Enter the top ten defeats of all time. Naturally many matches are remembered for incidents occurring of and on the pitch, perhaps with violent clashes, footballing master classes and shifts in power concerning who rules the footballing world.
10. France (4) 3-3 (5) West Germany 1982 World Cup Semi- Final
An epic football match marred by Harold Schumacher’s tendency to rush out to take out man or ball, in a mindset where the end justifies the means, as it did for the Germans. The match was level between the two sides with Littbarski rifling in a shot and a Platini penalty to equalise. Then Schumacher took out substitute Battiston (whose attempted shot went just wide), knocking him unconscious and leaving him with two less teeth. Later when Platini went for a header, when Schumacher came to claim the ball; Platini was left clutching his shoulder. Tresor scored with a hooked finish for France, followed by a thunderbolt from Giresse, Rummenigge pulled one back, before Fischer sent the match to penalties – a first in the World Cup. Schumacher made the headlines, by moving early off his line (a ploy not noticed by the officials) and saving twice from Six and then Bossis. The great French team of Platini and Tigana could not progress ‘because the officials did not do their job’ as the BBC commentator put it.
9. Real 0 -5 Barcelona 1973 Primera Division
After being voted out of the captaincy at Ajax, Cruyff left for a club that too was valued on playing beautiful football. In this match he crossed superbly twice to result in goals, and scored a gorgeous goal. Receiving the ball in the edge of the area from the left he burst forward to the left past the despairing lunge of a Real defender, running towards another defender, he quickly shifted the ball onto his right then again onto his left, always shielding the ball from the defender. To top off a superb performance, he finished with aplomb, blasting the ball through the keeper’s legs. To this day Cruyff and his Barcelona team-mates hold the record for Real’s heaviest defeat in the Bernabeu in an El Clasico, an astonishing achievement.
8. Arsenal 4-5 Man Utd 1958 Old Division One
The Busby babes came to North London, with a brand of exciting attacking, youthful football. They raced up a 0-3 lead in the first half, and the match seemed to be as good as over. Yet in the space of three minutes The Gunners came racing back and clawed back to a 3-3 score-line. The reputation of the Manchester United side came through, showing mental strength to score twice through the devastating Denis Viollet and Tommy Taylor to an unreachable 3-5 lead. Yet in the dying minutes The Gunners pulled a goal back, leaving a tense finish in which Vic Groves almost equalised. A few days later, the Red Devils flew out to Belgrade to meet Red Star in the European Cup. After a victory, their plane stopped to refuel in Munich. Therefore the game at Arsenal’s historical Highbury was to be the last arena where the famous ‘Busby Babes’ strutted their stuff in England.
7. England 3-6 Hungary 1953 International Friendly
The first defeat at Wembley by a team outside of the British Isles broke an undefeated streak since 1901 against such teams. Finally showed how different styles had evolved in contrast to the stereotypical gung-ho British football and it was no fluke. The Hungarians played a pass and move style, with a strike-force of ‘that fat little chap’ (The England player who referred to the Hungarian legend would later live to regret his words) Ferenc Puskas and Nandor Hidegkuti, who played in a revolutionary half-striker role, ghosting between the lines of midfield and attack, impossible to pick up. ‘The Mighty Magyars’ were seen to many as the influence to Rinus Michel’s ‘Total Football’ concept with their fluid formation and interchange of positions. The return game in 1954 was even more one-sided with Hungary annihilating England 7-1.
6. Real 11-4 Barcelona 1943 Kings Cup Semi Final
The words Generalissimo or Franco will crop up in remembrance of this semi-final. 3-0 up from the first leg, the Catalans were favourites to meet Bilbao in the final. Yet before the start of the second leg, they were paid a visit by the director of state security, who emphasized the unpatriotic Catalans were only living in Spain on behalf of the generous Franco. Therefore they were forced to throw the match, and even with ten men at half time, it is believed that only such a reason would cause such a loss. The conspiracy theorists continue to look to this dressing room visit. Real still managed to lose the final to Bilbao, after all of their favourite dictator’s help against their arch-rivals.
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