The 50 Most Crushing Losses in Football History

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2011

The 50 Most Crushing Losses in Football History

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    Football can be such a cruel game. Fans watch their team lose each week, but some losses are harder to take, whether because of the opponent or just the score. Some are so bad that even if you're not a fan of the loser, it can still break your heart. 

    Some losses are infuriating, while others are just humiliating. The toughest losses come on the biggest stages, but that doesn't make the minor ones easier to bear.

    Here are the 50 most crushing losses in football history. I've surely left some out, so feel free to chime in with your most gut-wrenching football memories.

50. Germany 11- 0 Argentina

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    What a way to open a tournament and defend your title. 

    Germany opened the 2007 Women's World Cup in Shanghai with a record-breaking win over Argentina, and they ended the tournament pretty well, too, becoming the only team in Women's World Cup history to win back-to-back tournaments.

    Imagine what they'll do to start out the tournament this summer when they're in front of their own fans. 

49. Manchester United 8-1 Nottingham Forest

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    Manchester United defeated Nottingham Forest 8-1 for the largest away victory in the English Premier League in February 1999. 

    Welcome back to the Premier League, Nottingham. 

48. AC Milan 5-0 Real Madrid

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    Real Madrid was in the middle of five consecutive La Liga titles, but AC Milan certainly didn't care. In the European Cup semifinals in 1989, the Italian giants trounced the Spanish side in a way no one ever had.

    It stands as Madrid's heaviest European defeat. The picture, however, is of Iker Casillas venting his frustration in one of Real's more recent, humiliating European losses, the 4-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield in 2009.

    Madrid still has nine European trophies to its name, though.  

47. Kansas City 2-1 Manchester United

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    That's right. The MLS side, playing in a country that, on the whole, doesn't care for the sport, defeated one of the world's best sides.

    The Kansas City Wizards defeated Manchester United 2-1 in July 2010 in a game that featured Dimitar Berbatov, Nani, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. 

46. Blackpool 4-0 Wigan

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    Blackpool didn't walk into the Premier League; they cantered in by beating Wigan 4-0 in their opening fixture of 2010-11, at Wigan.

    But then they lost 6-0 at Arsenal a week later, but we all saw that coming.

    More from Blackpool later. 

45. Liverpool 2-1 Middlesbrough

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    Middlesbrough was minutes away from a famous win over Liverpool. Then came a stroke of luck in the form of a Jamie Carragher shot that took a massive deflection off Emanuel Pogatez to level the score just before stoppage time, and then Steven Gerrard stole the three points.

    Boro certainly played well enough for the win, which would've been its first in the League at Anfield in over 30 years, and the look on manager Gareth Southgate's face at the end was truly crushing. 

44. Schalke 04 5-2 Inter Milan

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    Inter Milan may be the holders of the Champions League trophy, and they may have world-class players like Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder, but the German side didn't care.

    The crazy part is, Inter couldn't have asked for a better start when Dejan Stankovic bagged a goal within 30 seconds. It was 2-2 at halftime, but it was all Schalke after that, as they stormed to a resounding victory at the San Siro. 

    It came just days after Inter were beaten 3-0 by their arch rivals AC Milan as well. Ouch.   

43. Barcelona 8-0 Almeria

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    The record away win in La Liga is 8-0, and Barcelona has both of them. Barca's 8-0 thrashing at Almeria in November 2010 is the more recent one however.

    Now, there's not much shame in losing to arguably the best team in the world, but allowing five goals before halftime? Adding an own goal just to top things off? 

    That's a tough one to take. 

42. Liverpool 8-0 Besiktas

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    The largest margin of victory after the qualifying rounds of the Champions League is Liverpool's 8-0 humiliation of Besiktas at Anfield in 2007.  

    The 8-0 scoreline was also achieved by Real Madrid over Sevilla in 1957 in the first-leg quarterfinal match of the European Cup. 

