Sunday, June 20, 2010

Greatest Upsets In World Cups

The 2010 World Cup has seen its share of surprises with Switzerland beating Spain and New Zealand holding world champions Italy, so here are some of the greatest World Cup shocks of the past.

Senegal 1-0 France - 2002

Papa Bouba Diop scored the winning goal against France in 2002.

France's problems in this year's tournament show a remarkable similarity to those suffered in their 2002 campaign. Roger Lemere's team kicked off that World Cup as defending champions and were widely tipped to retain their crown after winning the 2000 European Championships. In contrast, their opening-match opponents Senegal were making their first appearance on the world stage, but, with a French coach and a starting line-up consisting entirely of France-based players, the West Africans knew what to expect. Suitably inspired, Senegal set about making their mark and grabbed the only goal of the game as Papa Bouba Diop scrambled El Hadj Diouf's low cross over the line. A French recovery never materialised despite the talent in their ranks. That talent would continue to struggle as a draw with Uruguay and a 2-0 defeat against Denmark saw France crash to an amazing first-round exit without scoring a single goal.

Cameroon 1-0 Argentina - 1990

Twelve years before Senegal upset the odds in Seoul, Cameroon pulled off a similarly shocking result to topple 1986 World champions Argentina in Milan. Diego Maradona and Co. travelled to the San Siro expecting to pick up where they had left off in Mexico four years earlier but a Cameroon side full of power and flamboyance would leave them reeling as they did the unthinkable and took the lead when Argentine goalkeeper Nery Pumpido made a real mess of Francois Oman-Biyick's header. Unlike Senegal, Cameroon would have to resort to desperate defending to preserve their lead and finished the game with nine men. However, despite creating several gilt-edge chances, Argentina failed to find the net, handing the Indomitable Lions their first World Cup win at the fourth time of asking. Cameroon would win more friends as Roger Milla in particular earned rave reviews for his dancing as much as his goal scoring. Their journey would take them to within eight minutes of a semi-final spot before Gary Lineker and England broke their hearts in a brilliant quarter-final in Naples.

Northern Ireland 1-0 Spain - 1982

In 1982, Spain were very much still locked into their role as perennial underachievers but as the host nation it seemed that year's tournament offered their best chance of World Cup glory. A win and a draw in their first two group matches had already sealed Spain's progress into the second round but a win against an unheralded Northern Ireland side in front of a partisan Valencia crowd remained a must. Needing a win to grab a spot in the next round, Northern Ireland's team of journeymen would silence the home crowd - despite the controversial dismissal of Mal Donaghy for a seemingly innocuous shove. Gerry Armstrong, a 28-year-old winger who had struggled to break into Second Division Watford's team, was the underdogs' hero. Following up on Luis Arconada's fumble, Armstrong emphatically rifled home between the goalkeeper's legs. Ironically, the Ulsterman's heroics would earn him a move to Real Mallorca, where he would spend a successful two-year spell before returning to England with West Bromwich Albion. Spain would gain a measure of revenge four years later with a 2-1 win in Guadalajara.

Bulgaria 2-1 Germany - 1994

Yordan Letchkov's flying header knocked defending champions Germany out in 1994.

After safely negotiating a tricky second-round clash with Belgium, defending champions Germany seemed set for their fourth consecutive foray into the last four as they lined up against a Bulgaria team that had been humiliated in the group stage by Nigeria. That assumption seemed correct as Lothar Matthaus' first-half penalty gave the favourites the advantage. However, a second-half comeback of rousing proportions would ensue. Volatile Barcelona striker Hristo Stoichkov pulled Bulgaria back into the match with a terrific 30-yard free-kick, before midfielder Yordan Lechkov produced one of the most iconic moments of recent World Cup history as he launched himself onto the end of a left-wing cross to head home a glorious winner to send the Germans packing.

