In sport, a "choker" or "choke artist", is an individual or a team who squander a seemingly unassailable winning position or fail to achieve something when the odds were heavily stacked in their favor. In Britain, the term "bottler" is preferred to "choker", with both meaning largely the same thing. The reasons for a "choke" are often put down to nerves or a lack of mental strength and "choking" in general is regarded as a form of analysis paralysis.
In soccer, where the audiences and stakes at the top level of the game are extreme, choking is fairly common. The beauty of the game, in many ways, is the chance of one side beating any other on a particular given day, even if the odds are firmly against them. Confidence plays such a large part in soccer that chokes are far from uncommon and when sides gain or lose momentum, huge swings and changes in fortune can be caused.
Throughout the history of soccer, heavily fancied teams have failed and been labelled chokers whilst underdogs have rallied to victory. Even in recent years, when sports psychologists and the like have been introduced, in order to fine tune the mental state of soccer players, chokes are still a regular occurrence. While it's devastating to the players or teams, the cruel nature of not just soccer, but any sport is what makes it so intense. Emotions run incredibly high, then hit just about the worst low you could ask for.
Here are the 15 biggest chokers in soccer history:
20 Liverpool/Steven Gerrard: 2013/14
19 West Germany: Euro '76 Final
18 Wayne Rooney: 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014
17 Newcastle United: 1995/96
16 Burnley: 1961/62
15 Real Madrid: 2003/04
14 Arsenal blows 4-goal lead to Newcastle
13 Bayern Munich, 1999
The 1999 Champions League Final is one of the finest occasions in modern football history, unless you are a Bayern Munich supporter. Held at the magnificent Nou Camp in Barcelona, in front of a capacity 90,000 spectator crowd, Europe's premier club competition was competed in dramatic fashion by the two best teams on the continent at the time. Both sides had a potential treble in sight, and Bayern took the lead after just six minutes and when the fourth official held his electronic board aloft, their one-goal lead was still intact.
12 Manchester United, 1994/95
11 Spice Boys
10 France, Italy, Spain as defending champions
9 John Terry, 2008 Champions League Final
8 Liverpool vs. Arsenal, 1989
Sorry Liverpool fans, we're not picking on you and things will improve by the end of this list I promise you. It has to be said though, that the game between Liverpool and Arsenal in 1989 constituted a monumental choke. Played at Anfield, the match was the final game of the 1988/89 season and Liverpool and Arsenal made up the league's top two sides, and the clash acted as a potential title decider. Having said that, most did not see it that way.
7 Lionel Messi, International Competition
While he's been widely regarded as the best player in the world, Messi has yet to really wow us on the international stage. He seemed destined to give us that moment last summer, but could not will the Argentinians to victory. They've also fallen short in La Copa America. Argentina's only tournament victory with Messi came in the 2008 Summer Olympics where La Albiceleste won the gold. Still very underwhelming for a player considered by many to be the best of this generation.
6 France, 1994 World Cup Qualifiers
5 Roberto Baggio, 1994 World Cup Final
4 Asamoah Gyan
Asamoah Gyan stands right at the corner of 'choke' and 'heartbreak'. Ghana was Africa's last hope in the 2010 World Cup. Following a flagrant handball by Luis Suarez at the end of extra time, Ghana was awarded a penalty kick and seemed destined to become the first African team in history to advance to the semifinals. Gyan had been Ghana's best player throughout the tournament but couldn't finish on this day. Gyan's kick bounced off the crossbar, sending the game to a penalty shootout, which Uruguay won 4-2.
3 AC Milan, 2005 Champions League Final
2 Hungary, 1954 World Cup Final
The Hungary team of the early-mid 1950s is regarded by many as the finest international team to ever take to the field. However, due to the Miracle of Bern, they have no major trophies to show for this dominance. Hungary had humiliated West Germany 8-3 in the group stages and the final got off on a similar theme as Hungary raced into a 2-0 lead after eight minutes.
1 Brazil, 1950 World Cup Final
There are a number of factors which are thought to bring about a 'choke', but overconfidence, complacency, excessive pressure, weight of expectation and inferior mental strength to one's opponents are perhaps the most noted. All of these could be used to describe the Brazil team of the 1950 World Cup. Held on home soil, there was an incredible expectancy and unwavering belief that Brazil would claim the trophy. Almost 175,000 Brazil fans looked on in disbelief as they were defeated by Uruguay and the loss sent the country into trauma with reports of members of the public and one radio journalist committing suicide in the wake of the defeat. In a unique group rather than a knockout format, Brazil only needed a draw to win the World Cup and looked set to do so having taken the lead. Uruguay struck back twice to win the game 2-1 and win the World Cup with it, in what is often regarded as the greatest shock in World Cup history.
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