Friday, July 2, 2010

The seven biggest shocks in World Cup history at the knockout stage

Will the four eagerly anticipated FIFA World Cup 2010 quarter-finals produce any major shocks? The latter stages of previous tournaments have had their quota of surprising, occasionally stunning results, where for a variety of reasons fate defied form and the outcome was emphatically not as predicted. We recall some of the more memorable.

Uruguay beat Brazil, 1950

Oddly, no provision was made for a World Cup final in the first post-war tournament, yet results in the 'final pool' of six matches meant that the last game to be played was indeed the decider, and it provided both a classic thriller and a shock. 

Hosts Brazil were the overwhelming favourites to defeat Uruguay, having dismantled Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1 in their first two pool games. They were thought to be invincible by their own fans, and winning the cup at the still unfinished Maracana, where a world record crowd of 200,000 gathered to watch them be crowned champions, was not so much a formality as divine destiny. 

Over-confidence, perhaps, and a reliance on the flamboyance and attacking brio that had got them there, proved their undoing. Despite taking the lead early in the second half through Friaca, they found Uruguay to be determined and tactically astute opponents who refused to buckle. When Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalised, the Brazilians visibly deflated; when Alcides Ghiggia scored a second 10 minutes from time to win the trophy for the Uruguayans, the Brazilian nation was bereft.

Germany beat Hungary, 1954

The magnificent Hungarian side of the early '50s were also overwhelming favourites to win the trophy four years later, but with their inspirational captain Ferenc Puskas labouring under an injury sustained in an earlier match, they ultimately failed to fulfil expectations. 

Against West Germany in the final in Berne, the gamble of playing the unfit Puskas appeared to have worked when he put the Magyars ahead after six minutes. And when Zoltan Czibor added a second two minutes later, it looked all over. 

But the Germans were made of resolute stuff and mounted a stirring comeback. On 18 minutes they were level through goals from Max Morlock and then Helmut Rahn. Yet Hungary took control again with some breathtaking attacking play. But the Germans stood firm, and 15 minutes from time Rahn scored the winning goal.

Chile beat USSR, 1962

The shock of the quarter-finals in 1962 was hosts Chile's 2-1 victory over the formidable USSR. 

Chile, impoverished and recently devastated by earthquakes, had not been expected to progress far in the competition. 

But roared on and inspired by fanatical home support, the South Americans triumphed with two long-range efforts from Leonel Sanchez and Eladio Rojas, respectively - both of which the normally impressive Lev Yashin would have expected to save. 

Igor Chislenko scored one for the Soviets in-between the two Chilean goals, but it was not enough.

 Italy beat Brazil, 1982

Some regard the 1982 Brazilian side - of Socrates, Zico and Falcao - as their most exciting of all. Yet that richly endowed team were undone in the second round of group games, which took the place of quarter-finals in the Spain tournament. 

They beat Argentina decisively, a frustrated Diego Maradona being sent off for blatantly kicking Batista, then met Italy in the decider. 

The Italians had slumbered through the initial group stage with three draws, but now they came alive. 

In a marvellous match, Paolo Rossi suddenly and emphatically found his form, and back to his incisive self, scored twice - but each time Brazil came back to equalise with stunners from Socrates and Falcao. 

However, Rossi completed his hat-trick 16 minutes from time, and the best side in the tournament were out. Italy, though, maintained their improvement and went on to win the cup.

Bulgaria beat Germany, 1994

Germany were expected to be Italy's semi-final opponents in 1994, but in the heat at Giants Stadium, over 70,000 fans witnessed an upset as Bulgaria enjoyed their finest hour on the pitch. 

With Lothar Matthaus looking unhappy as a sweeper for Germany, the game ebbed and flowed until the Germans took the lead early in the second half. Yordan Letchkov tripped Juergen Klinsmann and when Matthaus duly scored the penalty, Germany looked set to progress. 

With less than 20 minutes to go, Andreas Moeller hit the post and Rudi Voeller converted the rebound; but the effort was ruled offside. And a couple of minutes after that Hristo Stoichkov was fouled by Guido Buchwald and blasted the free-kick into the net himself. 

Then, remarkably, Bulgaria took the lead 12 minutes from time. Letchkov soared above Thomas Hassler to head home an inviting right-wing cross and Germany were on their way back to Europe.

Croatia beat Germany, 1998

World Cup debutants Croatia were a revelation at France '98 and took Germany apart in the quarter-finals. 

It was a rough game, probably the aftermath of a Euro '96 quarter-final meeting that Germany had won 2-1. Christian Worns was sent off for fouling Davor Suker; Oliver Bierhoff was lucky to stay on for elbowing Soldo. 

But Robert Jarni gave Croatia the lead with a spectacular effort just before the break, and German manager Berti Vogts struggled to come up with the effective tactics or substitutions to change the pattern. 

Goran Vlaovic and then Davor Suker - with a superb individual goal - added two more for Croatia to complete a remarkable and emphatic 3-0 victory.

South Korea beat Spain, 2002

Having controversially beaten Italy in the second round, co-hosts South Korea proceeded to defeat Spain in the quarter-finals against all expectations, though again with controversy. 

In Gwangju, Spain were without the injured Raul, but were strong favourites nevertheless. They created chances but couldn't convert them. But when Ivan Helguera headed home Javier De Pedro's free kick on 48 minutes, it was mysteriously disallowed, Korea being awarded a free-kick instead. 

The game went to extra-time, when a linesman wrongly ruled that the ball had crossed the goal-line after Joaquin centred and before Fernando Morientes headed it into the net. 

Now it was penalties. Joaquin missed the decisive kick, though goalkeeper Lee Won-Jae was well off his line; and South Korea had triumphed 5-3 in the shoot-out.  

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