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World Cup shockers in the first round

Last updated on: June 23, 2010 08:40 IST

France were simply not good enough

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So France is the first major team to bow out of World Cup 2010. The fact that the 1998 champions were not good enough to make it to the second round is a different matter altogether.

Leadership skills haunted France at this World Cup. In 2006, they were the 'oldest' side -- with an average age of 30 -- participating in the tournament and not many gave them a chance. But then there was Zinedine Zidane.

Manu Shankar lists the major World Cup shockers in the first round.


Image: Thierry Henry leaves the field after losing to South Africa
Photographs: Reuters
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France lacked a strong leader

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The fact that they were within the grasp of repeating their 1998 feat is testimony to the strong leadership skills of Zizou.

However, four years on, France were without an inspirational skipper. That they made it to the finals courtesy a handball goal from Thierry Henry against Ireland was enough indication of the disappointment that would follow in South Africa.

Coach Raymond Domenech struggled to find a leader who could inspire the team. He had the likes of Patrice Evra, William Gallas, Franck Ribery and Thierry Henry to choose from, but went for Evra, which was surprising, as many felt he could have chosen either Henry or Gallas.


Image: William Gallas and Raymond Domenech

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France had issues both on and off field

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When France was stopped by a strong Uruguayan defence, questions were asked over their ability to score goals. And when Mexico outplayed the Les Blues, the writing was on the wall.

The Nicolas Anelka incident, which started a 'French Revolution', meant a disjointed France would take on hosts South Africa in their concluding league match. The 1-2 defeat that followed was the final nail in the French coffin.

Let's look at some of the major first round disasters of previous World Cups.


Image: Nicolas Anelka

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Finals jinx for France

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France 2002

It's a jinx France seem to carry. Once entering a World Cup final, they fail horribly in the next edition.

France won the 1998 World Cup, and Zidane was the hero. In 2002, they could not even score a single goal in the tournament. Les Blues were World and European champions going into the 2002 World Cup. However, they failed to score a single goal and tumbled out at the group stage.

They shockingly lost to Senegal in the opening game of the tournament, drew 0-0 with Uruguay after an early red card for Thierry Henry and lost to Denmark 0-2 in the final match.


Image: Senegal's Papa Bouba Diop (19) celebrates his goal

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Brazil dumped out by Portugal

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Brazil 1966

Yes, even the champions suffered a first round exit. The reason for their exit could be attributed to the fact that their players were either too old or too inexperienced, the exception being Pele, who was arguably their best player on the pitch.

Pele was, however, injured during a game against Bulgaria and that spelt doom for the then three-time World champions.

Brazil were dumped out of the World Cup by Portugal, who won 3-1. It was the only post-War instance of Brazil going out in the first round.


Image: Pele

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In-fighting cost Italy dear

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Italy 1966, 1974

In 1966, Italy were bounced out by an unknown North Korea. Italy's cause was not helped by the fact that they had had lost to Russia in the group stages and they only needed a draw to stay in the tournament.

But down to 10 men in the first half itself, Korea pulled off a dramatic win.

Then, again, in 1974, they were bounced out by Poland, who won 2-1. That World Cup was famous for in-fighting in the team, where Giorgio Chinaglia publicly stuck two fingers up at his manager Ferruccio Valcareggi.

Although Italy managed to win their match against Haiti 3-1, a draw against Argentina and a 2-1 loss Poland saw them on their way home.


Image: Fabio Capello was a part of Italy's 1974 World Cup side

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Escobar's own goal put Columbia out

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Colombia 1994

Colombia shook the world when they beat Argentina 5-0 in the qualifiers. They suddenly rose from no ones to big guns. The Colombians gained momentum on their short passing game and certainly looked a genuine threat.

However, a 3-1 defeat Romania, followed by a 2-1 defeat to the United States, where Andres Escobar scored a fatal own goal meant that they were out of the tournament with a game to spare.

Even though they managed to secure a 2-0 win over Switzerland, it was not enough to keep them in the tournament.


Image: Andres Escobar reacts after scoring an own goal

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Spain remains perennial under-achievers

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Spain 1998

Perennial underachievers Spain's case is that they haven't even made it to the semi-finals of a World Cup.

They were leading Nigeria 2-1 in their opening match before goalkeeper Andoni Zubizaretta scored a farcical own goal. Nigeria went on to win 3-2.

A dull draw against Paraguay didn't help their cause either. Even though Spain beat Bulgaria 6-1 in their final game, it was too late by then.


Image: Andoni Zubizaretta

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England halt Argentina's momentum

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Argentina 2002

Argentina came into the tournament as always -- one of the favourites to lift the Cup. They were drawn with Sweden, England and Nigeria.

They started on a convincing note, beating Nigeria, but against England, they were caught out and lost 1-0.

They had to win their concluding game against Sweden, but could only manage a 1-1 draw.


Image: David Beckham celebrates after England beat Argentina

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