Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Claudio Caniggia: How Dundee’s Argentine legend was wiped out by World Cup hatchet man

Caniggia manages to get back to his feet as Massing gets his marching orders in 1990. Image: Colorsport/Shutterstock.
Caniggia manages to get back to his feet as Massing gets his marching orders in 1990. Image: Colorsport/Shutterstock.

It was the X-rated challenge that propelled future Dundee legend Claudio Caniggia to global fame in what would become known as the Miracle of Milan.

Against the strains of Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma, Cameroon’s 1-0 win against holders Argentina at Italia 90 was arguably the greatest upset in World Cup history.

Incredibly, 32 years on, the goal scored by the African underdogs in their stunning victory over a side featuring the diminutive magician Diego Maradona isn’t the game’s most memorable moment.

That belongs to Benjamin Massing, the Cameroon defender who wiped out Caniggia in the 88th minute with arguably the World Cup’s worst ever tackle.

Diego Maradona goes on the attack against Cameroon in the opening game. Image: Colorsport/Andrew Cowie.

Bad start to Argentina’s World Cup defence

Caniggia, 23 at the time, started on the bench as Argentina got their title defence under way in the San Siro in front of 73,000 fans and a record global television audience.

They were fully expected to thrash their opponents, 500/1 outsiders and largely made up of journeymen players from the French lower divisions.

Cameroon manager, Valeri Nepomniachi, was a Siberian who spoke no French and his team-talks were translated by a driver at the country’s embassy in Moscow.

André Kana-Biyik stands over Caniggia following his sending off earlier in the game. Image: Diether Endlicher/AP/Shutterstock.

As Argentina struggled to break them down, Caniggia was thrown on at half-time and the rough treatment began almost immediately.

Cameroon went a man down on 61 minutes when André Kana-Biyik was sent off for a late challenge on the then-Atalanta forward.

Just six minutes later, the underdogs took the lead when his brother François Omam-Biyik rose to meet a deflected ball, nodding his header past goalkeeper Nery Pumpido.

Omam-Biyik scores the opener following a mistake by Nery Pumpido. Image: Carla Fumagalli/AP/Shutterstock.

With just two minutes to go, Caniggia picked up the ball inside his own half and the scenes that followed remain iconic.

He drove up the right wing towards goal at blistering pace.

He hurdled a challenge from Emmanuel Kunde and jumped over another tackle from Victor N’Dip which made him stumble and almost lose his balance.

Then it happened.

With Caniggia teetering on the brink of collapse from N’Dip’s intervention, Massing flew in waist-high with a challenge that sent Caniggia into orbit along with the hatchet man’s boot.

Massing protested his innocence to referee Michel Vautrot of France.

But in a bizarre turn of events he was given a straight red card – then followed by a second yellow – for the challenge which would resonate in football folklore.

The Cameroon international recalled the thoughts that were going through his mind when interviewed by journalist Simon Hart for his book World In Motion.

Cameroon players surround the referee following another bad tackle during the game. Image: Shutterstock.

“When Caniggia hurdles him [N’Dip], I said: ‘S***, this is dangerous’.

“I was marking Diego Maradona but I left him. I thought: ‘If he’s got time to get his balance and pass the ball, we’re stuffed’.

“That’s why I came in on him like a truck. I got to Caniggia and flew in on him.

“I wasn’t thinking that clearly.

“I was a bit wound up that he’d got past my two colleagues.

“Knowing that he was breaking clear, and about to get his head up, that was going to be dangerous.

“And that’s why I really went for it.”

Benjamin Massing is sent off for his 88th minute tackle on Caniggia. Image: Colorsport/Shutterstock.

None of the World Cup’s 13 previous opening matches had witnessed a red card.

But Cameroon held on for a shock 1-0 win, while Caniggia picked himself up off the ground, dusted himself down and went on to become one of Italia 90’s best players.

Caniggia never looked back

He started the next two games, against the Soviet Union and Romania, as Argentina made it through the group stage despite Maradona looking a shadow of his former self, four years on from his Hand of God exploits against England in Mexico.

Maradona, by now 29, still managed to conjure up a dazzling run and pass for Caniggia’s second-round late winner against Brazil despite his afflictions.

It was a goal that would give the younger man immortality back home and also knocked out their great rivals, the tournament favourites, into the bargain.

Caniggia fends off Brazil’s defender Jorginho during the second-round win. Image: Mark Lennihan/AP/Shutterstock.

In the semi-final against Italy, Caniggia sent a header past goalkeeper Walter Zenga, the first goal the host nation conceded at the tournament.

Argentina won on penalties but there was heartbreak for the future Dee as he picked up a yellow card that ruled him out of the final against West Germany, an utterly dismal and ill-tempered affair settled by an Andreas Brehme penalty.

Maradona later insisted Argentina would have won had Caniggia been able to play.

While the man known in his homeland as El Pajaro (The Bird) was starring on the global stage, Dundee were coming to terms with relegation from the Scottish Premier League.

Two years later, Caniggia joined Roma in Italy’s Serie A for £6m at a time when the Dens Park side were bartering with Lochore Welfare in the Fife junior leagues for the signature of Gary Paterson for £1,000 and a set of tracksuits.

Fast forward eight years and Dundee were in slightly better health.

Caniggia: The exciting documentary Dundee FC fans won’t want to miss

Back in the top flight, millionaire owners Jimmy and Peter Marr were at the helm and Italian manager Ivano Bonetti was in the dugout.

Former Juventus and Sampdoria midfielder Bonetti was masterminding a colourful overhaul of the playing staff and it was an injury to star striker Fabian Caballero in a derby game against Dundee United that prompted a search for a replacement.

One man Bonetti knew from his time in Italy was Caniggia.

Dundee fans who could recall the capture of ‘Trackies Paterson’ and the club almost going out of business in the 1990s were pinching themselves when Caniggia turned up in Sandeman Street with his catwalk model wife Mariana.

Caniggia starred for Dundee before joining Rangers.
Caniggia starred for Dundee before joining Rangers in the summer of 2001. Image: SNS.

What became of Benjamin Massing?

Massing, who played for Creteil and Olympic Mvolyé, won 21 caps for his country between 1986 and 1992 and also took part in three Africa Cup of Nations.

But it was his challenge against Caniggia which is etched in footballing history.

The tackle was even recreated in a brick-by-brick video animation by a national newspaper in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

When the international news agency Reuters reported Massing’s tragic death aged just 55 in 2017, the headline read: Ex-Cameroon defender who committed World Cup’s worst tackle dies.

In Hart’s book, released the following year, he was quoted as saying: “It’s a nice thing for me.

“Wherever I go, it’s, ‘Ah, he’s the one who did the tackle on Caniggia’. Everywhere.

“It’s what people recognise me for.

“So I have to say, it’s affection I get more than anything else, and if it was a source of money, I’d be a rich man.”