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Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Shocking World Cup exits

Martin Williamson

As France exit the 2010 World Cup, Soccernet looks back at some of the major shocks in the tournament from history.

• Moonda: The show must go on
• Marshall: Where next for France?

Germany 1938
With several of the best South American sides sulking and Nazi Germany having swallowed Austria earlier in the year (and in so doing acquired their best players), they were expected to contest the final with Italy. In the first round they survived a scare when held to a draw by Switzerland, and in the replay five days later led 2-0 before losing their composure and going down 4-2. Their coach Sepp Herberger guided them to the World Cup 16 years later.

England 1950
After sniffily remaining aloof from the first three World Cups, a powerful England side travelled to Brazil as one of the favourites and when they started with a 2-0 win against Chile all appeared to be going well. Then came the historic 1-0 loss to USA ("On any other day we'd have won by nine or ten," said England keeper Bert Williams) and, shellshocked, defeat by Spain and England were on their way home

England 1958
Had the term been invented, England were in the group of death along with Brazil, the Soviet Union and Austria but were still expected to progress. They drew all three matches - never once leading - and then with points equal and goal difference not a factor, were forced into a play-off with the Soviet Union which they lost.

Brazil 1966
Winners of the previous two tournaments, Brazil were the hot favourites despite them sticking with a largely ageing side. In their second group match they lost a thrilling game to Hungary - their first World Cup loss in 12 years - and were then beaten by Portugal to be eliminated. In the two matches he played, a half-fit Pele was so cynically fouled he vowed never to take part in another World Cup

Italy 1966
It was possible to feel some sympathy for the Brazilians, that was not the case for the Italians who were dogged by rumours of drug use, some dreadful selections and a tendency towards injury-inducing fouls. That their miserable participation was ended at the group stage with a 1-0 loss to North Korea, brought delight to the wider world. The Italians, on the other hand, were pelted with rotten fruit on their return home.

Brazil 1974
After bouncing back to win in 1970, an ageing side without Pele were, with hindsight, never up to the billing as one of the favourites even though their strength was defence and not the usual attack - "We're out of character now," lamented Pele. Held to goalless draws by Yugoslavia and Scotland, they progressed to the second stage with a dire 3-0 win over Zaire. After a win over Argentina in the first World Cup meeting of the rivals, their tournament ended in shame when they hacked and fouled their way to defeat against the slick Dutch in a match billed as the old world against Netherlands' new 'total football'.

West Germany 1978
The backbone of the 1974 winning side had retired, and Franz Beckenbauer quit to join the New York Cosmos in 1977, but the side was still expected to do well. However, the over-the-hill remnants were joined by replacements less able to adapt to Helmut Schoen's approach and their performances were lamented as "dour" by the papers. They drew four of their first six matches - three of them goalless - before exiting, to general relief, with a 3-2 loss to Austria.

Argentina 1982
As was the case eight years later, Argentina as champions lost the World Cup curtain-raiser 1-0, on this occasion to Belgium. Some believed the only recently concluded Falklands War proved a distraction, but they just made it through the first group stage before disintegrating in the second, departing in ignominy with back-to-back defeats and almost the final act was the dismissal of the young Maradona for a "spiteful foul of a spoiled little boy".

Colombia 1994
They qualified without losing a game - twice defeating Argentina, including a 5-0 thrashing in Buenos Aires - and were tipped by many as the surprise package. But their preparations had been dogged by rumours that betting syndicates and drug cartels were influencing the team, and while they played well in the USA, they finished bottom of the group and were eliminated at the first hurdle. Six days after their last match, Andres Escobar, who had scored an own goal in the 2-1 defeat by USA, was shot dead outside a bar in Colombia. The murder was widely believed to be retribution by organised crime syndicates for the own goal.

France 2002
Over-confidence from the champions led to them not only failing to make it past the group stage but not even managing to score a goal. They opened with defeat to former colony Senegal in the curtain raiser and things went downhill from then on. "It just goes to show you that quality alone is not enough," admitted Patrick Vieira. "You have to work and keep your feet on the ground." Eight years later they didn't even have the quality to fall back on.


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