    The largest victory in the knockout rounds of the Champions League is Manchester United's 7-1 defeat of Roma in the second-leg quarterfinal match. 

41. USA 2-0 Spain

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    Spain was the No. 1 team in the world and would make history by avoiding defeat to Team USA in the semifinal match of the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. 

    Spain was coming off 15 straight victories, a European record, and 35 matches unbeaten, equaling Brazil's streak from the mid-'90s. 

    Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore scored in each half, and Tim Howard defended like a beast to put the Americans in their first FIFA final since they joined in the game in 1916.

    Most importantly, the USA didn't sit back and watch Spain pass the ball and jump at any possible counter-attack chance; the Americans earned this victory.

    Alas, it was just the Confederations Cup. 

40. Liverpool 4-1 Manchester United

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    The 4-1 scoreline really flattered the Red Devils. Liverpool bested Manchester United in every way at Old Trafford in March 2009. 

    Pepe Reina had made a mistake and given up a penalty in the 20th minute, and Cristiano Ronaldo easily put his team ahead.

    But mere moments later, Nemanja Vidic—until this game considered a candidate for Player of the Year—misjudged a harmless long ball, Fernando Torres pounced, ran away with it and coolly slotted it past Edwin van der Sar.

    And there was only one winner after that. 

    However, United won the season, equaling the Reds' haul of 18 League trophies. 

39. Lyon 1-0 Real Madrid

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    Real Madrid, winner of nine European Cups, had exited the competition in the Last 16 each of the previous five seasons, so in the summer of 2009, they spent an absurd amount of money to ensure they'd be fighting for Europe's top prize in their own stadium come May 2010. 

    Lyon had other plans. They took a 1-0 home win in the first leg and a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu a few weeks later to send the Spanish giants home very early once again. 

    Money just can't buy everything, yet.

38. Brazil 4-0 USA

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    This game was marred by controversy, in the States at least. 

    The US was riding a 51-match unbeaten streak into the 2007 Women's World Cup semifinals, and coach Greg Ryan chose to play backup keeper Briana Scurry in place of Hope Solo because Scurry had played against Brazil in the Olympics three years earlier (and played damn well), but she hadn't played a full match for the US in over three months.

    Solo was plenty vocal about her displeasure at the decision, and it's the USA's worst World Cup loss and the second straight World Cup where the US was sent packing in the semifinals.

    Solo and the US got their revenge the next summer at the 2008 Olympics, however, beating Brazil 1-0 for the gold medal.  

37. Liverpool 10-0 Fulham

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    Liverpool's recent 5-2 victory at Craven Cottage was good, but it wasn't as big as the Reds' 10-0 win over Fulham in the League Cup in 1986. 

    That was just the first leg at Anfield, and the Reds went on to win 3-2 at Fulham a couple weeks later. 

    The 10-0 is the biggest single-game margin of victory in the League Cup. West Ham defeated Bury by the same score three years prior.  

36. Ghana 2-1 USA

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    In the 2010 World Cup, Team USA won its group (which wasn't so easy, was it, England?), and because of France's epic demise, the Americans had a great shot to get to the semifinals. They were also coming off a huge morale-boosting, last-second victory over Algeria.

    So it was a huge letdown when the USA allowed two very cheap goals to Ghana and missed their chance to cause a real stir just a year after defeating No. 1-ranked Spain.

35. Hercules 2-0 Barcelona

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    Newly promoted to La Liga, last September, Hercules came to the Camp Nou, where Barca hadn't lost since May 2009 when they'd already secured the title.

    Nelson Valdez scored in each half to seal the victory over the best team in the world.  

34. Tunbridge Wells 2-2 Littlehampton Town, 16-15 PSO

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    In a FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay, Tunbridge Well and Littlehampton Town couldn't be separated after 120 minutes of football...or even 20 penalties each!

    Tunbridge finally won by 16 penalties to Littlehampton's 15, but then they didn't make it into the First Round Proper.  

