Several teams have thrived at World Cups, despite being undefeated. The unfortunate unbeaten teams range from Brasil to New Zealand.
Being unbeaten at the world cup may seem extraordinary. Not all teams manage to do so since the games are never easy, regardless of who their opponents are. Sadly, that is not enough to lift the trophy or even overcome the group stage.
Several teams have gone undefeated in World Cup history. Some were able to clinch the title due to their near-perfect performance in the competition. However, some others were unfortunate despite being unbeaten. Some reached the final. Some could not even make it through the group stage. These are the several notable teams who did not lose a single game in the final round, except on penalties but deserved better results.
Six Unfortunate Unbeaten at World Cups, From Brasil to New Zealand
Gli Azzurri was hoping to win their fourth title when hosting the 1990 world cup. Azeglio Vicini’s side had been quite impressive from day one. Despite the lack of goals, they played offensively and won six games. Further, they clinched a draw. Their defense was so solid that they only conceded twice after keeping five clean sheets in their first five games. However, Italy somehow had to face Argentina, led by Maradona, Il Partenopei’s legendary icon, in Napoli at the semifinal. The game in San Paolo turned out to bring bad luck for Walter Zenga and Co as the crowd was split between backing up their ‘deity’ and their country. Italy eventually lost on penalties after being held in a 1-1 stalemate.
Alexander Frei and Co were not a favorite at the group stage. Yet, they managed to topple France in the final standings following their goalless draw against Les Blues and two 2-0 wins over Togo and South Korea afterward. They met Ukraine in the round of 16. After a goalless tie, the penalty shootout ensued. Unfortunately, Lady Luck was not on their side, as they missed all their penalties. Switzerland became the first team in tournament history to be eliminated without conceding a goal.
New Zealand (2010)
All White’s campaign in South Africa in 2010 was historically memorable because of being the only unbeaten team in the tournament. Despite being seeded with the reigning champions, Italy, Paraguay, and Slovakia. They managed to finish ahead of Gli Azzurri on the table. Nevertheless, New Zealand was still unable to progress since they were winless too. They only picked up three points from three draws, 1-1 against Slovakia and Italy, plus 0-0 versus Paraguay. In the end, they only sit third below Tata Martino’s side and Marek Hamsik and Co.
The Tartan Army had their best result in the world cup in 1974 when they were unbeaten despite being grouped with the reigning Champions, Brazil, and Yugoslavia. Scotland earned a couple of draws, 0-0 and 1-1. They thumped the weakest team, Zaire, 2-0. Despite sharing the same points as their contenders, Scotland failed to qualify as they had scored the fewest goals. Yugoslavia had a goal aggregate of +9, while Selecao had +3.
The Three Lions had one of their best squads in history. The team had Glenn Hoodle, Bryan Robson, Peter Shilton, and Kevin Keegan. None of this was a surprise, given that the late 1970s and early 1980s were a golden era for English clubs in Europe. England began their world cup campaign by smashing France 3-1. Then, they snatched a 2-0 win over the EURO 1980 semifinalist, Czechoslovakia, and a 1-0 victory against Kuwait. However, they were running out of luck at the second group stage. Ron Greenwood’s men only had two ties while taking on Germany and Spain. Such results prevented them from going through the semifinal as Die Mannschaft picked up a 2-1 win over the host.
Brazil in World Cup 1978 was probably the most unfortunate unbeaten team of all. The goal difference with Argentina prevented them from advancing to the final after the host team’s suspicious big win. Claudio Coutinho’s men were seeded in the same group as Albiceleste in the second round after only finishing second in the preliminary round. Selecao had to rely on a 1-0 win over Austria in the last game to go through.
In the second group stage, Dirceu and Co won 3-0 against Peru. Further, they beat Poland 3-1. The spoils were shared in a goalless tie against Argentina. The host, who had only crushed Poland 2-0 earlier, needed at least a 4-0 victory in the last match to reach the final. In the end, Cesar Menotti’s men progressed to the final after dismantling Peru 6-0 in a game that was rumored to have been notoriously ‘fixed’. Brazil eventually only secured third place by defeating Italy 2-1.