Football’s superpowers are aiming for World Cup glory in Qatar, but the big sides would be daft to take any of the lesser-ranked nations lightly. Here are five examples of what happens when you do.
West Germany (1954)
West Germany? Giantkillers? Well yes, back in 1954 in Switzerland when they arrived at the finals having hardly played an international and with no one talking them up.
An 8-3 battering by Hungary, the team dubbed the Mighty Magyars, in the group stage merely cemented opinions about this new West German side.
When they met Ferenc Puskas’ Hungarians in the final few gave them a chance, even less so when they went 2-0 down inside eight minutes. But back came the Germans, running out 3-2 winners in the match known as The Miracle of Bern.
South Korea (2002)
The joy of co-hosting a World Cup means you get to play in it – though South Korea weren’t there just to make up the numbers.
Coached by wise owl Guus Hiddink, they topped a group featuring Portugal and Poland, beat Italy in the last 16 courtesy of a sudden-death goal from Ahn Jung-Hwan and then stunned Spain on penalties in the quarters.
They rode their luck (many cynics reckoned they had more than luck on their side) to become the only Asian team to ever reach the World Cup semis.
Truly one of the great World Cup opening games unfolded in Milan’s famous San Siro stadium at Italia ’90.
Diego Maradona’s world champions up against unheralded Cameroon, who finished an extraordinary match with nine men on the pitch but a 1-0 win to celebrate.
And that was just the start. The Indomitable Lions also beat Romania to qualify from the group, before overcoming Colombia to become the first African side to reach the last eight. Cameroon were 2-1 up against England with seven minutes left before the fairytale ended.
North Korea (1966)
Not much was known about North Korea the country or North Korea the football team when they arrived in England in 1966.
And no one bothered doing much research either after they lost their opener, 3-0, to the Soviet Union.
But the Asian debutants had other ideas, drawing 1-1 against Chile before producing the result that sent Italy into mourning after stunning the Azzurri 1-0 at Ayresome Park.
It was the first time a nation from outside Europe or the Americas had reached the knockout stage and they were dreaming of going further still when they went 3-0 up against Portugal in the quarter-finals, only for Eusebio, one of the stars of the tournament, to produce a four-goal masterclass.
Costa Rica (2014)
Group D at the 2014 finals was the only section featuring three top-10 ranked sides, Italy, Uruguay and England – but it was the fourth, Costa Rica, who pipped the lot of them.
The Central American upstarts were an almighty 50-1 to win the group but did just that by beating Uruguay 3-1, Italy 1-0 and then drawing 0-0 with Roy Hodgson’s awful England.
Jorge Luis Pinto’s men then beat another higher-ranked country, Greece, in the last 16 before suffering a heart-breaking defeat on penalties against Holland in the quarter-finals.