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Most Disheartening Defeats

In sports, victory and defeat are two sides of the same coin. Both are eventual and inevitable. Both involve extremities of emotion. The negativity in defeat is measured by the extent/margin of it. Sometimes a loss is deemed honourable while in other cases it may be very disheartening. We will take a look at a few of the heart wrenching defeats in the history of sports.


France vs Italy – 2006 FIFA World Cup Final


The whole of France was heartbroken as their team stumbled at the final hurdle to the World Cup. The blame was put on Zinedine Zidane who was playing for the last time for his country. He head-butted the Italian defender, Marco Materazzi and was subsequently red carded just 10 minutes before the end of extra time. It was a new low for French football and Zidane who had gained reputation as a prolific goal scorer at club and national level. Even though his teammates were stunned by the sudden turn of events, they held Italy to a draw. But in the penalties, The French failed to hold their nerves and lost 5-3.


Garry Kasparov vs Deep Blue – 1997


Deep Blue was an IBM Supercomputer capable of playing chess and Garry Kasparov had defeated it in 1996 by a margin of 4-2. He was invited for a rematch with the slightly tweaked Supercomputer in 1997. But this time, Kasparov was defeated 3.5-2.5 by Deep Blue. Kasparov and other chess masters were quick to pin the loss on a single move by the Supercomputer. They claimed that the move was too intelligent and sophisticated for a computer. A grandmaster named Yasser Seirawan opined, “It was an incredibly refined move of defending while ahead to cut out any hint of countermoves.”


India vs Pakistan – 2007 T20 World Cup Final


The Indian team went into the final knowing that Pakistan have not defeated them in a World Cup match since time immemorial.  Their confidence took a major blow as they lost most of the top order for a few runs. Gautam Gambhir steadied the Indian ship and took them to a decent total of 157. Pakistan got off to a shaky start too. Imran Nazir tried to hold on to the crease but eventually fell in the sixth over. Eventually, Pakistan were reduced to 104/7. Misbah Ul Haq, who was playing a knock reminiscent of a test match inning, suddenly sprang to life and smashed a few sixes. The equation was reduced to 13 runs in the last over. But his hard work never paid off as on the third ball of the final over, he attempted a “Dilscoop”. The ball flew into the hands of Sreesanth and Pakistan lost the final by 5 runs.


US Basketball Team – 2004 Olympics

Going into the Olympics, the US Basketball roster boasted a plethora of stars and the common belief was that they would run away with the gold. Instead, they were humiliated on the world’s biggest stage in their run up to securing a meagre bronze. First, Puerto Rico - a team that had only two players with NBA experience - beat US 92-73. In the next game, the US huffed and puffed to victory against the Greeks 77-71. These results induced panic in their ranks and their whole Olympic campaign was affected. A country that had won the Olympic Gold thrice after Basketball was introduced in Olympics in 1992 had to settle for just a bronze.


Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson – 1990


At this particular juncture, Mike Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, holding all three major titles. Buster Douglas, on the other hand was ranked 7 in the world and had carved out a decent career for himself. In the days leading up to the fight, Douglas had to overcome several mental blocks including the death of his mother and his partner being diagnosed with a severe kidney ailment. Douglas, himself contracted flu on the day of the fight. In spite of the shortcomings Douglas fought aggressively and succeeded in wearing out the champion by the end of the 9th round. In the 10th round, a severely depleted Mike Tyson succumbed to the dominant Douglas. This fight is regarded as one of biggest upsets in the history of sports.


Ashes – 2013


For the first time since 2006-07, Australia regained the Ashes and that too by a clean sweep. It was the third such instance where Australia won the ashes with a clean sweep. Critics claimed that this was the worst tour that England undertook. They came into the tournament as clear favourites; Australia on the other hand had lost 7 of its 9 tests prior to the Ashes. In all the tests, England lost by a huge margin (381, 218, 150 runs and 8 wickets).


Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks – 1988


This happened two years before Tyson’s loss to Douglas. Mike Tyson had reached the pinnacle in his career. Both Tyson and Spinks were undefeated before going head to head. The fight was the richest in terms of gross revenue till that date (more than $70 million). The match was over in 10 punches (8 by Tyson and 2 by Spinks) and 91 seconds as Spinks was downed for the first time in his professional career. A month later, Spinks retired.


Manchester United vs Arsenal – 2011 EPL


A lethargic Arsenal team was mauled by Manchester United. The defeat turned out to be the biggest one at the hands of their arch rivals. Wayne Rooney’s hattrick and Ashley Young’s brace coupled with an all-round dominant performance severely damaged the morale of the Arsenal team and an opportunity for a comeback. Carl Jenkinson’s red card only added to the misery. Arsenal’s attack flickered throughout the game except for the two goals they scored, of which one can be attributed to goalkeeping mistake.


Steffi Graff vs Natalya Zvereva – 1988 French Open Final


18 year old Steffi Graff was having the time of her life. She had already established herself as a reckoning force in the tennis world and she was expected to win the French Open too. She did win it, but what garnered attention was the manner in which she won. Natalya Zvereva was defeated in straight sets of 6-0, 6-0 in 32 minutes. The 17 year old who hailed from the USSR was no match for Graff’s dominance. In fact she apologised after the match saying, “I’m sorry that was too fast”. Zvereva was still reeling from the shock of the loss in the post-match conference. She was quoted saying, “I wasn’t in the match. It was just a bad game, bad play”.


Brazil vs Germany – 2014 FIFA World Cup Semi Final


Before the World Cup began, Brazil was one of the hot favourites to win the cup. Not only did they have the advantage of home soil, but also the existence of world class players like Neymar, David Luiz, Marcelo and Thiago Silva. They were expected to pave their way to the finals; but something exceedingly unexpected happened. They were up against a talented German team that boasted an array of attacking and defending talent. In exactly 29 minutes, the hosts were down 5-0. The absence of an injured Neymar and suspended Thiago Silva was glaringly conspicuous. They lost the match 7-1, equalling Brazil’s heaviest margin of loss (6-0 at the hands of Uruguay in the Copa America 1920). It was Brazil’s first home defeat in 12 years. For a country whose pride is built around its footballing capabilities, the loss came as a huge shock.

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