FP Flashback – The players who left the World Cup early

Croatia’s Nikola Kalinic has been sent home from the World Cup after refusing to come off the bench in their 2-0 win over Nigeria on Saturday.

Here, FP looks at five other players who left the World Cup early.

Willie Johnston (Scotland)

Willie Johnston in action in a friendly against Argentina in Buenos Aires
Willie Johnston in action in a friendly against Argentina in Buenos Aires (Peter Robinson/Empics)

The West Brom man was sent home from the 1978 World Cup in Argentina by the Scottish Football Association after failing a drugs test. He fell foul of FIFA’s early doping procedures after taking hay fever tablets before their 3-1 defeat to Peru. He was a last-minute replacement for Archie Gemmill to do a urine test but failed and was quickly sent home.

Roy Keane (Republic of Ireland)

Roy Keane Home
Roy Keane with his dog Triggs after leaving Ireland’s World Cup squad in 2002 (Martin Rickett/PA)

The Manchester United midfielder’s departure from the Republic of Ireland’s pre-tournament training camp was one of the most memorable moments of the 2002 World Cup. He was unhappy with the standard of Ireland’s preparations which boiled over into an expletive-laden bust-up with boss Mick McCarthy in front of the squad at their base on the Pacific island of Saipan. Instead of preparing to play the opener against Cameroon, Keane was kept busy by walking around Cheshire with his dog Triggs.

Diego Maradona (Argentina)

Soccer – World Cup USA 94 – Group D – Argentina v Greece – Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough
Argentina’s Diego Maradona celebrates against Greece before he was sent home from the 1994 World Cup (Neal Simpson/Empics)

The Argentina star was booted out of USA 94 after failing a drugs test before their final group game with Bulgaria. He had previously led Argentina to the title in 1986 and to the 1990 final, where they lost to West Germany. Maradona scored in their 4-0 win over Greece before failing his test which signalled the end of his successful and controversial international career.

Nicolas Anelka (France)

Soccer – 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa – Group A – France v Mexico – Peter Mokaba Stadium
Nicolas Anelka was sent home by France at the 2010 World Cup (Adam Davy/Empics)

France striker Anelka was axed from his country’s squad in South Africa after falling out with coach Raymond Domenech. The forward, then at Chelsea, reportedly launched a verbal attack on the manager at half-time of their 2-0 defeat to Mexico at the 2010 World Cup. He refused to apologise and, despite a players’ revolt over how Anelka had been treated, was ordered home by the French Football Federation and banned for 18 games, although Anelka retired from international football before the suspension.

Zlatko Zahovic (Slovenia)

Slovenia Training Session and Press Conference – Wembley Stadium
Slovenia manager Srecko Katanec, in his second spell with the national team, saw Zlatan Zahovic leave early in 2002 (Adam Davy/PA)

Roy Keane was not the only player to leave the 2002 World Cup early with Slovenia playmaker Zahovic following him. The Benfica midfielder had a row with coach Srecko Katanec after being substituted in their 3-1 defeat to Spain and the Slovenia Football Federation decided to send Zahovic home early. Rudi Zavrl, the president of the federation at the time, said: “Zahovic has continued with his attitude which was damaging for the atmosphere surrounding the team.”

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