Germany suffered their heaviest-ever defeat in a competitive match when they fell to a humiliating 6-0 loss against Spain in the UEFA Nations League on Tuesday (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.).
Joachim Low, the longest-serving international coach in world football, oversaw his country’s worst defeat in 89 years, since West Germany were thrashed 6-0 in a friendly by neighbouring Austria back in 1931.
Low is now also just the third German national team boss to concede six goals in a single match, joining Otto Nerz (whose tenure lasted between 1926-36) and Sepp Herberger (who’s West Germany side lost 8-3 against Hungary at the 1954 World Cup but went on to beat the same opponents in the final).
The emphatic win saw Spain qualify for the Nations League finals, with a hat trick from Feran Torres making the young Manchester City forward the first player to score three goals in one game against the Germans since Michael Owen did likewise in England‘s 5-1 World Cup qualifier victory in 2001.
It was a doubly grim outing for Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who conceded six goals in a game for the first time in his entire career, both at international and club level, and on the night he became his country’s most-capped goalkeeper, too.
But, believe it or not, this was not even the most shocking defeat that the four-time World Cup winners have ever suffered. Below is our verdict on which match takes that title for Germany, and for some of the other major footballing nations around the world.
¡Sorpresa en Milán!
François Omam-Biyik adelanta a Camerún con este cabezazo. Los Leones Indomables, a poco más de 20 minutos de hacer historia.
— Copa Mundial FIFA 🏆 (@fifaworldcup_es) March 30, 2018
A grisly physical duel that is perhaps best remembered for Benjamin Massing’s infamous hatchet tackle on Claudio Caniggia — a “challenge” emblematic of the rough tactics on display throughout the game. Argentina were reigning World Cup champions following their triumph in 1986 and, once again led by the mercurial talents of Diego Maradona, the Albiceleste were heavily backed to win again at Italia ’90. By contrast, Cameroon were 500-1 outsiders but that didn’t stop the Indomitable Lions from giving absolutely everything they had to topple the big shots, despite being reduced to nine men by the end of play. The tactics worked — just — as Francois Omam-Biyik scored the decisive goal with a header in the 67th minute to snatch the hardest-fought of wins.
🏴 Hal Robson-Kanu 🤯
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2020) July 1, 2020
Belgium’s “golden generation” of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku seemed destined to reach at least the semifinals of Euro 2016 when they came up against tournament debutants Wales in the last eight. Ranked by FIFA as the world’s No. 2 side going into the tournament and virtually playing at home in the French border town of Lille, the Red Devils even went a goal up inside the first 15 minutes only to be overturned by an exuberant Welsh resurgence, all capped off by a magical individual goal from Hal-Robson Kanu — a striker without a club.
Brazil: 1-7 vs. Germany, 2014 World Cup
⏪Miss today’s FIFA #WorldCup Rewind?
📺Here are the best bits! pic.twitter.com/Zqz2fcGEAH
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) May 25, 2018
While getting beaten by neighbours Uruguay on home soil in the final of the 1950 World Cup is a strong contender, there can be little doubt as to where and when Brazil’s most painful international embarrassment of modern times came. The year was 2014, the stadium was the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, and Germany were the team responsible for dumping the tear-stained Selecao from the semifinals of their own World Cup in the most brutal manner imaginable.
England: 0-1 vs. United States, 1950 World Cup
The result of this group-stage match in Brazil is still cited as one of, if not the biggest upset in World Cup finals history. England’s team boasted several huge stars of the day in Tom Finney, Stan Mortensen and Billy Wright while the U.S. XI was a loose collection of unfamiliar semi-pros who had only played with each other once beforehand. The clash was expected to be a formality for England but the only goal of the game came from Joseph Gaetjens, who deflected a shot from Walter Bahr into the back of the net.
31 mai 2002 ⚽️🏆
Le Sénégal🇸🇳 bat la France🇫🇷 sur ce but de Pape Bouba Diop pic.twitter.com/kl6YEbzG9H
— Coupe du Monde 🏆 (@fifaworldcup_fr) May 17, 2018
France found themselves on the wrong end of one of the most memorable upsets in World Cup history when they were beaten by Senegal in the opening fixture of the 2002 finals. Papa Bouba Diop slid in to score the only goal of the game after El Hadji Diouf broke through Les Bleus‘ defensive line, leaving the startled reigning champions wondering what had just happened.