33. Austria 7-5 Switzerland

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    Austria's 7-5 quarterfinal defeat of Switzerland, in Switzerland, in the 1954 World Cup is the highest-scoring World Cup match to date. 

    Austria was also 3-0 down before the 20-minute mark, which is the largest deficit any team has overcome to win a World Cup match. Portugal beat North Korea 5-3 in 1966 after trailing 3-0.

32. Bolivia 6-1 Argentina

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    Diego Maradona had just come in the rescue the floundering Argentina National Team that was struggling to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, but Bolivia put a huge damper on their chances in April 2009.

    The 6-1 defeat in Bolivia is Argentina's worst in World Cup qualifying and came on the back of three victories and no goals conceded since Maradona was instated in November 2008.  

31. Switzerland 1-0 Spain

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    The huge favorites to the win the 2010 World Cup, Spain didn't make things easy for themselves by falling to just their second defeat since November 2006 to Switzerland in the opening match in South Africa. 

    But since Spain recovered and won the World Cup for the first time in their history, the really crushing part about this loss was that no team the rest of the tournament stood up to Spain.

    Their opponents just took a page out of Switzerland's book and sat back, let Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso work their magic and tried to jump at mistakes that Spain rarely makes. 

    It made for a rather boring World Cup Finals, when watching the best team at least. 

30. Tottenham 3-2 Arsenal

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    There's nothing worse than losing to your biggest rival...on your pitch. Unless of course, you had a two-goal lead going into halftime. 

    You'd be mad, too. 

29. Australia 31-0 American Samoa

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    This is just embarrassing. Even though no one really knew American Samoa had a football team. 

    Maybe they don't anymore after losing 31-0, the largest defeat in an international match, in a 2002 World Cup qualifier. Australia's Archie Thompson scored 13 goals.

    At some point, you gotta call mercy.

    This match led to the introduction of a preliminary round in Oceania qualifying to prevent such unbalanced results. So FIFA has shown it can change in the past. 

28. Newcastle 5-1 Sunderland

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    The Tyne-Wear Derby is one of the best rivalries in English football and has had some pretty heated matches.

    This past October, just-promoted Newcastle dominated their neighbors and were up 3-0 before Sunderland's Titus Bramble was even sent off. Darren Bent only added a consolation goal in stoppage time.

    It's Newcastle's biggest win over their rivals in the Premier League era. They had a 6-1 win at Sunderland in 1955.  

27. Sunderland 9-1 Newcastle

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    Let's be fair to Sunderland; they've had their share of the spoils. 

    In December 1908, Sunderland went the 10 miles to Newcastle and came home 9-1 winners. And the game was called after 74 minutes.

    It's the largest away win in the First Division (and Premier League).  

26. Germany 4-0 Argentina

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    Argentina had some of the world's biggest stars and best players and one of the greatest players of all time as their coach, but Germany's bunch of unproven youngsters and clutch old guys just embarrassed them.

    The loss cost Diego Maradona his job, even though he really hadn't done a whole lot of coaching.  

25. Blackpool 2-1 Liverpool

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    I'm referring to the game at Anfield. Newly promoted and fighting to stay up, Blackpool won at home by the same scoreline and so did the double over Liverpool for the first time since 1946-47. 

    Liverpool were not anything close to the Liverpool of old under Roy Hodgson, but still, when a team the caliber of Liverpool and with a roster full of recent World Cup players goes down at home, easily too, to a newly promoted side, it's just humiliating.

    Both losses left the Reds hovering right by the relegation zone, though Liverpool's fortunes have obviously turned around now.

    But very well done to Blackpool and their Premier League-deserving coach, Ian Holloway.  

24. France 3-0 Brazil

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    France won its first World Cup and handed Brazil its heaviest World Cup defeat in one swoop in 1998.

    Despite being in front of the home crowd, France were still underdogs, but the 3-0 victory stands as the largest shutout victory in a World Cup Final. 

