From Hero to Zero

Germany’s elimination from the 2018 World Cup in Russia is not the first time the current reigning champions have failed to progress to the next round. The German’s are in good company and follow recent trends.

The inaugural winners of the 1930 World Cup Uruguay did not, for various reasons, participate in the 1934. So they didn’t defend their title in open competition, and cannot be considered in the same way as other teams mentioned. Italy won the tournament in 1934 & 1938, but it was not held again until 1950 due to the outbreak of World War 2.

World Cup winners from 1950 to 1958, 1966 to 1994 and 2002 all managed to reach the second phase of the following tournament AT LEAST.

After consecutive World Cup victories in 1958 and 1962 BRAZIL were the first reigning champions to be eliminated in the group stages at the 1966 finals.  Heavy 3-1 defeats by Hungary and Portugal and a solitary 2-0 win over Bulgaria meant Brazil finished third in their group.

FRANCE winners in 1998 were dumped out of the 2002 tournament coming bottom of their group. Between defeats from Senegal 1-0 and Denmark 2-0, the French only managed a scant goal less draw with Uruguay.

ITALY winners in 2006 achieved the same accolade as France in 2002, coming bottom of their group in South African 2010. Consecutive 1-1 draws with Paraguay and New Zealand, meant the Italians needed a positive result against Slovakia. From 25 minutes the score read Slovakia 1 Italy 0, until 73 minutes when an onslaught of goals occurred, resulting in a 3-2 humiliating defeat for the Italians.

SPAIN 2010 winners only managed third place in their 2014 group stage. Spain suffered a heavy 1-5 defeat by the Netherlands who went on the rampage, and gave themselves and the football family, the final that should have happened in 2010. Chile beat the reigning champions 2-0 and Spain’s only consolation was a 3-0 win over Australia.

And now GERMANY 2014 winners eliminated after coming third in the group. After defeat by Mexico 1-0 the German’s pulled off a last gasp 2-1 win against Sweden. But plucky South Korea stunned the Europeans with a two goal stoppage time victory.

The three most recent World Cup winners have suffered early exits, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the WAY these teams won their titles. In 2006 Italy drew 1-1 with France and won on penalties, and both Spain in 2010 and Germany in 2014 won by a solitary goal scored deep into extra time.  None of them won particularly convincingly. All used aging players who had been together a long time before getting victory, but by the next tournament new players and methods may have been implemented, but were obviously not yet fully harnessed. It’s an interesting conundrum!

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World Cup Surprise Results

South Korea’s 2-0 victory in added time over Germany broke the reigning World champion’s heart, as they were knocked out at the group stage of Russia2018. But Germany had also been defeated by one goal in their first match against Mexico, which proved equally pivotal.  Looking back over the history of the football World Cup, there have been several big teams surprised by “lesser” opponents pulling off unexpected results. Here are some of them:

1950: USA 1 England 0-A dispute between the home nations governing football bodies and FIFA, meant that no British nation took part in the previous three World Cups (1930, 1934 & 1938). England defeated Chile 2-0 in their first match, but appeared somewhat complacent toward their American opposition, almost treating the fixture like a practice game. England could not break down a doughty defensive line, or beat Borghi who was excellent in goal for the US. England went home early but at least they had taken part, Scotland had forfeited their World Cup participation through misplaced national pride. FIFA had given the British Championship two qualifying places, but Scotland said they would only take part in the World Cup as British Champions, but they came second.

1950 Final: URUGUAY 2 Brazil 1-With Brazil hosting the tournament how could they lose? Before a ball was kicked, the Rio state Governor had waxed lyrical about the Brazil team being football gods, and effectively claimed them as World champions. Another stubborn defence & brave keeper combined with productive counter attacks by Uruguay stunned the host nation.

1958: For the first and only time ALL FOUR HOME NATIONS participated and it was Wales and Northern Ireland who reached the knockout stages.

Germany 2 NORTHERN IRELAND 2-With a win and loss already under their belt, a draw against the reigning World champions guaranteed the Irish a play-off chance to reach the knockout stages. After defeating Czechoslovakia, the Irish met France in the quarter-finals, but weary and ravaged by injury they suffered a 4-0 loss.

Playoff WALES 2 Hungary 1-By defeating the 1954 World Cup finalists, Wales went into the knockout stages where they faced Brazil in their quarterfinal. Brazil 1 WALES 0-the Welsh proved stubborn against Brazilian attacks, and it was only a deflected effort from Pele that beat their keeper. Pele has attributed that goal as THE MOST IMPORTANT he has ever scored. Brazil went on to win the final and be crowned World Champions for the first time.

