World Cup rivalries: Beckham vs. Simeone, Zidane vs. Materazzi, Pele vs. Bobby Moore
This article has been edited and originally appeared on ESPN FC on May 30, 2014.
As the countdown to Russia continues, ESPN FC brings you another World Cup themed Top Tenner.
We've looked at the greatest rivalries between competing nations through the years. Now, it's the 10 greatest player vs. player rivalries in World Cup history.
10. Luis Suarez vs. Asamoah Gyan
A slightly different one to the rest of this list because the incident that caused the rivalry didn't actually involve both players directly. Whether Suarez's handball to deny Ghana a goal in the 2010 quarterfinal was instinctive and understandable, or just plain cheating, has been debated at great length in the intervening eight years. But what is undeniable is that it put Gyan into quite a tough spot. The effort that Suarez blocked wasn't from Gyan (Dominic Adiyiah was the wronged man there), but he did concede the penalty which, had Gyan scored, would have put Ghana through. Of course, Gyan missed, and Uruguay went through on penalties. "I stick with the feeling of having helped my team," Suarez, who was sent off for the incident, said in 2014. "I stopped a goal, and I believe that it is worse when you stop a goal and injure an opponent, seriously injure them, and get sent off for that. Stopping a goal with my hand I believe did nothing evil to anyone -- it was just stopping a goal."
9. David Beckham vs. Diego Simeone
When Beckham kicked Simeone in the second round of the 1998 World Cup to get himself sent off, it was, in the opinion of Glenn Hoddle anyway, the incident that cost England the game. What made it doubly frustrating for England fans was how petty the kick was. To be dismissed for something so trivial seems like a waste of time. Of course, the reason Beckham was sent packing was because his opponent, shall we say, "emphasised" his fall. Simeone even found time to complain to referee Kim Milton Nielsen halfway through his tumble. "Let's just say the referee fell into the trap," said Simeone the following year, as his Inter side prepared to face Beckham's Manchester United in the Champions League. "You could say that my falling transformed a yellow card into a red card. But in fact, the most appropriate punishment was a yellow one." Four years later, when the teams met again, and Beckham stepped up to take the penalty that would exorcise a few demons, Simeone tried some more skullduggery. "Simeone tried a few mind games to put me off before I took that penalty, but I expected that," said Beckham a few years later, but went on to explain that the hatchet has been well and truly buried, and that the pair respect each other now.
8. Oliver Kahn vs. Ronaldo
While it would obviously be incorrect to say the Brazil and Germany sides that reached the 2002 World Cup final were one-man teams, two players were vital to their successes. The climax of the 2002 tournament very much looked like a battle between its best striker and best goalkeeper. Indeed, Kahn was given the Golden Ball for best player in the tournament, the first and only time that particular trinket was given to a goalkeeper. The German keeper made a couple of good saves from Ronaldo in the final, but of course, Ronaldo prevailed in the end. He scored twice, including one after Kahn had spilled a shot from Rivaldo, helping erase the sense of "what might have been" for Brazil after losing to France in the 1998 final.
7. Zinedine Zidane vs. Marco Materazzi
"I was tugging his shirt, he said to me 'If you want my shirt so much I'll give it to you afterwards.' I answered that I'd prefer his sister," said Materazzi, of what provoked Zidane to butt him pretty forcefully in the chest in the closing stages of the 2006 World Cup final. "It's not a particularly nice thing to say, I recognise that. But loads of players say worse things. I didn't even know he had a sister before all this happened." So there you have it -- Materazzi's insult was more the result of a lucky guess, apparently, and it seems Zidane's reaction could have been down to mishearing this lucky guess, as he thought the insult had been against his mother.
"She was in hospital. This people did not know. To apologise for this? No. If it was Kaka, a regular guy, a good guy, of course I would have apologised. But not to this one... After the game, I went into the dressing room and told them: 'Forgive me. This doesn't change anything. But sorry everyone.' But to him I cannot. Never, never. It would be to dishonour me. I'd rather die. There are evil people. And I don't even want to hear those guys speak." There's a statue of the incident outside the Pompidou centre in Paris, which Materazzi, prankster that he is, posed for a picture in front of a couple of years ago.
6. Garrincha vs. Eladio Rojas
In 1962, Brazil were without Pele for most of the tournament, after he injured himself taking what must have been a particularly enthusiastic shot in the second group match against Czechoslovakia. It was thus left to Garrincha, the man often cited as more popular in his home country than Pele, to inspire his team to victory, which he duly did. He almost didn't play in the final, though, after being sent off in the semi against Chile (some political wrangling ensured his suspension was lifted), for planting a boot in the stomach of midfielder Rojas. This was, in Garrincha's words anyway, in response to consistent fouls and niggles throughout the game, and he merely lost his patience. "There is a limit to the time when a man must be a man," he said after the game. "When I was kicked I struck back. I had been roughly treated and spat on. My legs were bruised and bleeding. Finally I put my foot up. Unhappily, it landed in the stomach of Rojas. Afterwards we met as good friends because we know the heat of a great game clouds minds."
