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FIFA World Cup: 5 Best Underdog Stories in History

  • The five most fascinating stories of underdog teams in the World Cup knockout rounds, who shook the world when nobody gave them a chance.
Aritro Sarkar
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 29 Jun 2018, 17:39 IST
Croatian forward Davor Suker jubilates after scori
Croatia's Davor Suker in the 1998 World Cup

It is safe to say that this year's World Cup is spoiling us with drama. Brazil, Argentina and Colombia were all made to sweat before they finally qualified, while Spain, Portugal and France didn't have it easy either. Germany tripped and fell at the very first hurdle, sending shockwaves across the globe. Their 2-0 defeat to South Korea which sent them home was arguably the most unexpected result the tournament has thrown up so far.

With all the pre-tournament favourites slugging it out in the group stages, the unfancied teams had a blast. Mexico, Sweden, Russia. Japan and even Croatia threw caution to the wind and earned themselves famous wins to unexpectedly prolong their campaigns. The eliminated teams like Iran, Morocco, South Korea, Nigeria, Peru and Senegal too won hearts with their gutsy performances.

The World Cup so far hasn't been devoid of upsets, and as we enter the knockout rounds, the stage is set for the so-called 'smaller nations' to script fairytale runs that nobody expected.

This article chronicles the five most unexpected World Cup runs made by the minnows that captured the world's imagination:

#5 Costa Rica (2014)

Costa Rica v Greece: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Costa Rica players celebrate making it to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup

Costa Rica had qualified for the World Cup after an eight-year gap and were drawn in a group full of World Cup winners, in England, Uruguay and Italy. Naturally, they were labelled as the group's whipping boys. However, in a stunning display, they blew away Uruguay 3-1 in their opener, before pipping Italy 1-0.

They also kept a clean sheet against England to emerge, to everyone's amazement, as group toppers. In the pre-quarterfinal, they kept a more fancied Greece at bay for 120 minutes before edging them out on penalties.


The quarterfinal against the Netherlands was their sternest test yet, but they held firm against the likes of a rampant Arjen Robben and the clinical Klaas Jaan Huntelaar to take the game to penalties once again - Costa Rica were five kicks away from the semifinals, a scenario not even the most optimistic fan would've dreamt of.

Alas, their cup run came to an end after Dutch substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul made two fine saves from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana's penalties, while the Oranje converted all four attempts.

The Costa Ricans lost 4-3 on penalties to crash out of the World Cup, but they could pat themselves on the back after having surprised everyone to make it to the last eight. The likes of Everton's Bryan Ruiz and Arsenal's Joel Campbell were given a hero's welcome back home. Keylor Navas' heroics in goal even earned him a move to footballing behemoths Real Madrid, where he still plays as the undisputed first-choice keeper.

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Published 29 Jun 2018, 17:39 IST
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