23. Tottenham 9-1 Wigan

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    The most humiliating thing about this loss for Wigan is that they were only down a respectable 1-0 to Tottenham after Peter Crouch's early header. But after halftime, the floodgates really opened.

    Jermaine Defoe scored the Premier League's second fastest hat trick in seven minutes in the first 15 minutes of the second half and added two more to boot, only the third player to score five in a Premier League match. 

    Wigan did manage to hold Spurs scoreless for almost 20 minutes between Defoe's fourth and fifth goals, and they stayed in the top flight for at least one more year. 

22. Chelsea 13-0 Juenesse

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    In the first round of the UEFA Cup Winner's Cup in 1971, Chelsea defeated Juenesse from Luxembourg by 8-0 in the first leg and than 13-0 in the second.

    It's the largest aggregate win in European competition.  

    Chelsea does have a bit of history. 

21. Germany 4-1 England

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    Really, everyone outside of England saw this coming. England's "Golden Generation" really wasn't all that golden, but this loss in the Last 16 of the 2010 World Cup was a little cruel.

    Frank Lampard's shot clearly crossed the line and would've sent the teams into halftime even at 2-2, but perhaps it was karma for Geoff Hurst's "goal." 

    Whatever, Germany's team that was thrown together in the weeks before the World Cup just ran all over the Premier League's best.

    But Fabio Capello kept his job, which I guess means Harry Redknapp preferred to stay at White Hart Lane for at least a little while longer. 

20. South Africa 2-1 France

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    Everything about France's 2010 World Cup campaign was an embarrassment, and it ended on the lowest note of all.

    The first host nation to not advance past the group stages defeated the defending runner-ups easier than the scoreline suggests, and France coach Raymond Domenech refused to shake hands with South Africa's coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, as if his team had received some sort of bias or injustice. 

    The one bright note was Florent Malouda's late goal meant France scored at least one goal in their three games. 

19. France 1-1 Ireland, Agg. 2-1

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    Even dead people knew Thierry Henry handled the ball. But credit to him, he admitted it was a handball immediately after. He really wasn't at fault. He also doesn't glorify it like some have (we'll get to them later). 

    This falls entirely on FIFA and the officials.  

    FIFA was obviously never going to rule against France, and for Ireland, watching the catastrophe that was the French squad in South Africa was the cruelest thing of all. 

18. Birmingham City 2-1 Arsenal

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    This has been a miserable season to be an Arsenal fan, but it didn't get to that point until the 89th minute of the Carling Cup final in February. 

    Until then, Arsenal was in the hunt for four trophies and was playing great football.

    But a defensive lapse by keeper Wojciech Szczesny and defender Laurent Koscielny gifted Obafemi Martins (who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes) the winner. 

    The Gunners season unraveled before everyone's eyes after this point. 

17. Liverpool 3-3 West Ham, Liverpool 3-1 PSO

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    West Ham had Liverpool on the ropes after two early goals (one own goal) in the 2006 FA Cup final. They let the Reds claw back, but the Hammers did well to maintain their 3-2 lead late in the game.

    After West Ham reclaimed the lead in the 63rd minute, it looked all but over for the Reds as many of their players were going down with cramps and weren't creating many chances.  

    Then came an absolutely back-breaking shot from Steven Gerrard 30 yards out, which leveled the scores in stoppage time and sent the game into extra time and then penalties.

    And West Ham knew going into a penalty shootout with the Reds wasn't the way to do it.

16. Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid

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    Jose Mourinho was brought to Real Madrid to beat Barcelona, as he had done so well the previous year with Inter Milan. 

    He left his first Clasico match with the heaviest defeat of his career and his first as Real Madrid coach.

    Mourinho has been embarrassed in all five of his Clasico matches in his first season at the Bernabeu except for the 1-0 Copa del Rey success, but in this league defeat at Camp Nou, it can at least be said his side played football and didn't give Barca players Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets reasons to roll around the pitch clutching their faces.   

