World Cup Soccer: 13 Worst Chokers in Tourney History
The World Cup is the most prestigious award a nation can win in world sport. Individual awards can be great personal victories, but nothing can unite a nation like a triumph on the world stage.
However, some nations have come almost too close for comfort, as devastating results have seen them fail to enjoy the euphoria or national pride of a victory on the world stage.
Teams and players have both been guilty of such frustrating, and at times completely gut wrenching, performances, or in the case of this slideshow, non-performances.
I consulted multiple online lists, as well as personal insight, into compiling this slideshow and hope you will find some of your own picks on here as well.
France 1994 World Cup Qualifiers
The only set of choke artists to be mentioned and not have made the World Cup all together is the 1994 French National team.
Tipped to be a major player in the next competition, the French were ousted with hardly a word by a Bulgarian side that, on paper, they should have destroyed.
However, the Frenchman marched back to Paris with their tails between their legs after failing to qualify for the World Cup.
Robert Green vs USA 2010 World Cup
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England fielded what should have been a side locked and loaded to give the United States a pounding.
However, Robert Green's gaff of a failed save from a Clint Dempsey shot saw the Three Lions slump to a draw in their opening match, after Steven Gerrard had put them up 1-0 in the fourth minute.
Those dropped points eventually saw them finish second in the group, and draw their executioners Germany in the round of 16.
Had he stopped the shot and England won, it might have been a completely different tournament for them.
2010 Italian World Cup Squad
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In a bit of personal experience, I was in Milan when Italy won the 2006 World Cup. It was perhaps one of the most memorable experiences of my life to see the people of that nation celebrate their national team's achievement.
That being said, going into the 2010 World Cup there was buzz that the defending champions should make a great showing in a group stage draw that included New Zealand, Slovakia and Paraguay.
However, it was a disaster for the Azzurri as they failed to win a match for the first time in their nations history at the World Cup, and they crashed out at the bottom of their group on only two points.
Wayne Rooney's 2010 World Cup Performance
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Wayne Rooney was the toast of the EPL and English football in the 2009-10 season leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
He had scored 34 goals and was named the PFA Player of the Year, and had the weight of the entire nation of England on his shoulders as he was the man expected to bring home the World Championship to his country.
However, Rooney never showed up and his nations performance suffered all the way to an exit in the Round of 16 thanks to a 4-1 pounding from eventual third place finishers Germany.
Zinedine Zidane 2006 World Cup
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In his last professional match Zinedine Zidane could be called hero, villain, choke artist or all of the above when he was red carded and sent off in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy.
What can only be described as a moment of weakness, Zidane sucame to Marco Matterazzi's taunts with a powerful headbutt to the Italians chest that saw him sent off. The French leader had scored the go ahead goal from a penalty for France in the seventh minute of the match, but he may well have cost his country a shot at the title.
Without their midfield leader and creative influence in the center of the park, a 10 man French side held on for penalties only to be put to the sword in the last gasp of the final match.
Had he been able to keep his cool if might have been a better way to end his career. In furher irony, it had been Matterazzi that had brought the match level in the 19th minute of the first half, and he scored from the spot in the decisive shootout.
1982 Brazilian World Cup Squad
The masters of South American football make the list in another instance with their 1982 debacle of a World Cup performance.
Brazil powered through Group 6 with three straight victories, and then saw off defending 1978 champions Argentina 3-1 before taking on Italy, who had defeated the Argentines 2-1 after having only secured three draws in the first round.
Paolo Rossi was the Italian's surprise of the tournament, as he scored a hattrick to see off the heaviest favorites for the title.
2010 French National Side
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France got into the 2010 World Cup thanks to a horrible miss call that saw Thierry Henry's handball then cross knock the Irish out of qualification.
With a side that held some of the best talent in the world between Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, Yoann Gourcuff and Karim Benzema, they went into the Group stage ranked ninth in the world.
A group heavy with Latin American talent between Mexico and Uruguay, plus the host nation of South Africa, still had France favored to advance.
However, Les Tricolores failed to score until the final match of the group stage, and only managed one point in three games, and crashed out in near pathetic fashion as they never impressed in a single match.
2011 USA Women's World Cup Squad
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It was on a platter not once but twice for the American women to regain their place at the top of the women's footballing world.
However, it was not to be as they failed to put the game away, and Japan surged back to take the match and see off the heavy favorites in the final.
In the wake of their nations disaster it was a great story for the Japanese, but it was a tragedy for the USA women, as it should have been them returning home with a trophy.
But don't worry, Hope Solo is trying her best to make up for it by taking her clothes off in the ESPN body issue.
Asamoah Gyan vs Uruguay 2010 World Cup
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Asamoah Gyan had the fate of an entire continent in his hands when he stepped up to take the ensuing penalty after Luis Suarez's infamous hand ball in extra time of Uruguay and Ghana's 2010 World Cup knockout stage match up.
Suarez saw red, but before he got down the tunnel he celebrated Gyan blasting his penalty off the crossbar at the end of time, as now 10 man Uruguay had only penalties to go after full and extra time.
Gyan could have made Ghana the first African nation to get into the World Cup semifinals, but it was not to be.
Roberto Baggio 1994 World Cup
Italy's Roberto Baggio had been straight clutch for the Azzurri during the 1994 World Cup. He won the match against Nigeria in the knockout stage with a late equalizer and a decisive penalty kick in extra time.
He then went on in the quarter finals to score the winner against Spain, sending the Italians into the semi-finals. Once again he was on the top of his game scoring two goals against Bulgaria to send his nation to the final against Brazil in front of nearly 95,000 people at the Rose Bowl.
However, that was all he could muster as he stepped up with a chance to keep his side in the penalty shoot out to decide the final, but he blasted it about 20 rows into the stands behind the goal in perhaps the most gut wrenching moment of his national team career.
The Golden Lions
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Here is only part of the list—Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jermaine Defoe and David Beckham.
Those names when mentioned along with their respective club teams are regarded, at least at some point, as some of the best to ever pull on their team's kit. The same can be said about them as English national team players, until you look past what they have done domestically.
Regarded as the players that should have delivered for the Three Lions, two dismal World Cups in 2006 and 2010, plus a failed bid at qualifying for the 2008 European championships, can call into question if it really never is meant to be for England at times.
1950 Brazil World Cup Squad
Brazil hosted the first World Cup in 12 years when 13 teams came to South America for the return of the worlds most prestigious footballing competition, after the previous two had been called off due to World War II.
The South Americans needed only a draw against Uruguay in the final match in front of a crowd close to 200,000 strong. Despite taking a 1-0 lead, the home team allowed Uruguay to come back and take the game 2-1 for their second World Cup title.
1974 Netherlands World Cup Squad
Holland's 1974 World Cup team is perhaps the greatest the Oranje have fielded in their nations history. The father of Barcelona and Arsenal's current playing systems, Johan Cruyff led his team through the group stage with two wins and a draw.
Again they dominated in the second group stage defeating Argentina, East Germany and Brazil without allowing a single goal against them, and set up for a final to remember against West Germany.
A goal up on West Germany by the 2nd minute of the match, the Dutchmen looked like they had the cup within their reach. But the Rhineland's finest would come back to score two goals and oust the favorites to take West Germany's second title, after having won their first in 1954.