5. Pele vs. Bobby Moore
Some of the rivalries on this list are violent, some born from competitiveness and some from two men who simply didn't like each other. This one is a little different, as it was between perhaps the greatest two proponents of their respective craft of the era. Moore and Pele actually faced each other only once at the World Cup, but what a contest it was. In the first round of the 1970 tournament as defending champions, England played eventual champions Brazil. Moore largely shackled Pele in the game, but the Brazilian did manage to escape the attentions of his marker for long enough to set up Jairzinho for the winning goal. "He was my friend as well as the greatest defender I ever played against," said Pele after Moore's death in 1993. "The shirt he wore against me in that 1970 match is my prize possession. The world has lost one of its greatest football players and an honourable gentleman."
4. Mauro Tassotti vs. Luis Enrique
This incident was mentioned in the World Cup "Villains" Top Tenner, but it bears repeating just because of the sheer violence of it. In their quarterfinal match in the 1994 World Cup, Italy's Tassotti and Spain's Luis Enrique tussled for the ball in the penalty area. The tussle ended when the Italian rather abruptly smashed his opponent in the face with his forearm and elbow, causing Enrique to reportedly lose around a pint of blood. Tassotti wasn't sent off on the day, but was punished afterward, to the tune of a nine-match international ban that basically ended his Italy career. "I know that he is sorry for what he did and I'll shake his hand," said Enrique some years later, when the two were coaching in Serie A.
3. Leonel Sanchez vs. Mario David
The 1962 Battle of Santiago has also been mentioned in previous lists, and for the connoisseur of the pointless acts of violence, picking a single personal tussle from this game is a little like picking your favourite child. However, the highlight has to be the scrap between Chile's Leonel Sanchez and Italy's Mario David, which was relatively short but explosive. Sanchez had earlier broken Humberto Maschio's nose with a textbook left hook for which he somehow escaped punishment. Referee Ken Aston apparently had his back to that incident. Sanchez, presumably emboldened by getting away with that one and in retaliation to being fouled, then launched into David, catching him with another fine punch. The Italian responded in the traditional manner -- by kicking his adversary in the head. David was sent off, one of only two men (the other was Giorgio Ferrini, who refused to leave the pitch and had to be escorted off by the local constabulary) given their marching orders. It was remarkable for a game of such violence. "We weren't throwing the punches, we were taking them. We Italians were the victims, not the aggressors," said David years later. "Sanchez broke Maschio's nose and the referee said nothing, but instead sent off Ferrini who was trying to take revenge on Sanchez but didn't even touch him."
2. Rudi Voller vs. Frank Rijkaard
This is a rivalry that, depending on your point of view, is either weird, funny or perhaps both. Spitting is of course seen by many footballers as the ultimate sign of disrespect, more unforgivable than something as piffling as a leg-breaking tackle or similar. By that mark, Voller must have done something really, really bad to irk Rijkaard. The pair had been niggling at each other for most of the West Germany vs. Netherlands World Cup second-round clash in 1990. Rijkaard was booked for a rather nasty foul on his opponent -- and chuckled about it -- before spitting in Voller's pride and joy: his curly mullet. Voller was booked himself as the pair continued their discussion, desperately trying to show the referee the offending phlegm, which was now presumably dripping from his perm.
From the resultant free kick, Voller half-heartedly challenged for the ball with Dutch keeper Hans van Breukelen and went to the ground rather easily. That clearly made Rijkaard very cross as he initiated a second round of disagreement which would lead to both men being sent off, at which point the Dutchman finished the job by unleashing more spit at the German on his way off the pitch. What's doubly amusing is the look of Voller's face after this second spit -- a combination of confusion and anger, trying to work out if that had actually just happened. The pair settled their differences not long afterwards, and actually starred together in an advert for a Dutch butter company. "They came up with the idea of a public reconciliation under the slogan 'everything in butter again,' which is a German proverb meaning that everything is OK again," Voller told FourFourTwo years later. "The fee was donated by both of us to charity, otherwise I wouldn't have joined in."
1. Pele vs. Diego Maradona
Pele's last World Cup was 1970 and Maradona's first in 1982. So quite obviously the two never faced each other at a finals. However, these are two players whose careers are defined by the World Cups of 1958, 1970 and 1986, and it's fair to say that the two aren't great fans of each other. "Why would you compare me to Pele?" said Maradona once in one of his very many choice words about his rival. "My mother said I'm stronger and that he played with players who couldn't even move." Maradona has never been shy of a comment or two about Pele, usually on the subject of either how much better he is, or of Pele's promotional work for what Maradona usually refers to as "bedtime pills." The two were voted as joint FIFA Player of the Century in 2000, Pele receiving the majority of votes from assorted officials, while Maradona was the choice of fans in an Internet poll. "Maradona loves me," said Pele in 2014, poking and prodding at his rival to the last.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.