Fans have witnessed many memorable World Cup performances over the last few decades, but there were also plenty of depressing displays that fans would like to forget about. We are not going to let them, though, so we have listed our picks for “Top 10 teams that truly disappointed at World Cup tournaments.”
10. Hungary 1982
After beating El Salvador 10-1 in their first game, Hungary became a favorite to advance into the second stage of the World Cup. But following a 1-4 thrashing by Argentina, a draw with the resilient Belgians meant that the Magyars were going home with a goal difference of +6.
9. England 2014 / 8. Italy 2014
In 2014, England and Italy were drawn into a group that also featured Costa Rica and Uruguay, and most pundits quickly proclaimed that the European rivals would compete for the first place. But neither team was able to score against Costa Rica, whose goalkeeper Keylor Navas played lights out and was rewarded with a contract from Real Madrid. And then there was Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan star left an indelible mark by scoring two goals against England as well as a bite against Italy that turned a close game. So ultimately, the European giants crashed out of the World Cup before anyone had expected.
7. Argentina 1994
The 1994 World Cup was the last tournament that featured 24 teams in six groups. The format meant that four of the best teams that finished third in their group qualified for the knockout stage. 1990 World Cup finalist Argentina was among them, as they had been four years earlier, but this time their legendary captain Maradona failed a drug test and was banned from the competition. The result was a 2-3 loss to Romania in the round of 16.
6. France 2010
In 2006, France lost the World Cup final on penalty kicks. Four years later, they stalled in the group stage after gaining only one point. No one could have anticipated such a horrendous performance by les Bleus, what with facing opponents from Mexico, Uruguay, and South Africa.
5. Spain 2014
The 2010 World Cup champions, Spain entered also as the winners of two European championships within the last four years. But their defense of the World Cup crown ended after only three matches. Ultimately sent packing by Chile, their brief run included a 1-5 disaster against the Netherlands, and a decisive though meaningless victory against Australia.
4. Italy 2010
In South Africa, the 2006 world champions finished at the bottom of their group. In a typical World Cup showing, Italy recorded draws against both Paraguay and New Zealand. They then failed to cash in on a real chance late in their match against Slovakia, so the Italians would not see the knockout round in this tournament.
3. France 2002
Zidane’s France were the kings of the world in 2002. They received an automatic spot in the World Cup as the reigning champions and were the most recent European champions as well. But then all hell broke loose when the French lost their opening game to Senegal 0-1. Without scoring a single goal, France exited the group stage in the last place. Their disaster was so monumental that FIFA changed its qualification process. From 2006 on, World Cup champions are required to play qualifying matches like any other team, unless they are the hosts.
2. Brazil 2014
This World Cup was supposed to erase the traumatic memory of the Brazilian performance in the 1950 tournament, which they also hosted. After destroying Spain 3-0 in the final of the Confederations Cup, the Selecao entered the tournament as overwhelming favorites, and the stage was set for massive celebrations. Things took a different turn, however, as the team limped to the semifinal unable to shake off their nerves. On July 9th, they met an extremely efficient German machine, and the result was the worst game in Brazil’s history: a 1-7 thrashing that traumatized the nation all over again.
1. North Korea 2010
More loyal than any other nation on Earth, 99% of North Korea’s citizens expected their team to lift the trophy at the 2010 World Cup, and the state media had already produced numerous reports that Team Kim Jong-Il had won the World Cup. Unfortunately for the North Koreans, they bowed out of the tournament at the bottom of their group – so it was bad news that had to be aired instead of what had been so zealously predicted. As a result, the entire squad had to endure a six-hour long public humiliation at the People’s Palace of Culture in front of more than 400 officials and journalists.