The World Cup is the biggest sporting competition in the world. Its audience and viewing figures exceed that of the next biggest, the Olympic Games. The first World Cup took place in 1930, and there have been 19 tournaments since then and a total of eight winners. Brazil have won the tournament five time, Italy and Germany four times, Argentina and Uruguay twice and England, France and Spain once.
With the biggest stage in the world comes quite incredible pressure. Some teams and characters thrive under such conditions, whilst others crumble. The Germans are renowned for their excellent mentality, yet they crop up on the receiving end of a choke three times on this list, the joint most, level with Italy.
Other chokers include France, Spain, Portugal and England, among others, whose defeats all shocked the world. These are the biggest upsets in World Cup history, involving results which were questioned even by national media, some which resulted in nations going into meltdown, suicide and the victory of teams who were 1000/1 to win the competition defeating world soccer superpowers.
Even though many players playing in the World Cup are paid millions while playing for their club, they are under the most pressure during the World Cup because they have an entire nation's hopes resting on their shoulders. It's when the whole world is watching and the strongest impressions on a player are left on the international stage. On this list are the impressions that left a really sour taste for these teams that collapsed before our very eyes on the grandest stage.
Here are the top 15 World Cup Chokejobs:
15 France - 2002
Senegal's 1-0 defeat of France was one of the great shocks in World Cup history. France had steamrolled their way through the 1998 World Cup, beating South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Paraguay, Italy and Croatia, before romping home with a 3-0 victory over Brazil in the final. By the time the 2002 World Cup came about, they had only lost six games since '98, adding a European Championships in 2000 and began their defense against Senegal.
14 Germany - 1994
13 Netherlands - Two Losses in Finals in a Row (1974, 1978)
12 England on Penalties (Any one)
11 Spain - 2014
How did Spain's epic run of dominance come crashing down so quickly? While everyone knew Spain would be in tough in 2014 to match what they had done in 2010, no one could have expected them to get spanked by the Dutch the way they did in their opening game. After Alonso put Spain ahead in the 27th minute, van Persie equalized late in the first half. Six years of dominance was torn down in the next half, as the Dutch trounced the Spanish for a 5-1 win.
10 Italy - 2002
9 Portugal - 2002
8 Spain - 1982
Northern Ireland's greatest export is of course George Best, but he had been retired from international soccer for five years when the club achieved their greatest ever World Cup win against Spain in 1982. In a far from star-studded squad, Northern Ireland did have some quality, in the form of Pat Jennings, Martin O'Neil and Norman Whiteside.
7 Scotland Blows Best Chance
6 Gyan's Miss - 2010
5 Italy - 1966
Uruguay's defeat of Brazil and the subsequent events of that day which have become known as the 'Maracanazo' will forever be enshrined in soccer folk law. The possibility that the Brazilians could lose the game hadn't even entered the consciousness of the home crowd when their players choked and allowed the comparative minnows of Uruguay to reign victorious. The game began as expected, with waives of Brazilian attacks, and they eventually took a 1-0 lead.
3 Italy - 2010
2 England falls to U.S. Amateurs
1 Hungary's Golden Team Can't Finish
If the Germans were to defeat the Hungarians 3-2 today, it would go down as a routine win, and Hungary would most likely be praised for not losing by a bigger margin. However, in 1954, the Germans were considered no match for the Magical Magyars of Hungary. This was the Hungarian Golden Team, which was laced with greats of the game. They hadn't lost a game in over four years, annihilating the vast majority of their opponents. In their warm-up games, they beat England 6-3 and 7-1, Italy 3-0, Turkey 7-1 and Czechoslovakia 5-0. They were the biggest favorites to win a World Cup final in history.
West Germany and Hungary had already faced one and another in the Group Stages of the competition, with Hungary winning the game 8-3. In their other World Cup games they beat South Korea 9-0, Brazil 4-2 and Uruguay 4-2. A mediocre Germany team which had achieved almost nothing on the world stage at this time, were major underdogs. The game began as expected, with Hungary leading 2-0 after eight minutes. A valiant West German side hit back quickly though, and went on to record the biggest shock in World Cup history, winning the game 3-2. The Magical Magyars are possibly the greatest national team in history, and it is a great shame they choked when it mattered most and having nothing to show for their genius on the pitch.
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