Germany’s WC Woe, India’s Kabaddi Low: The Big Upsets of 2018
No shortage of jaw-dropping scripts in the world of sport over the last 12 months. The Quint picks its top five.
A packed calendar has ensured an eventful year in world sport. 2018 saw France crowned champions of football for the second time, Novak Djokovic return to his prime with two Grand Slam titles, and Australia continue their domination of women’s cricket by lifting a record-extending fourth title.
But the last 12 months weren’t devoid of shock results for established forces. One of world football’s biggest dynasties came crumbling at the biggest stage possible, one of India’s most consistent laurel-winning sports was stunned in an unprecedented defeat, and three first-time champions emerged, who no one could have predicted at the start of the year.
The Quint’s selection of the five biggest upsets in sport in 2018:
Germany’s Group-Stage WC Exit
Never in the 88-year history of the FIFA World Cup had Germany been eliminated in the opening group-stage of the competition. Only once in 20 previous editions had the four-time champions exited in the first round – and that too, way back in 1938.
But football’s biggest prize has been a curse for its holders this century, and the Germans followed France, Italy and Spain to an early ticket back home in their attempt to defend their title from four years earlier.
The storm brewing from their shock defeat in the Group F opener against Mexico appeared to have been calmed when Toni Kroos struck a dramatic 95th-minute winner in the next game against Sweden, but Joachim Loew’s team still needed a win against South Korea in their final outing.
It wasn’t supposed to be much of a task, with 56 ranking spots separating world number one Germany from the 57th-placed Koreans. But two goals in second half stoppage time – the second of them scored after Manuel Neuer gave the ball away inside the Korean half – made South Korea the first-ever Asian team to get the better of the Germans at the World Cup, and rewrote an otherwise-proud history for Die Mannschaft.
Kabaddi: India Invincible No More
The Indian men’s kabaddi team had stormed to the title at all seven editions of the Asian Games since the sport was included at the event. Their female counterparts had won two out of two gold medals available since the Asiad introduced women’s kabaddi in 2010.
India’s 100 percent record, however, was ended with a spectacular shock.
Teams from Iran stunned both of India’s unconquered units, and two golds which were a ‘given’ were struck off from the country’s medal haul.
The men, whose defeat to South Korea in the group stage was their first-ever loss in Asiad history, had to settle for a bronze after being knocked out in the semis. The women went one step further, but came out on the wrong side of a 27-24 thriller in the final.
To rub salt into the wounds, the women’s team were outdone by the tactics of an Indian coach.
Osaka On Top of the World
A 20-year-old, barely ranked in the top 20 of the world, playing her maiden Grand Slam final, against the woman who led her towards the sport – and had the small matter of 23 Slam crowns – and won to become the first-ever major champion in the category from her country.
In any other circumstance, Naomi Osaka’s stunning capture of the US Open crown would have been remembered and regaled for a long, long time.
But the women’s singles final of 2018 at Flushing Meadows goes down, instead, as the night Serena Williams lost it.
Chasing an all-time record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, just a year after the birth of her daughter, the then-36-year-old was penalised for on-court coaching by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. She launched a furious riposte, later levelling charges of sexism, saying men have been allowed to behave badly at umpires without being docked a match.
The US Tennis Association didn’t cover itself in glory either, with President Katrina Adams declaring “perhaps it’s not the finish we were looking for today”.
As a result, Japan’s maiden major winner in singles – a feat achieved with a thumping 6-2, 6-4 win in just 79 minutes – would break down in tears while being handed the first of what could well be numerous Grand Slam crowns.
Belgium Crowned World Champions
Among the lesser ‘shocks’ on this list from a present-day perspective, considering Belgium entered the 2018 FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in Odisha as the world’s third-best ranked team in the game.
But the weight of history is accounted into the picture when looking at an event in hindsight, and that’s where the accomplishment of the Red Lions checks the stunning caveat.
Belgium had made it to the World Cup on five occasions prior to this edition, and never reached as far as the semi-finals. They had failed to even qualify for the event as recently as 2006 and 2010.
They may have been Olympic silver medallists from two years earlier, but the road to the title in Bhubaneswar was far from routine for the Belgians – they beat 2002 and 2006 winners Germany in the quarter-finals, routed England 6-0 in the semis and then overcame three-time champions Netherlands on penalties in the summit clash.
Bangladesh Win Women’s Asia Cup
There had been six editions of the ACC Women’s Asia Cup since the tournament’s inception in 2004. The honours board read as follows:
2004: India. 2005/06: India. 2006: India. 2008: India. 2012: India. 2016: India.
Prior to the start of the 2018 edition, India had met Bangladesh 13 times across formats in women’s cricket. Wins? 13.
So it was already shocking enough when the Lady Tigers chased down 142 to emerge victorious in a round robin tie for their maiden win over India.
The final, on 10 June, would prove to be all-the-more seismic for Bangladesh. A humdinger of a contest was won off the last ball, for the country’s first title in a multi-team event – women’s or men’s.
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