Ah football, the beautiful game. We all love it, but there’s always that one player who takes things a bit too far. Well in this case, Bwin have found 11 of those players who have taken things way too far, and compiled a World Cup Dirty XI.
Goalkeeper – Wojciech Szczęsny – Poland
Szczęsny might be Arsenal and Poland’s number 1 at the young age of 23, but that hasn’t stopped him picking up 11 yellows and 2 red cards so far in his short career. He was also recently sent off in the Champions League match against Bayern Munich, supposedly tripping Arjen Robben, after which he made a rather rude gesture to the Bayern fans when walking off the pitch.
Defender – Sergio Ramos – Spain
Oh Sergio! The tough-tackling Spaniard is regarded as one of the best defenders in the world. Mobile, and strong in the tackle, it’s certainly difficult to pick a better defensive pair than Serge and Pique at the heart of the Spanish back line. Ramos recently broke a La Liga record, but not for the right reasons. He now holds the title of most sent-off player ever in La Liga, with 19 red cards for Real Madrid at the ripe old age of, erm, 28.
Defender – Walter Samuel – Argentina
Still playing his club football with Inter Milan, Samuel is one of those players who some say is simply tough-tackling, and others say is downright dirty. He could be an option for the Argentinians in Brazil if they want an enforcer there with them, with both Javier Zanetti and Zlatan Ibrahimović both saying he’s one of the hardest, (dirtiest) players they’ve ever played with.
Defender – Pepe – Portugal
It’s any wonder Real Madrid have any defenders, with the man described as an animal, a menace and a butcher, Pepe in their ranks alongside Ramos. Notorious not only for his diving and theatrics, there has been many a La Liga star left with bruises after one of his tackles. It came to a climax when he received a 10-match ban for going crazy on Getafe’s Javi Casquero, repeatedly kicking him when he was down.
Midfield – Arjen Robben – Holland
Doubtless Robben is a talented winger, one of the world’s best in fact. You don’t get to play for Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich for no reason, but all through his career the Dutchman has had somewhat of a reputation for diving. There doesn’t even need to be contact, as we saw in the 2010 World Cup. If that wasn’t enough, Robben even turned on team-mate Thomas Müller, apparently grabbing him around the throat for being ‘disrespectful’. Pot calling kettle black there, Arjen.
Midfield – Patrick Vieira - France
With a joint record eight Premier League sendings-off, one of Arsenal’s Invincibles also had a reputation for disciplinary mischief; with two red cards just 72 hours apart in August 2000, Vieira has ensured his place in the Dirty XI by amassing the most second-half dismissals in Premier League history. His assist of teammate Emmanuel Petit’s goal in the 1998 World Cup final is a slightly more respectful contribution to international football than he achieved in the league.
Midfield – Nigel de Jong – Holland
With the Netherlands reaching the World Cup Final against Spain in 2010, all seemed to be going well. That is, until de Jong decided it was high time we combined karate and football, with a flying kick to Xabi Alonso’s chest in true Eric Cantona fashion. Amazingly, de Jong wasn’t given a straight red for his challenge, but justice was done and Spain went on to be crowned World Champions.
Midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
The Ballon d’Or winner is arguably the best player in the world right now – so why then, does he feel the need to put in some Oscar-worthy dives on the pitch? Whilst he has matured as a player and can be caught rolling around on the floor less often nowadays, his early career was littered with incidents, leaving the Portuguese star with a bit of a reputation.
Midfield – Zinedine Zidane – France
Although the French legend tops many a World’s Best list on a consistent basis, it was his final contribution to international football which proved the most shocking.
Ten minutes away from the penalties which would decide the winner of the 2006 World Cup – and having scored in the final himself – Zidane was sent off for a headbutt on Marco Materazzi after a heated exchange of words. Zidane had already won the Golden Ball for the tournament – but this was some way to go out.
Striker – Neymar – Brazil
The poster-boy of Brazilian football is certainly no saint. At the tender age of 22, the Barcelona forward has already amassed 57 yellow cards and 4 reds – that’s no mean feat! The majority have been for theatrics, although he does have a bit of a temper when things aren’t going his way. His transfer to Barcelona also raised a lot of eyebrows. Having said this Neymar could be one of the stars for Brazil on home turf at this summer’s World Cup.
Striker – Luis Suarez – Uruguay
How could we forget about Suarez? The Uruguayan is in blistering form for Liverpool this season, but he certainly has had a controversial past. After stopping the ball using his hand in the 2010 World Cup, preventing Ghana from scoring the match-winning goal, Suarez got into further hot water when he moved to Liverpool; firstly becoming embroiled in a racism row with Patrice Evra, and then trying to take a chunk out of Branislav Ivanović’s arm in a match against Chelsea. He was banned for 10 games, which took his tally of banned games up to 25 at the time.
So there we have it! There have been many more in the past, however the majority of these players will be fighting it out in Brazil for the World Cup. We just hope that’s not literal.