Most Humiliating International Defeats

Germany’s humiliating 7:1 annihilation of Brazil last night left us scrambling around in search of a precedent.

Quite simply, it’s hard to find an international defeat that comes close to the magnitude of the score-line in Belo Horizonte, with Holland’s 5:1 mauling of Spain earlier now looking like a cagey, tight affair. Nevertheless, there have been previous international results that have sent shockwaves through world football.

USA 1:0 England

While this score-line would barely raise an eyebrow these days, back in 1950, England were still considered giants of the world game with their American counterparts dismissed as rank amateurs.

And where did it take place? That’s right, Belo Horizonte. The English side contained legends such as Billy Wright, Tom Finney and Stan Mortensen with future England World Cup-winning boss Alf Ramsey in defence. The Three Lions boss Walter Winterbottom felt so confident of victory that he left star player Stanley Matthews on the bench. In stark contrast, the USA team comprised of a bunch of amateur and semi-professional players including the ubiquitous postman, a miller and, ominously for England, a funeral director.

While the Americans went into the game with the aim of “keeping the score respectable”, Haitian-born striker Joe Gaetjens headed a shock winner in the first half. It was only in the intervening years that the magnitude of the result was felt as most English papers at the time neglected the story, focusing instead on a shock cricket defeat to the West Indies the same day.

North Korea 1:0 Italy

An attendance of 18,000 had piled into Middlesborough’s Ayresome Park in 1966 to witness the mighty Italy but Pak Doo Ik’s winning goal was greeted wildly by the previously neutral crowd, who BBC commentator Frank Bough remarked “never cheer Middlesborough like this”.

The Koreans almost pulled off another shock in the next round, racing into a 3:0 lead against Portugal, before Eusebio inspired a 5:3 comeback. Italy, meanwhile, returned home to be pelted with rotten vegetables at Genoa airport with Azzurri boss Edmondo Fabbri promptly sacked.

In an attempt to restore pride in the national team, the Italian FA banned the signing of foreign players in order to nurture a new generation of indigenous stars. The policy seemed to work, with Italy recovering to win their first European Championships two years later.

Uruguay 2:1 Brazil

Prior to last night this game – dubbed the “Maracanazo” – from the 1950 World Cup haunted Brazilian football. Again, the Selecao were hosts and under severe public pressure to deliver their first World Cup title on home soil.

The formbook suggested this would be a mere formality with thousands of signs dotting Rio already proclaiming them world champions prior to the match. Brazil went ahead just after half-time but, as against the Germans, their defensive fragility was exposed by a succession of quick Uruguayan goals. The construction of the Maracana – in an echo of infrastructural problems before this tournament – had been severely delayed but 200,000 fans fell silent as the final whistle blew.

The result led a number of fatalities amongst disbelieving Brazilian fans including several suicides and heart attacks. The Jules Rimet trophy was awarded to the victors without an awards ceremony as nobody had prepared a speech for an unlikely Uruguayan win. With their coach Flavio Costa resorting to leaving the stadium in disguise, the result also led to Brazil changing their costumes.

They discarded the white shirts worn during the shock defeat and adopted a new yellow and green colour scheme. This, and the rest, is history.

Ireland 1:0 Italy

Ireland’s subsequent 1994 tournament was disappointing with a loss to Mexico and dismal bore draw with Norway leading to a second round exit against Holland. However, their opening result against Italy at the Giants Stadium in New York reverberated around the football world.

Ray Houghton’s audacious 25-yard strike put Jack’s Army ahead before a famous rearguard action from the likes of Paul McGrath and Phil Babb kept Roberto Baggio and co. at bay. Despite their heroics at Italia 90, it was Ireland’s first ever World Cup win in 90 minutes while Italy overcame their shock start to the tournament to finish as runners-up.

Spain 0:1 Northern Ireland

Spain, as hosts, went into this match as overwhelming favourites boasting a star-studded side up against Billy Bingham’s unfancied Northern Irish side. Despite the referee favouring the home side, Gerry Armstrong stretched his right leg to finish off a move he had started two minutes into the second half.

Northern Ireland survived Mal Donaghy’s dismissal, some dubious decisions and a hostile crowd to hold on to record an historic win. With it, they topped their group and condemned the Spanish to a second stage Group of Death, where they finished bottom behind West Germany and England.