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  • 5 looks at the funniest moments from past World Cups

The World Cup may be very serious business, but occasionally it has been known to raise a chuckle.

The greatest prize in football might be up for grabs, but that should not mean that there is no room for light-hearted banter.

Sport, after all, lends itself nicely to unfortunate mishaps and moments of utter madness - all of which help to raise a smile.

Here pays homage to these amusing events as we run down the funniest moments in World Cup history.

Bending the rules

Ilungu Mwepu may not be a name which rolls off the tongue when discussing World Cup legends but he is as famous, or infamous, as any of the so-called greats of the game. Unfortunately for him, the incident for which he will forever be associated does not cover him in the best of lights. His apparent lack of understanding of the rules when he broke from the wall to leather the ball halfway down the field before it had been touched by a Brazilian opponent left most spectators, and players, gobsmacked. Zaire were never going to make much of an impression at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, and headed home without scoring a goal or collecting a point, but Mwepu has ensured that they hold a very special place in football folklore.

Stick to your day job

The United States were always going to struggle to convince the watching world that they were ready to embrace the beautiful game in 1994, and they hardly helped their cause by sticking Diana Ross at the centre - or should that be center - of their opening ceremony and asking her to take a penalty. In front of a global audience stretching to some billion people, the Motown diva was required to kick the ball into a net no more than six yards away, allowing her to proceed with her performance as the posts fell away. Unfortunately, Miss Ross' penalty-taking skills were up there with most Englishmen and she duly shanked her effort well wide. Cue red faces all round for the organising committee and a barrel of laughs for everybody else.

Jeepers keepers

It is said that you have to be a little tapped in the head to be a goalkeeper, with those who don the gloves for their respective sides often a few spanners short of a toolkit. Among the more eccentric of these shot-stopping types was Peru's legendary keeper Ramon Quiroga. This man was not nicknamed 'El Loco' for nothing, he really was crazy! Arguably the moment for which he will be best remembered came in a contest between Peru and Poland at the 1978 World Cup. With the Poles looking to launch a counter, the ball broke up field towards the halfway line. Grzegorz Lato thought for a split second that he was away, until suddenly he was rugby tackled to the turf. Who committed this offence, some 70 yards from his own goal? That's right, Quiroga. Unsurprisingly, and in spite of his naughty child protest of innocence, the South American was cautioned for his misdemeanour, but few of those watching on saw the card as they were too busy rolling on the floor.

Three-card trick

For players, the World Cup represents the pinnacle of a career. After years of hard work they finally get the chance to showcase their talent on the biggest stage in sport. The same can also be said for those chosen to officiate at the tournament, with referees having to prove their worth before being handed such a prestigious position. Back in 2006, England's refereeing representative was a certain Graham Poll. He was hardly blessed with a glowing reputation, but was considered to be among the best the Premier League had to offer. That lofty standing was soon shattered, though, when he took charge of a group encounter between Croatia and Australia. During the course of that contest Poll brandished three yellow cards in the direction of Croat Josep Simunic before finally sending him for an early bath. Fifa opted against using Poll in the latter stages of the tournament - can't think why - and he returned home with laughter ringing in his ears.

Irish mist

The heat in America back in 1994 was stifling at times, with players forced to compete in baking sunshine. At times temperatures boiled over as a result, with a combination of the uncomfortable weather and unhelpful officials conspiring to create unnecessary tension. Among those to get a bit hit under the collar was Republic of Ireland striker John Aldridge, who gave an assistant referee an earful during a meeting with Mexico. The moustachioed Merseysider was waiting to enter the fray as a substitute at the time and did not take kindly to being held up by a bureaucratic mix-up. He decided to vent his spleen at the unfortunate official he deemed responsible for the error, with the Orlando air turned blue for a few short moments before he was finally allowed onto the pitch.

Hearing things

During an encounter between Kuwait and France at the 1982 World Cup, the men from the Middle East were convinced that they heard a whistle as the French mounted an attack. Under the impression that the referee had stopped play, they duly came to a halt and allowed Alain Giresse to stroll through and score. To their horror, they then discovered that the noise in question had come from the stands and they had just conceded the softest of goals. Outraged, Kuwait refused to play on until the effort had been chalked off, with their players threatening to leave the field in protest. The Sheikhs who control Kuwaiti football then got involved, leaving their seats in the stands to join in the pandemonium on the touchline. In the end common sense prevailed and the game carried on, but not before one of the most surreal scenes ever witnessed at a World Cup finals.

Collision course

There have been countless examples of on-field mishaps at the World Cup over the years, with many an outtakes show to be found showcasing the best of the worst. Among the more comical sketches to be aired among these clips involves Scottish defensive duo Alan Hansen and Willie Miller. The pair demonstrate a distinct lack of communication as they both go for a stray ball over the top, running into each other and making a mess of their attempted clearance. With the score in their meeting with Soviet Union locked at 1-1 at the time, and with the Scots needing another goal to go through, the last thing they wanted was to concede. Unfortunately, Hansen and Miller could only watch on as their error allowed Ramaz Shengalia to break in on goal and end any hope they had of making it past the first round.

Merry jig

Celebrations are as much a part of football culture nowadays as magic sponges and orange segments at the interval. Needless to say, the shows put on after finding the target have become ever increasingly extravagant. Back-flips and training ground choreographed routines are now the order of the day, with it no longer acceptable just to shake hands. One the most memorable goal celebrations of all-time came at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where Cameroon captured the imagination with their free-flowing football. The leading light for the Africans was star striker Roger Milla, who quickly became a household name with his goalscoring exploits and comical celebrations. His favoured routine involved him running to the corner flag, gyrating his hips and wobbling his feet while waiting for his team-mates to arrive. Now an iconic celebration, which will undoubtedly stand the test of time, the sight of Milla - who was reported to be in his late 30s even then - will forever live on in the minds of those who witnessed him.

Heads you lose

Perhaps a sending off in a World Cup final should not be considered humorous, especially if the player in question is dismissed after butting an opponent. We are prepared to make an exception here, though, as Zinedine Zidane's red card in 2006 was funny and no-one is going to tell us otherwise. Admittedly at the time you felt for the French, as they saw their talismanic skipper head down the tunnel and into premature retirement. However, looking back on the incident it is difficult not to chuckle. With France and Italy all square at 1-1, and with the game having entered extra-time, Zidane suddenly lost his cool and poleaxed Italy defender Marco Materazzi with a swift butt to the chest. He claimed to have had enough of the abuse being aimed in his direction by the irritating centre-half, with a line definitely having been crossed. Many claimed Materazzi had it coming to him, while even the French public refused to blame the legend that is Zidane for their subsequent defeat on spot kicks.

Oscar-winning performance

You expect your football heroes to behave in a manner befitting of their social standing at all times, with it unthinkable that they could ever stoop to the depths of mere mortals. Unfortunately, time and again footballers have proven that they are no different to the rest of us, regardless of how good at their chosen profession they may be. Take Brazilian icon Rivaldo, for example. A glittering career saw him collect a vast array of accolades, with the 1999 World Player of the Year award among them. He was also crowned world champion in 2002 as he helped Brazil to global glory, but it was at that event that he dragged his name through the gutter. While waiting to take a corner against Turkey in the group stages, he tumbled to the turf after the ball was kicked at him by Hakan Unsul. Clutching his face it appeared the Turk had clattered the ball at him - but replays showed otherwise. He was actually caught on the leg and his despicable display of playacting caused widespread condemnation. Again, the incident is funny in hindsight, with it hard to see how the officials came to the conclusion that Unsul deserved to be sent off for his part in proceedings.

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