Germany: 0-2 vs. South Korea, 2018 World Cup
🇰🇷KOR 2-0 GER 🇩🇪
⚽️ Kim Younggwon 90’+3′
⚽️ Son Heungmin 90’+6′
A historic win for Korea Republic. Reigning champions Germany exit Russia 2018 at the first hurdle…pic.twitter.com/l0jUevqIZx
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 17, 2018
Germany were reigning world champions when they were knocked out of the 1994 World Cup quarterfinals by Bulgaria — a game that was possibly their lowest moment on football’s biggest stage, until 2018. Low was at the helm as Die Mannschaft — who were once again defending their world title — went crashing out of the 2018 World Cup at the group stage following a devastating and dramatic loss to South Korea, who scored both of their goals after the 90-minute mark. Son Heung-Min rolling the ball into an empty net with Neuer stranded at the other end of the pitch was an unforgettable moment.
One of THE all-time great #WorldCup upsets 🤯
🇰🇵Korea DPR needed a win to continue their journey at England 1966, with an 🇮🇹Italy side feat. the likes of Sandro Mazzola and Giacinto Facchetti before them.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 19, 2019
The day that Pak Doo-Ik wrote his name into footballing folklore forever more, and at Ayresome Park in Middlesbrough of all places. While Boro’s old ground is long gone, a bronze cast of Pak’s boot still remains in situ within the housing estate that replaced it in tribute to the forward who pounced to dump a star-studded Italy out of the 1966 World Cup. North Korea went on to face Portugal in the quarterfinals but ultimately came unstuck against the great Eusebio, who scored four goals and provided an assist for the other in a 5-3 win.
Meanwhile, the Azzurri were left to creep back home under the cover of night but still managed to find themselves faced with a volatile “welcome” on their return — with irate fans pelting the team with tomatoes as they emerged through Genoa airport. To this very day, it is considered deeply offensive to throw that particular foodstuff at an Italian as a direct result of their failure in England.
Mexico: 0-4 vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 1973
Trinidad have a pedigree as CONCACAF’s unlikely giant-killers. In 1974, they thrashed Mexico by four unanswered goals in a crucial qualifier thus denying El Tri a place at the 1974 World Cup. The Caribbean nation did not make their first appearance at a finals until 2006.
The Dutch failed in their mission to reach Euro 2016 in truly tragicomic fashion when they ended their already dismal qualifying campaign with a fatal slapstick defeat in Amsterdam. Needing to win, they lost 3-2 on home soil, with Robin van Persie scoring a goal for both sides as the Czechs played over half the game with 10 men on the field.
Portugal: 0-1 vs. Greece, Euro 2004
🇬🇷 EURO 2004 🏆
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2020) July 4, 2020
It still feels like a strange anomaly that Greece hustled and bustled their way to European Championship glory in 2004, inflicting not one but two embarrassing defeats on host nation Portugal along the way. The tournament kicked off with the eventual champions shocking the hosts 2-1 (whose talented squad boasted the likes of Luis Figo, Deco, and Rui Costa) before subsequently returning to beat them again in the final, this time by a single goal — leaving a young Cristiano Ronaldo inconsolable in the aftermath.
Spain: 1-5 vs. Netherlands, 2014 World Cup
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 13, 2019
Having become accustomed to winning every tournament they entered, reigning champions Spain were given a stern reality check in Brazil when Netherlands ran riot in Bahia. The score was level at half-time but a brilliant second-half performance from the Dutch saw them come from a goal down to crush Vicente del Bosque’s men with a flurry of goals, including an inspired long-range diving header from Van Persie.
With Spain seeking to win their fourth consecutive major international trophy, the defeat must surely rank as their most deflating on record (especially being the first time they’d conceded five goals in an international match since 1963). However, Gerry Armstrong would probably argue otherwise, as it was his goal that earned plucky Northern Ireland their famous 1-0 shock win against La Roja at the 1982 World Cup.
United States: 1-2 vs. Trinidad & Tobago
The U.S. faced Trinidad & Tobago (them again) in the final match of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign knowing that a mere draw was required to book a berth in Russia the following summer. However, two first-half goals from their Caribbean opponents proved insurmountable and ultimately served to bring the Americans’ run of appearing at seven consecutive World Cups to a sobering end.