1966: NORTH KOREA 1 Italy 0-This win eliminated Italy at the group stage and North Korea progressed to the quarter-finals. Portugal 5 NORTH KOREA 3-the Koreans put up a spirited fight and scored three goals within 25 minutes, before Portugal rallied to make it 2-3 by half time. Fire power from Eusebio (4 goals/2 from penalties) & Augusto proved too much to overcome. North Korea was the first Asian team ever to progress from the group stages. Only Saudi Arabia 1994, South Korea in 2002 & 2010 and Japan in 2010 & 2018 have managed the same achievement.

1978: PERU 3 Scotland 1-Ally McLeod had already decided his tartan army were World Champions before they left British shores!!! Poor preparation and complacency were Scotland’s undoing, as well as two superb goals for Peru by Cubillas. Scotland’s lessons in humility continued in their next match Scotland 1 IRAN 1, when a farcical Iranian own goal gifted the Scots a valuable point. But just when Scotland had sunk to their lowest point BOOM they pulled off a fantastic win. SCOTLAND 3 Holland 2 when Archie Gemmill bemused three Dutch defenders to weave his diminutive frame into a striking position. With a nonchalant air he then bent the ball around helpless keeper Jongbloed for Scotland’s third (and winning) goal. Holland only suffered two defeats in Argentina 78, conceding three goals each time, and one was in the final the other to Gemmill’s right boot!

1982: Host nation Spain suffered two embarrassing results during the group stage; Spain 1 HONDURAS 1 and Spain 0 NORTHERN IRELAND 1. Although Spain squeaked into the next round they went no further.

ALGERIA 2 West Germany 1-Algeria finished the group stage with two wins and a defeat, but still had no guarantee of progression to the second round. The final decider West Germany 1 Austria 0 was effectively a contrived result between the two countries, to ensure THEY went through and Algeria went home. The resulting disgust of fans worldwide who had witnessed this “staged passive” game, eventually forced the FIFA authorities to act. As a consequence, since 1986 the final two matches in each group have been played at the same time, in an attempt to prevent a fixed result occurring again.

1990: Costa Rica appeared in their inaugural World Cup and surprised many with their group results; COSTA RICA 1 Scotland 0, Brazil 1 COSTA RICA 0 and COSTA RICA 2 Sweden 1. They progressed to the next round and a 4-1 Czechoslovakia defeat. Further participation in the 2002, 2006, 2014 and 2018 World Cup’s has given Costa Rica more exposure. By far the country’s most successful tournament was in 2014 when they reached the quarter finals.

2014: A tough group stage held no fears for the Central American team who once again triumphed; Uruguay 1 COSTA RICA 3, Italy 0 COSTA RICA 1 and COSTA RICA 0 England 0. In the last 16 Costa Rica faced Greece and went through on penalties. Eventually after a 0-0 result after extra time, the Netherlands dispatched Costa Rica 4-3 on penalties.

1994: Belgium 0 SAUDI ARABIA 1-with this win Saudi Arabia relegated Belgium to third place in the group and an early exit. All three teams had secured 6 points, but Holland and Saudi Arabia had identical statistics and a better goal difference than the Belgians.

Quarter-final BULGARIA 2 Germany 1: Matthaus gave the German’s the lead from the penalty spot at the start of the second half (47). But tournament Golden Boot winner Stoichkov scored a sublime free kick to equalise on 75 minutes before Letchkov redeemed himself for giving away the penalty, by scoring the winner with a powerful header on 78 minutes.

1998 Quarter-final: Germany 0 CROATIA 3-Having gained independence in 1991 this was the first time Croatia participated in the World Cup (previously they were part of Yugoslavia 1930-1990). And they reached the semi-finals before winning the third place match. Davor Suker was in sublime form with six goals, which deservedly won the Golden Boot award. Only one team before had placed so highly in the World Cup on their debut, and that was Portugal back in 1966. Not bad company at all.

2002: SOUTH KOREA 1 Portugal 0-South Korea were joint hosts with Japan that year and by far enjoyed their best World Cup. Before this result at the end of the group stages, the Koreans had beaten Poland 2-0 and drawn with the USA 1-1. In the second phase they dispatched Italy by a golden goal, beat Spain on penalties in the quarters, and narrowly lost to Germany in the semi-final. A thrilling encounter with Turkey in the third-place match ended with a 3-2 defeat for the South Koreans. But they had gained hard won respect.

USA 3 Portugal 2-This win (along with the one above) effectively ensured the Americans secured their place in the second phase at the expense of Portugal.

Reigning champions France came bottom of their group and failed to progress, having begun their campaign France 0 SENEGAL 1.

