Ranking 20 of the most humiliating defeats in football history

  • Kat Lucas

Call us heartless, but is there anything quite like watching football fans crying in the stands? 

It wouldn’t be the final day of the season without it. 

We’re talking fully grown adults whose team have just been relegated, weeping into the camera. Absolutely glorious. 

That might sound harsh, but football’s all about the agony and the ecstasy. Without one, you wouldn’t have the other. 

The highs of the beautiful game are made all the sweeter because every supporter has also experienced crushing lows. 

Some of the most humiliating defeats in history have taken years to live down. Others have never really been forgotten. 

So what better way to engage in some good old-fashioned schadenfreude than to come up with a definitive ranking of the most embarrassing losses of all time. 

20. Tottenham 9-1 Wigan

One of the first times a Premier League side offered to reimburse the travelling fans for the cost of their tickets. To make matters worse, Wigan had only been 1-0 down at half-time before Jermain Defoe scored FIVE goals in the second half. Niko Kranjcar put the icing on the cake in injury time. 

19. Stoke 6-1 Liverpool

Liverpool’s heaviest top-flight defeat since 1963 just happened to come in Steven Gerrard’s final game. What should have been a fitting send-off for the legendary skipper turned into a complete nightmare with his side falling to a 5-0 deficit by half-time. According to Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke players were so speechless in the dressing room they simply burst out laughing. Brutal. 

18. Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona

What do you get when you pit Pep Guardiola against Juande Ramos? It was billed as a pivotal moment in the title race, back in May 2009, but the two rivals couldn’t have been any further apart. Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi scored a brace apiece, with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique also getting on the scoresheet.  

17. England 1-2 Iceland

The scoreline might not sit neatly among the rest of this list but in terms of sheer giant-killing, England rightly hung their heads in shame afterwards. Days after the 2016 referendum, they were taunted with hand-made signs reading ‘Brexit Part 2’ as they crashed out of the Euros at the last-16 to a squad consisting of many part-timers and managed by a dentist. With a population of 332,206, Iceland were the smallest nation ever to qualify for the quarter-finals. 

16. Manchester United 9-0 Ipswich Town 

For a long time, Manchester United’s 9-0 mauling of Ipswich was unmatched as the record win in the Premier League era. Which brings us neatly to…

15. Southampton 0-9 Leicester City

Earlier this season, it was finally equalled as Southampton were crushed at home by high-flying Leicester. In hindsight, perhaps the Saints weren’t *too* embarrassed as against the odds, they stuck with manager Ralph Hasenhuttl – and rightly so. 

14. Middlesbrough 8-1 Manchester City

Oh, the days before the takeover. Richard Dunne’s red card left a gaping void in Manchester City’s defence and Stewart Downing, Afonso Alves, Adam Johnson, Fábio Rochemback and Jérémie Aliadière exploited it. Elano scored a late consolation. 

13. MK Dons 4-0 Manchester United

United have suffered plenty of dispiriting lows in the post-Fergie era but perhaps none more so than when they were thrashed by League One MK Dons. Louis van Gaal may not have fielded his strongest side, but it still featured David de Gea, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Jonny Evans, Anderson and Shinji Kagawa. 

12. Newcastle 5-1 Tottenham 

Having already caved in pursuit of the Premier League title, Tottenham needed to avoid defeat to ensure they finished above Arsenal for the first time in two decades. Easy, right, with a trip to already relegated Newcastle? The Magpies were also down to ten men. 

11. Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid

A crushing blow to Jose Mourinho’s pride. Lionel Messi put on arguably his greatest performance without actually scoring as Xavi, Pedro, David Villa (2) and Jeffren all totally embarrassed Los Blancos. 

10. Tottenham 2-7 Bayern Munich

Spurs suffered their worst ever European defeat earlier this season in one of the biggest signs that  Mauricio Pochettino’s five-year project was about to come to a sad end. Almost everything Bayern hit went in (they had 10 shots on target) and to make matters even more agonising for the home faithful, former Arsenal man Serge Gnabry got four of them. 

9. Manchester City 6-0 Watford

It was impossible not to feel sorry for Watford in the 2019 FA Cup final. Yes, there is no shame in losing by such a margin to an excellent City side, but the Hornets were left red-faced in front of the watching world in one of the biggest games in their history.

8. USA Women 13-0 Thailand

USA Women faced enormous criticism for their overzealous celebrations as they inflicted upon Thailand the biggest defeat ever seen at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The gulf in resources available to the respective sides made the former’s behaviour difficult to stomach. 

7. Spain 1-5 Netherlands

A game that had everything. It was a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final but four years on, the reigning champions were hammered despite scoring first through Xabi Alonso. Robin van Persie then scored *that* diving header before he and Arjen Robben put La Roja to the sword. 

6. Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City

A result you might expect after Ferguson, but not when he was still in charge. It was United’s worst home loss since February 1955 and prompted Mario Balotelli’s legendary ‘Why always me?’ celebration. But nobody could have predicted just how big a win it was for City – those three points helped them to the title, which was won over United on goal difference, just months later. 

5. Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona

Barcelona were reportedly offered treatment for PTSD when their Champions League hopes were ended yet again. It seemed unthinkable that they would go crashing out when they headed to Merseyside with a 3-0 lead. Three words: Corner taken quickly! 

4. Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal

Admittedly, Arsene Wenger was up against it with injuries and had to field a defence of Carl Jenkinson, Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny, and Armand Traoré. That’s no excuse for what happened though, with Ferguson visibly bewildered in his post-match interview. “When you play Arsenal you don’t expect a result like that,” he said. Well, quite.

3. Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain 

That said, Barcelona are no strangers to a glorious comeback themselves. PSG became the first team in Champions League history to exit the competition after winning a first leg 4-0. Ironically, it was Neymar (then still with Barcelona) who orchestrated their downfall in the late stages of the return at Camp Nou. The man in the PSG dugout? Unai Emery.  

2. Australia 31–0 American Samoa

It’s not every day a team is beaten so badly FIFA have to change the rules. It was the largest defeat in an international match and came at the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. Australia’s Archie Thompson scored a ridiculous 13 goals. FIFA then introduced a preliminary round in Oceania qualifying so a result like that wouldn’t happen again. 

1. Brazil 1-7 Germany

Losing 7-1 in any World Cup is bad enough, let alone in your homeland. The 2014 Selecao did not deserve to grace the sacred Maracana in the final and Germany duly dumped them out at the semi-finals, going 5-0 up inside half an hour. Brazil have never lost by such a margin at the World Cup as Miroslav Klose became the tournament’s record goalscorer. 

If you’re missing football right now, just remember it’s not always fun and games. It can be utter, abject, humiliation. 

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