Algeria 2-1 West Germany - 1982

West Germany's part in the 1982 World Cup will be best remembered for their classic semi-final clash with France, but, in the searing heat of Gijon, Jupp Derwall's star-studded side received the rudest of awakenings. Algeria, inspired by African Footballer of the Year Lakhder Belloumi, began the trail of African sides upsetting the odds as they twice took the lead either side of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's equaliser to seal a 2-1 win. Despite picking up another win against Chile in their final group game, Algeria would bow out at the first hurdle on goal difference after a controversially convenient 1-0 win for West Germany over Austria saw both teams progress at the North Africans' expense.

Scotland 3-2 Holland - 1978

Scotland's 1978 World Cup campaign would ultimately end in disappointment despite manager Ally MacLeod's pre-tournament suggestion that they could go all the way. The tournament would, however, provide them with one of their most famous victories in their final group game. Archie Gemmill, with his balding pate and twinkle-toed skills, scored his legendary goal, that has since been immortalised in the film Trainspotting, as the Scots ran out 3-2 winners over a Cruyff-less Holland. The result was not good enough to guide MacLeod's men into the second round as they missed out on goal difference, but Holland's run to their second consecutive final highlighted just how impressive a victory it had been.

Costa Rica 1-0 Scotland - 1990

In 1990, Scotland's World Cup fortunes took a turn for the worse as they came out on the wrong end of a World Cup shock of stirring proportions against debutants Costa Rica. The result, secured by a goal by striker Juan Arnaldo Cayasso, made Costa Rica the first Central American side to win a World Cup game in Europe. Although the result did not register on the richter scale compared to Cameroon's victory over Argentina, Costa Rica's shock credentials were hard to ignore as they qualified for the second phase with another surprise win over Sweden.

Ireland 1-0 Italy - 1994

Led by a hot and bothered Jack Charlton, Ireland treated 75,000 people at New York's Giants Stadium to one of the most memorable images of World Cup history as they upset the odds against Italy in their opening group game. Ray Houghton, the embodiment of Ireland's plucky style, grabbed the only goal of the game with a looping 11th-minute winner. Buoyed by their success, Charlton's side would progress into the second round, but any hope of matching the 1990 squad's achievement of reaching the quarter-finals came unstuck as they were outclassed by a slick Holland side in Orlando.

South Korea 2-1 Italy - 2002

Ahn Jung-Hwan's late header stunned Italy in 2002.

South Korea had never won a World Cup match prior to staging the tournament in 2002 but an incredible run to the semi-finals would establish the joint hosts as a force to be reckoned with. Their second-round win over Giovanni Trapattoni's Italy, in which they recovered from an early Christian Vieri goal, was arguably the finest point of their journey. Seol Ki Hyeon's 88th-minute equaliser punished the Italians for sitting back on a slender lead, although Trapattoni's side should have been clear by that point after Vieri passed up a glorious chance from two yards out. Extra-time would be full of drama as Italy saw a goal ruled out for offside and had Francesco Totti dismissed in dubious circumstances - much to the visible frustration of Trapattoni. Ahn Jung-Hwan, a reserve player at Serie A side Perugia, headed in the crucial golden goal to send the hosts through to a quarter-final clash with Spain - which they would come through in similarly dramatic circumstances before slipping to a 1-0 defeat against Germany in the semi-finals.

North Korea 1-0 Italy - 1966

36 years before South Korea humiliated Italy, their Northern counterparts provided the biggest shock of the 1966 World Cup against the same opposition. The enigmatic North Koreans created quite a buzz in Middlesbrough - their base for the World Cup - and, roared on by the Ayresome Park crowd, took out one of the pre-tournament favourites in superb style. Italy's team, including a number of Inter Milan's double European Cup-winning side, were stunned by the enterprising play of the North Koreans and offered little in the way of a reply after dropping behind to Pak Doo-Ik's angled drive. The defeat sent the Italians crashing out at the first hurdle and, in true pantomime style, the players were pelted with rotten tomatoes at the airport on their return home.

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