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It might be considered the Home of Football, but England has a penchant for being prone to upsets. In fact, cruel though it may sound, Monday evening’s shock against Iceland was just the latest in a row of stunners that footy fate seems to have kept in store for Old Blighty. Here are seven occasions when the English found themselves at the wrong side of a scoresheet in a match that they were supposed to stroll through:
1-5 Vs Scotland 1928
Scotland were no pushovers in football – indeed, they claim to be the ones who invented passing itself, but they had been in poor form in the British Home Championship and no one expected them to beat England at Wembley. In the event, the Scots hammered the home team 5-1, scoring four goals in a nine minute period in the second half that left the English stunned. The Scotland team are remembered to this day as the “Wembley Wizards” England to this day want to forget that day.
0-1 Vs USA, 1950
An English side that many considered to be among the best in the world had finally condescended to play in the 1950 World Cup, a tournament whose first three editions it had not considered worth turning up for. And their opponents were a bunch of part timers that not too many had heard about. The question was not whether England would win, but by how many. The answer was perhaps a shock as big as Iceland’s win on Monday – the USA hung on to a solitary goal by Joe Gaetjens in what was later described as the “game of their lives” England’s football establishment was shaken, and would be pulled down in a few years by Hungary!
3-6 Vs Hungary, 1953
“Beating this tubby lot should be easy ” an English player is said to have famously remarked when the English team saw their Hungarian opponents led by the slightly portly Ferenc Puskas at Wembley. Ninety minutes later, the English were dazed and the cult of the Magical Magyars had been born as Hungary ran circles around them, exposed their outdated tactics and handed them the first defeat by a non-British team on home soil. Some considered the result a fluke. Hungary changed their minds with a 7-1 hammering at Budapest a year later.
1-2 Vs Norway 1981
When the dust finally settled, England still qualified for the 1982 World Cup, while Norway finished at the bottom, but this result did cast a pall over England’s chances of going through for a while. The match was also a colossal shock in terms of the result as Norway were supposed to be nobodies and England World Cup contenders. The match is also remembered for one of the most famous pieces of football commentary as Bjorge Lillelien, Iceland’s commentator went absolutely wild, declaring: “It is completely unbelievable! We have beaten England! England, birthplace of giants. Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana– we have beaten them all. We have beaten them all…Maggie Thatcher, as they say in your language in the boxing bars around Madison Square Garden in New York: Yourboys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!”
0-0 Vs Morocco 1986
The country which considered football its home against one which many felt was lucky to be in the 1986 World Cup (Morocco got in thanks to a quota for African countries) – it should have been a massacre given the stars in the English line up. Instead it turned into a gritty battle of attrition as the fitter Africans easily adjusted to the altitude and heat in Mexico. To make matters worse, England lost their captain Bryan Robson to injury and then their vice captain Ray Wilkins was sent off for throwing the ball at the referee. By the time it all ended, England were happy with a draw.
0-1 Vs Ireland 1988
This was supposed to have been a stroll in the park for Bobby Robson’s star-studded side with the likes of Hoddle, Robson, Linekar, Butcher and Shilton – the perfect opener for them in Euro 1988. And against a Republic of Ireland team that was the butt of many jokes for its attempts to rope in players with any sort of Irish heritage. Instead it turned into a nightmare for the English as the Irish scored a goal and then against all odds hung on to record a historic win.
1-3 Vs Australia 2003
Yes, this was a friendly and there was no trophy involved. And yes, Sven Goran Eriksson substituted the entire team at half time as he wanted to try out a number of players in hte build up to Euro 2004. But still, no one had expected an Australian football team to come to England and hand the hosts a 3-1 hammering. Given Australia’s domination of cricket at that time, many bemoaned “we can’t even beat them at footy!"”