15. Italy 1-1 France, Italy 5-3 PSO

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    France was close to becoming the fifth country to win multiple World Cups and continuing a rather dominant period until Zinedine Zidane, the Golden Ball winner, stupidly head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi and let down his entire nation.

    Materazzi played his part to perfection by reacting as though he'd been shot, but one of the best players ever to play to game should've known better. 

    Italy won its fourth World Cup, second only to Brazil, and the rest of the French squad and nation were left asking the biggest, "What if?" of their lives. 

14. West Germany 3-2 Hungary

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    Hungary were the favorites in the 1954 World Cup Final and had the dream start as they went 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes. But by the 20th minute, West Germany had leveled the score.

    West Germany scored the winner in the 84th minute amidst questionable offsides and fouls calls, and the two-goal deficit is the largest any team has overcome and gone on to win in the Final. 

     

    Photo courtesy of sportshistory.wordpress.com

13. Argentina 2-1 England

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    Diego Maradona's Hand of God goal which put Argentina in front in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match is the peak of the injustices England fans lament when it comes to their World Cup history.

    Hearing Maradona speak so highly of that goal and the fact that he intentionally used his hand just adds insult to injury.  

12. Brazil 3-2 USA

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    Team USA was in its first-ever FIFA final and had the five-time champions Brazil on the ropes going into hafltime with a 2-0 lead. And then someone pressed the self-destruct button.

    Luis Fabiano scored in the first minute of the second half and again, and Lucio scored the winner six minutes from time.

    Brazil doesn't care about the Confederations Cup, but on the other hand, this was a huge chance for the US to really state its intentions in world football.  

11. Leeds 1-0 Manchester United

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    Leeds United vs. Manchester United was a huge matchup in the First Division days, but Leeds has fallen all the way to League One by this point.

    That didn't stop them from taking a famous 1-0 win away from Old Trafford in the third round FA Cup match in January 2010.

    Jermaine Beckford scored the only goal in the 19th minute, but Leeds were still the better side throughout the match.

    It was the first time Sir Alex Ferguson's United had lost in the third round or to a lower-division side.

    And speaking of losing at home to a lower-division side... 

10. Northampton 2-2 Liverpool, Northampton 4-2 PSO

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    Northampton came to Liverpool last September and really didn't deserve to have to play extra time and go to penalties. But it made their famous win all the more dramatic.

    The League Two side outplayed the Reds throughout and the likes of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher could only watch in despair from the stands. 

    This was probably the worst game under Roy Hodgson's doomed reign at Anfield, but unfortunately, there were many more to come. 

9. Croatia 3-2 England

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    England ended a miserable Euro 2008 qualifying campaign in shambolic fashion. Keeper Scott Carson and his defenders we easily beaten as Croatia went ahead 2-0 in the first half at Wembley.

    David Beckham clawed his team back, but it was not to be, and England failed to qualify for the European Championships for the first time since 1984. 

8. Chelsea 8-0 Wigan

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    This game just could not have been worse for Wigan. They went down inside six minutes, went down a man in the first half and had to watch Chelsea canter over them to the Premier League title.

    For the second time in the 2009-2010 season, Wigan lost by eight goals and allowed a second half hat trick, though Didier Drogba's took a little longer, and included a penalty, than Tottenham's Jermaine Defoe's did. 

7. Real Madrid 4-1 Barcelona

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    Real Madrid's 4-1 victory at the Bernabeu in May 2008 is their last La Liga victory over their bitter rivals, and it spelled the end of Frank Rijkaard's time at Barca.

    It also came just days after Los Blancos had sealed the title.

    Barca was in third place at the end of that season. It's amazing how quickly things can change... 

6. Barcelona 6-2 Real Madrid

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    Just a year later, Barcelona one-upped their rivals. They sealed the title in dominant fashion in their rival's home. 