2006: Czech Republic 0 GHANA 2-Gyan scored in the second minute and hit the post from a penalty on 65 minutes. The Czech team now down to ten men kept themselves in the game, until Muntari scored on 82 minutes. When the group stage ended, this win ensured Ghana’s second place and progression to the next round.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO 0 Sweden 0: Veteran keeper Shaka Hislop went in goal for Trinidad & Tobago after Kelvin Jack was injured in the warm up. His experience matched that of Sweden’s strike force Zlatko Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson, who threw everything at Hislop, but to no avail.

2010: Italy 1 NEW ZEALAND 1 contributed to Italy’s failure to reach the second phase. The French didn’t get out of the group stage either tasting defeat to the hosts France 1 SOUTH AFRICA 2.

2018: IRAN 1 Portugal 1 this meant Portugal were second after a last minute equaliser for Spain in the other final group match. However, had Iran scored from a vicious shot which hit the side netting, Iran would have been group WINNERS and Spain second, with Portugal eliminated! No commentator I heard even mentioned THAT scenario.

But no matter how badly a team starts a World Cup campaign they CAN go on to great success. Just look at 2014: Spain 0 SWITZERLAND 1 as a prime example, as the Spanish reached and won their first ever World Cup final.

Midpoint of World Cup 2018

After 32 games of World Cup football in Russia we are at the half way stage of the tournament, with every team having played two of their three qualifying matches.  Already guaranteed through to the next round are Russia, Uruguay, Croatia, England, Belgium, France and possibly Mexico. Definitely going home are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Peru, Costa Rica, South Korea, Tunisia, Panama and Poland. That’s half of the participating teams, so the other 16 have a battle to secure a top two finish in their qualifying tables.

So far there has been no goal-less draws, but almost a third of matches have ended with a solitary goal victory, many of them scored very late in the game. The 32 games produced 85 goals, 13 of them coming from 16 penalties awarded, with VAR responsible for six penalty decisions. Undoubtedly this tournament will see the most penalties ever awarded, and probably as a consequence will directly influence the number of goals scored by the Golden Boot winner.

The host nation Russia got off to a blistering start in Group A with a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia, opponents who were deemed alongside Russia as the WORST teams in the tournament. Russia followed with a 3-1 win against Egypt securing their place in the next round. ITV pundit Roy Keane was scathing about Russia progressing, although he begrudgingly admitted it was good for the host nation to do well. His attitude disgusted me, considering many of the BIG teams have still yet to really impress.

Group B produced a thrilling 3-3 draw between Portugal & Spain and a surprise 1-0 win for Iran, courtesy of a Morocco own goal. I was pleased for Iran who had doggedly fought to get a point in the game. As a team Iran have not had it easy with political sanctions causing problems with boot supplies, and a ban on replica merchandise sales makes revenue difficult to generate.

Group C with France, Australia, Denmark and Peru have scored the least number of goals with only 7 between them so far. The stand out performance for me has been Jedinak’s two penalties for Australia.

In Group D I felt sorry for Iceland failing to secure victory over Argentina, missing numerous chances to enhance a 1-0 lead before the South Americans equalised. Argentina was well and truly hammered by Croatia 3-0, and must secure a win against Nigeria to have any chance of progressing. The South Americans looked mediocre at best.

Brazil in Group E was held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland before winning 2-0 against Costa Rica. They were lucky, because until 90 minutes it was 0-0 and I so wanted little Costa Rica to secure a point. But then 7 extra minutes were played and the Brazilians finally turned on the style, although Neymar should have been off the pitch. Throughout the game he repeatedly told the referee what he thought about everything, I’d have slapped a yellow on him to shut his mouth. Then he spectacularly went down in the box, the referee awarded a penalty then bravely reversed his decision having consulted VAR. By rights Neymar should have had a booking for simulation, but eventually he did get yellow carded for dissent. So I feel his petulant attitude could have seen him red carded, therefore he wouldn’t have been on the field to score Brazil’s second goal. Far more convincing a victory was Switzerland’s 2-1 result over Serbia.

Mexico beat Germany 1-0 to get Group F off to an interesting start and then secured a 2-1 win over South Korea. With six points Mexico should progress, but it is not a mathematical guarantee yet. Germany v Sweden was an intriguing match with both teams having a sublime and awful half each. In the second half Germany equalised immediately, and for the remainder of the game Sweden had eleven men behind the ball! Giving away a needless free kick in extra time allowed Tony Kroos to score and snatch victory for Germany. The reigning champions until that moment were almost out of the tournament. Heart in mouth stuff!!!

