39 years and their biggest World Cup defeat. They were 5-0 down inside 29 minutes. Tears flowed both on the pitch and in the stands, where fans were shell-shocked by what they had just witnessed. Four years on, the scars are still there. Could it happen again?
4. Diana Ross, World Cup 94
You think Messi's miss was bad, have you seen Diana Ross's effort from a similar distance? While she didn't fluff her lines with the microphone, she certainly did with her feet during the opening ceremony when tasked with scoring into a collapsing goalframe, which collapsed anyway as her shot bobbled wide of the post. Her effort was, however, closer to scoring than Roberto Baggio's penalty in the final.
5. The hand of Suarez
It was all going so well for Ghana in 2010 as Asamoah Gyan placed the ball on the penalty spot in the last minute of extra time against Uruguay. They were about to become the first African side to reach the semi-final having kept danger-man Luis Suarez quiet for 120 minutes – that is until he morphed from striker to goalkeeper, saving instinctively on the line and getting sent off as a result. Gyan missed and Uruguay won the penalty shoot-out that followed as Ghana showed exactly how to clinch defeat from the jaws of victory in the space of a few minutes.
“Sometimes when I’m alone, I get up and put the DVD on and start watching that game,” Gyan told The National in 2015. “Probably watched it 20 times until now. I wish the match could happen again because it really hurts me every time when I’m alone. It’s something that I can never forget.
6. Robert Green, England vs US, World Cup 2010
David Beckham became a public enemy after his red card against Argentina in 1998. He managed to repair his reputation, though. Robert Green was less fortunate. The keeper, whose club career was spent mostly at Norwich City and West Ham United, reached his pinnacle by being named England No 1 by Fabio Capello in South Africa in 2010. Clint Dempsey pulled the trigger with a weak shot from about 20 yards, and Green's reputation as well, as the ball slipped through his fingers. He was dropped for the next game and he later described the reaction as "beyond football... the stuff that went on, it was an attack on my family, an attack on my parents. There were people trying to climb into my sister's back garden."
7. Gonzalo Higuain's miss in 2014
It's the World Cup final and a player who is prolific in club football is clean through on goal. The crowd in the stadium, viewers on TV and commentators wait for the net to bulge. Gonzalo Higuain had another idea – scuff it wide. Argentina went on to lose to an extra-time goal by Mario Gotze as Germany were crowned winners, and Higuain's miss wouldn't be remembered as vividly had his shot been saved – it was made all the more glaring by missing the target completely.
8. Lampard's ghost goal
England have had enough World Cup nightmares to fill an entire horror novel. And just when it looked like they were over their penalty-spot wobbles, along came another spook in the form of Frank Lampard's ghost goal against Germany in 2010. England were 2-1 down in the first half when Lampard's shot from the edge of the box bounced off the underside of the crossbar, over the line by a few feet, and out again. Goal! Wrong, no goal, as the referee waved play on. Germany went on to win 4-1 and England were knocked out.
9. Ronaldo's seizure at France 98
Brazil's star striker was waltzing his way around defences at France 98, helping them to a final showdown against the hosts. Prior to the match, though, news filtered through that his name was missing from the team sheet. Then he was back in again as confusion reigned before a ball had even been kicked. Ronaldo was a shadow of the player who had mesmerised during earlier rounds as France ran out 3-0 winners, and it was later revealed he had a convulsion after lunch on the day of the final, resulting in him being unconscious for a number of minutes. The episode remains a mystery to this day.
10. Spain thrashed 5-1 by the Netherlands
Not quite as seismic as Brazil's 7-1 beating, but a nightmare for holders Spain, who even took the lead. Robin van Persie's acrobatic diving header opened the floodgates as Spain conceded five times in an international for the first time since 1963, while the four-goal losing margin was the biggest for a defending champion.
Updated: June 18, 2018 02:30 PM