Finishing as a semi-finalist at a World Cup is a monumental achievement for any nation. However for a period of time, there seemed to be misfortune on countries who would end up 3rd or 4th at said tournament.
This 'curse' goes back to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. On this occasion, France defeated Belgium 2-0 to claim bronze. Four years later Les Bleu, with the legendary Michel Platini coaching the side, sensationally missed out on qualifying for Italia 90 (and USA 94).
At the 1990 World Cup, Italy would take 3rd place having beaten England. While the Azzurri would go one step better and finish as runners up at USA 94, it was the English who would have this curse placed on them as they failed in qualifying for the 1994 tournament.
Sweden and Bulgaria would defy the odds and claim 3rd and 4th respectively at USA 94 however 4 years later at France 98, there wasn't anything to cheer about. Bulgaria would go home with a single point (which included a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Spain) while the Swedes failed to qualify altogether.
See a trend happening here?
Croatia went on a dream run in their World Cup debut at the 1998 World Cup, claiming 3rd place after beating the Netherlands for bronze. But again, this curse would strike. The Croats made it to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan and were knocked out in the first round. As for the Dutch, they remarkably failed to even qualify despite boasting an extremely talented squad at the time.
It was Turkey and South Korea who were the unlikely nations to finish 3rd and 4th at the 2002 World Cup finals. While the Koreans competed in the World Cup four years later, the Turks missed out altogether following a dramatic playoff tie with Switzerland.
Whether you believe in curses, misfortune or whatever you want to call it, there was an odd pattern occurring for some time if you ended up as a World Cup semi-finalist. Time will tell to see if we witness other trends like this again.
- Rayan Adasi for www.footballretro.com