    There's really no better way to finish a dominant first season under a new coach than trouncing the holders in their house. And Barca was the definition of dominant in 2008-09 winning La Liga, the Copa del Rey and Champions League in Pep Guardiola's first season as manager. 

5. Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea

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    Chelsea was riding an 86-game unbeaten streak at home on Oct. 26, 2008.

    But an own-goal by Jose Bosingwa (or a goal from Xabi Alonso) in the 11th minute ended the record for the longest home unbeaten streak in the English top flight.

    The Blues hadn't lost at Stamford Bridge since March 2004. 

    The previous record was 63, fittingly held by Liverpool between 1978 and 1980.   

4. Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool

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    In the final game of the season on May 26, 1989, Arsenal had to at least win by two clear goals or else Liverpool would win the title.

    They had to win by two clear goals at Anfield, where the Reds hadn't lost by two goals in three years and Arsenal hadn't won in 15. Liverpool had also never lost when playing John Aldridge and Ian Rush up front together.

    Arsenal was up just 1-0, and it looked like Liverpool would soon be claiming its second Double, having secured the FA Cup a few days prior.

    In the final minute, Michael Thomas scored the final goal and secured the Gunners ninth League title at Anfield.  

3. Uruguay 1-1 Ghana, Uruguay 4-2 PSO

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    Ghana was inches away from becoming the first African team to go to the World Cup semifinals, and then, the hopes of the entire African continent and every neutral fan across the world were crushed. 

    Luis Suarez's handball on the line, preventing a sure-fire winning goal in extra time for Ghana, resulted in his sending off and a last kick of the game penalty for Ghana.

    Asamoah Gyan, who had already scored twice from the spot in the 2010 World Cup, agonizingly hit the bar and the game went to penalties.

    Uruguay won, on a cheeky penalty from Sebastian Abreu no less, and Ghana was dealt the cruelest of blows in World Cup history. 

2. Uruguay 2-1 Brazil

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    Back when points were awarded in the World Cup, Brazil only needed to avoid defeat in the 1950 final to claim the title in front of their home fans, 200,000 fans in the Estadio de Maracana to be exact.

    Obviously, fans across the country had already begun celebrating before what became known as the Maracanazo (Maracana Blow) even started. 

    Brazil opened the scoring two minutes after halftime. About 20 minutes later, Uruguay evened the scores. Then, in the 79th minute, Alcides Ghiggia ran down the right flank and scored what became the most famous winner in World Cup history.

    The crowd was silent the rest of the game. The 22 gold medals the Brazilian Football Confederation had already made were useless now.

    Then FIFA president Jules Rimet had prepared a congratulatory speech in Portuguese that he could no longer use. There was no trophy presentation for Uruguay.

    The Brazilian players were vilified and many quietly hung up their boots. Fans committed suicide. Brazil changed their uniforms from blue and white to yellow and green.

    This loss was possibly the most unexpected in football history, but the most crushing loss has to be... 

1. Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan, Liverpool 3-2 PSO

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    Nothing can be more crushing than having a 3-0 lead going into halftime of the Champions League final and then watching it slip away right before your eyes.

    AC Milan had the lead in the first minute, and they made it three on the stroke of halftime to send the four-time winners into the locker room heads down. But in the space of just six second-half minutes, the Reds leveled the score. 

    Luck was on the side of the Reds. Milan saw all of their shots cleared off the line, and even though Liverpool players were falling to cramps, they manged to keep the scores level. Milan's more experiences players saw their penalties saved. 

    Andriy Schevchenko had scored the winning penalty in the 2003 final, but Jerzy Dudek saved this spot kick going to his right with his left hand, and Liverpool won its fifth European Cup in historic fashion.

    For Liverpool fans, overcoming a three-goal deficit in the Champions League final to win it is one of the brightest moments in the club's illustrious career,

    For AC Milan, it's the most crushing blow any club has ever been dealt.