Following the elimination of reigning champions Germany in the group stages and defeats for Argentina and Portugal in Saturday’s round of 16 matches, Spain were held to a 1-1 draw at Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday and lost 4-3 on penalties to Russia – the lowest ranked team in the World Cup – who had managed just one shot on target in 120 minutes of football.
The 2010 world champions were frustrated by Stanislav Cherchesov’s resilient defence, and while the hosts progressed to the quarter-finals for the first time since 1970, the team famed for ‘tiki-taka’ football and featuring players as illustrious as Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and Diego Costa were added to the World Cup’s list of high-profile failures.
Russia were not the first World Cup hosts to upset one of the favourites; in 2002 South Korea made the most of home advantage as they beat Italy – who featured the likes of Francesco Totti and Christian Vieri – 2-1 in the last 16 on their way to finishing fourth overall.
Their feat emulated that of neighbours North Korea 36 years earlier, when Italy were reduced to 10 men due to an injury to Giacomo Bulgarelli and Pak Doo-Ik scored to knock Edmondo Fabbri’s dominant side out of the 1966 World Cup.
At Italia ’90, Cameroon lit up the tournament with their fearless football and flair for fast attacks, and they shocked 1986 winners Argentina when they inflicted a 1-0 defeat on the champions in their Group B match, courtesy of Francois Omam-Biyik’s headed goal.
But few World Cup shocks have reverberated quite like that which befell 2014 hosts Brazil, who were demolished 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals of their home tournament as Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira, Miroslav Klose and Andre Schurrle all got their names on the scoresheet in a spectacular rout in Belo Horizonte that left a nation distraught.