The first game for England against Tunisia in Group G proved that VAR suffers from human error. At least twice England players were literally wrestled to the ground in the box, and nothing was “seen” by VAR or the referee? Thankfully Harry Kane’s header in the dying seconds of the match secured a 2-1 victory. When England faced Panama the wrestling demonstrations in the box were punished by VAR twice, and another four goals were added to the tally from set pieces. A late goal from Panama saw England on exactly the same statistics as Belgium, 8 goals for 2 against with six points each. Both European teams meet in their final group match and a win result would separate the two, otherwise it may go down to “fair play” (least bookings) or a draw out of a pot to place first and second teams. But after two games Group G has the highest goals tally of 20.

A lacklustre Poland in Group H tasted defeat against Senegal and a scintillating Columbia, ensuring an early exit for the group’s only European representative. Columbia in their first match had a man sent off in the third minute for a deliberate handball in the box, so basically played with ten men for over ninety minutes with added time. They did well to equalise before half time, but couldn’t come back a second time after Japan’s Osako scored with a lovely header. So Japan secured an unexpected 2-1 victory and then battled for a hard won 2-2 draw with Senegal, meaning both teams are on four points with identical statistics. Columbia face Senegal and Japan face Poland in the final group matches and all is still to play for, it’s still wide open.

So many times the big teams prove their ability to slug out a match, waiting to pounce on a fleeting opportunity to showcase a bit of genius. Many of them do just enough to get by and no more, and this does not usually make for attractive or thrilling football in my opinion. I’d much rather see teams with perceived less ability, but who show more heart, progress instead. Initially that happens but inevitably the “big guns” grind down the young pretenders. But one day I’d love to see two World Cup finalists who have never reached that stage before. I can but dream.

Social Media Discovery & World Cup Blogging

It was eight years ago when I began to embrace social media and in general the potential of the internet.

My mobile phone wasn’t connected in any way to the internet, it had no apps or means to log into my subscription email account, which I periodically checked using my laptop. My computer operating system was about to become vulnerable to internet use due to it not being supported for future updates. So a crunch time was approaching, especially with my husband enthusing about Twitter and suggesting I really should consider joining Facebook. So with the purchase of a small pay as you go mobile phone (INQ Chat 3G) I got a Gmail, Twitter and Facebook account and a means to check my emails “on the go”. My social media discovery and tentative internet searches had begun.

Shortly after this epiphany, my husband Rob came across an internet competition looking for official FA Fan Bloggers for the World Cup in South Africa. He mentioned it to me; I entered and won a place on the team. The idea was that all English teams (92 I think) would have a representative writing about the World Cup through blogging, where posts would be uploaded onto a dedicated website for the event. My team were Port Vale because at the time I was a volunteer commentator for them. I’d never blogged before nor uploaded anything onto the internet. The content ideas and writing wasn’t a problem but the technical issues were, with my husband using his computers initially to upload stuff for me. It was obvious I needed a new laptop and some quick lessons, on how to access the dedicated website and upload my blogs. For part of the tournament Rob would be away, so I had to go on a fast learning curve. But I managed to grapple with learning to use my new laptop along with accessing the website. All blogs had to be scrutinised by the FA and considered suitably appropriate, so there was a time lag between the uploading process and website publication. So it was a bit annoying that my last two reports didn’t get officially onto the website, despite being sent in good time. But the operation was closed down within about 2-3 days of the final whistle! As a memento I printed off all my musings, including lists of every team player, and made it into a book. If I may say so it does look rather good.

So the World Cup will forever be associated with my initial forays into blogging. My husband had his own personal blog and persistently encouraged me to do the same. Although I had really enjoyed my World Cup reporter status in 2010 I had felt the pressure, rather like a professional journalist with deadlines to keep and an audience to satisfy. I wanted to do things properly from start to finish, and I did fully cover the South African tournament.

Rob pointed out that with my own blog page I’d have total editorial control and could suit myself. But I didn’t think I had anything to say or write about, so it wasn’t until 2014 that I relented. The 30th anniversary of Torvill & Dean’s Bolero victory was coming up, the Sochi Winter Olympics were imminent, and summer 2014 would see the World Cup held in Brazil. So many ideas, knowledge and feelings about these events rattled around my head, they needed a proper outlet to be expressed. And so my Angies Allsorts blog was born in February 2014 and I’ve never looked back. Shortly after this new personal adventure began, I surprised myself by taking up the reins as a horse racing pundit for a friend’s website, and spent a year doing this too. As the website developed in a new direction, my equine musings found themselves stabled in my Allsorts blog instead.

By 2014 I was in possession of a smart phone with apps to keep me updated on news and sport events. It was also my main resource for internet searches as well, helping me broaden a blog idea, or clarify information I already had. So as the 2018 World Cup is about to start, I look back at the 2010 and 2014 tournaments as significant moments that enabled my social media and personal blogging experiences to develop.