England felt so superior to the rest of the world that they did not even bother entering the World Cup until Brazil in 1950. Even then they thought the competition would be a breeze and treated the opposition with far too little respect. They were humiliated 1-0 by the United States in Belo Horizonte and then lost to Spain, failing to get beyond the group stage.
The magnificent Magyars of Ferenc Puskas, Jozsef Bozsik, Sandor Kocsis and Nandor Hidegkuti were clear favourites in Switzerland in 1954 after going 28 internationals unbeaten and winning Olympic gold. They looked well on course as they hammered South Korea 9-0 and West Germany 8-3 but they were rattled after the “Battle of Berne” quarter-final against Brazil when three players were sent off and most of the rest came to blows. They got to the final but threw away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to West Germany in one of the great World Cup shocks.
Italy travelled to England as one of the tournament favourites but failed to progress beyond the group stage after suffering a shock 1-0 defeat to North Korea. The Azzurri had needed just a point to progress to the last eight but took the game too lightly and were caught out by a Pak Doo Ik goal. The team were pelted with fruit when they arrived home.
EL SALVADOR 1982
Hungary became the first team to hit double figures in a World Cup match when they dealt El Salvador a record 10-1 hammering in Elche, Spain. The writing was on the wall after just three minutes when Tibor Nyilasi opened the scoring but it was not until the last 26 minutes that it got embarrassing as Hungary hit six of their goals. Substitute Laszlo Kiss claimed a hat-trick.
MICHEL VAUTROT 1990
Absent-minded referee Vautrot had onlookers scratching their heads in puzzlement as he added on eight minutes injury time to the first period of extra time in the semi-final between Italy and Argentina in 1990. The Frenchman later admitted he had forgotten to check his watch.
When Pele claimed Colombia could win the World Cup in the United States, people took notice, and not least at home where expectation became sky high. Colombia had hammered Argentina 5-0 in the qualifiers and, with Carlos Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla in their side, they looked powerful. But when complacency cost them against Romania, death threats were made and, sadly, they were carried out on defender Andreas Escobar after he scored an unfortunate own goal against the USA.
As holders and favourites, Brazil looked set to win another World Cup when they reached the 1998 final, even though they were to play hosts France in Paris. Yet everything went wrong on the day as star striker Ronaldo pulled out ill only to be mysteriously reinstated 45 minutes before kick-off, some said at the behest of sponsors. They failed to perform and France were convincing 3-0 winners.
SAUDI ARABIA 2002
Any hopes the Saudis may have had of making an impression in Japan were over almost before they had begun as they were hammered 8-0 by Germany in their opening group game in Sapporo. The Germans were rampant as they recorded their biggest-ever World Cup win. Miroslav Klose led the rout with a hat-trick of headed goals.
As world and European champions, the French travelled to South Korea with high hopes but they were quickly brought crashing back to earth after a golden four years. They were stunned 1-0 by first-timers Senegal in their opening match, held 0-0 by Uruguay and then unceremoniously dumped out in the group stages after a 2-0 loss to Denmark.