Detroit Tigers' Armando Galarraga's perfect game blown by controversial call

A bad call stole a game that should have belonged to Team USA. Josh Robinson explains why FIFA’s broken referee-selection process is to blame—and how to fix it.

Elise Amendola / AP Photo

Elise Amendola / AP Photo

In the U.S. match-up against Slovenia during the World Cup 2010 group C match, Maurice Edu fired a ball into the goal in the 85th minute of the game. The American team thought they had just scored their third goal and broken the tie--until it was taken away by referee Koman Coulibaly of Mali, who called a phantom foul. Hundreds of replays and thousands of irate column inches later, it is clear that there was no discernible foul by any American in the buildup to the goal.

Richard Mackson, Sports Illustrated / Getty Images

1. Cardinal Sin

In Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals were three outs from clinching the title. But when the Kansas City Royals' Jorge Orta connected for a ground ball and scampered to first base, umpire Don Denkinger called him safe, even though replays clearly showed Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell touched the bag with the ball in his hand. That ignited a Royals rally and St. Louis never recovered. The next night, the Royals won Game 7.

AP Photo

2. Costly Souvenir

Jeffrey Maier was just a 12-year-old kid in the right-field stands of Yankee Stadium when Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series began. By the end of it, he was a notorious footnote in baseball history. With the Yankees down 4-3 in the eighth inning to the Baltimore Orioles, Derek Jeter blasted a long shot to the right-field fence. But when outfielder Tony Tarasco reached up, Maier's black glove got there first causing the ball to deflect over the wall. The umpire called it a home run. The Yankees went on to win the game, and the World Series. Many still see it as a crucial moment in building the pinstriped dynasty of the 1990s.

AP Photo

3. What the Tuck?

The scene was a snowy Foxboro Stadium in January 2002, an AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. With the Patriots down by three, quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass. He started his motion when he saw Charles Woodson coming for him. So he brought the ball down and touched it with his left hand—the infamous "tuck." The tuck meant that when Woodson knocked the ball free, it was not ruled a fumble, but rather an incomplete pass. New England built on that momentum to win the game and then Superbowl XXXVI.

AP Photo

4. The Hand of God

No single play in the history of sports remains quite as resented in England as Maradona's Hand of God. In the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup, mercurial Argentine star Diego Maradona jumped up to challenge the England goalkeeper for a high ball. But instead of putting his head on it, the diminutive Maradona raised his hand and punched the ball into the goal—he later said God told him to do it. The referee missed it entirely. Four minutes later, Maradona scored what has been called the goal of the century to sink England 2-1. Two games later, Argentina lifted the World Cup trophy.

5. Unluck of the Irish

With qualification for the 2010 World Cup on the line, it was Ireland's turn to be undone by an unseen handball—actually by two unseen handballs. In extra time, France forward Thierry Henry twice controlled a long ball with his left hand before poking the ball in front of the net for William Gallas to score comfortably. Ireland's players swarmed the referee, but he would hear none of their pleas. That goal sent France to South Africa and condemned Ireland to a summer at home.

Jeff Haynes, AFP / Getty Images

6. Pushing His Luck

Today, it is still one of the most memorable plays of Michael Jordan's career. Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, 5.2 seconds on the clock, and the Chicago Bulls down by one. Jordan takes the long shot— he scores! The Bulls win the championship and the shot remains Jordan's final playoff moment of his career. Problem is, the shot should never have counted. Replays show quite definitively that Jordan pushed off the Utah Jazz defender, Bryon Russell. The officials never saw it. Or at least, they never called it.

AP Photo

7. Best Foot Forward

The Dallas Stars and the Buffalo Sabres were into a cagey third period of overtime in Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final when Brett Hull's right skate became part of hockey history. Hull bore down on goal and beat goaltender Dominik Hasek to win the game. Except it should have been disallowed, thanks to an arcane rule that is no longer in hockey. It stated that should a player enter the crease before the puck and score, the goal would not count. And with Hull, that's exactly what happened. But after review, the officials let it stand deeming that because there had been a rebound first—which apparently did not constitute a loss of possession from Hull—the puck was in the crease before him. An obscure explanation at best.

8. Heads or Tails or Both?

Sports have even managed to make a talking point out of something as straightforward as a coin toss. Before sudden-death overtime in a Thanksgiving Day game in 1998 between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions, referee Phil Luckett flipped a coin to determine who would kick off. As the coin turned in the air, Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis began to call heads before changing his mind, and saying, "he...tails." Thinking he had said heads first, Luckett declared Detroit the winners of the toss when it came up tails. Detroit elected to receive first and promptly nailed a field goal to win the game.

AP Photo

9. Time Out

To this day, the 1972 United States Olympic basketball team is still sore. After losing the gold medal game to the Soviet Union on the most dubious of officiating decisions, the players refused to accept their medals because they felt utterly cheated. Here's what happened. With three seconds left, Doug Collins drained a pair of free throws to give the US a one-point lead. For some reason, the buzzer went off in the middle of his second shot. The game went on and the Soviets failed to score on their next possession. But because of the earlier horn, one official had stopped the clock at 0:01. So it had to be reset to 0:03. Another goof put 50 seconds on the clock and, again, the USSR failed to score, sending the Americans celebrating. But still, it wasn't over. An official ruled that three seconds had to go back on the clock to account for the earlier mistake. And this time, the Soviets did not waste the charity. They scored in the final seconds to steal the game and deal the Americans their first ever Olympic basketball defeat.

AP Photo

10. Over the Line?

At the end of regulation in a tense 1966 World Cup final, England and hated rivals West Germany were deadlocked, 2-2. Deep into extra time, Geoff Hurst found himself with a chance from seven yards out and smashed a shot against the crossbar. The ball bounced down onto the line and 44 years of debate began. The referee originally said it was not a goal, since the laws of the game stipulate the whole of the ball must cross the whole of the line. But the decision was reversed to give England a 3-2 lead. (Subsequent studies have shown that the ball did not actually cross the line entirely.) England won 4-2 and has not been back to a World Cup final since.