The World Cup is just a few days away and all the teams are gearing up for the opportunity to represent their country at the grandest stage of all. It begins on 14th June 2018 at the Luzhniki Stadium, the largest stadium in Russia with a seating capacity of 81,000.
There have been a lot of winners over the years but it is the underdogs whose performances mesmerize the audience and make the world realize that it is the national flag that keeps them driving forward. We take a look at some of the great runs in the World Cup with the hope of seeing one in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
#5 Bulgaria (1994)
Bulgaria barely managed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup which was held in nine cities across the United States. Bulgaria were thrashed in their opening game. They conceded 4 goals without a reply against Nigeria, but they came back roaring defeating Greece by 4 goals to nil and then Argentina by 2 goals, thus ensuring a place in the knockout stages.
They faced a daunting task of beating Mexico which they did via penalties (3-1). The went on to beat Germany as well with goals from Hristo Stoichkov and Yordan Letchkov thus making themselves a force to reckon.
The Bulgarian side was knocked out of the tournament by Italy, the runners-up. They couldn’t secure a 3rd place but they sure made a name for themselves. Hristo Stoichkov was the joint top-scorer with 6 goals to his name.
#4 Senegal (2002)
The 2002 FIFA World Cup was the 17th staging of the FIFA World Cup which took place from 31 May to 30 June 2002 in South Korea and Japan. This was the first World Cup to be held in Asia. Senegal was placed in a tough group with France, Uruguay, and Denmark.
Making their 1st appearance in the 2002 World Cup, Senegal produced one of the biggest upset on the opening day itself beating the defending champions France 1-0. Then they secured a draw against both Denmark and Uruguay.
Sweden was beaten by Senegal in the Round of 16 match with two goals from Henri Camara. They were then knocked out of the tournament by a buoyant Turkish side in the quarter-finals who also had a dream run in this World Cup only.
#3 Costa Rica (2014)
The 2014 World Cup was played in Brazil. Cost Rica was drawn in a group consisting of England, Italy, and Uruguay, which became to be known as the ‘Group of death’. Little did the world expect them to qualify from the group stage let alone they went on to top the group stage by beating Uruguay first and then Italy.
In their last group match, they went on to draw the game with England, thus sealing their place in the knockout rounds. In the Round of 16 match, they beat Greece on penalties after extra-time. After putting up a spirited fight against the Netherlands, they lost to then on penalties after Míchael Umaña and Bryan Ruiz missed their penalties.
The Cost Ricans went home with their heads held up high after a brilliant performance in the World Cup.
#2 Turkey (2002)
Turkey was drawn to a group consisting of Costa Rica, China and the eventual winners Brazil. In their first match, Turkey was narrowly defeated by Brazil with a score of 2-1 in which Alpay Özalan was red carded. After that the Turkish side drew their game with Costa Rica and in their last group game, they sealed their place in the Round of 16 beating China 3-0.
Japan, the home team was defeated by them in the round of 16. They then went on to beat Senegal by virtue of a golden goal scored by İlhan Mansız to set up a match with the eventual winners Brazil in the semi-finals.
Though they lost the semi-final against Brazil with a solitary goal from Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, commonly known as Ronaldo, they defeated South Korea with a score of 3-2. Hakan Şükür created history by scoring a goal within 10.8 seconds. The Turkish side was welcomed warmly in their country even though they were not the winners.
#1 South Korea(2002)
The 2002 World Cup was a fascinating one as a lot of good teams were eliminated by underdogs, making it a very exciting for the neutrals. South Korea, the host team had a dream run in this tournament.
South Korea earned their first ever World Cup victory, defeating Poland 2–0. The United States and South Korea battled each other which resulted in nothing more than a draw. South Korea topped the group, eliminating Portugal thanks to a 70th-minute winner by Park Ji-sung.
South Korea then went on to defeat Italy in a match filled with controversies with the help of a golden goal from Ahn Jung-Hwan. They went on to beat Spain on penalties (5-3) to book their place in the semi-finals with the Germans. Though the Koreans failed to beat the Germans, they were deservedly appreciated by their fans and the football lovers.