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Five of the World Cup's Greatest Underdog Fairytales

07/07/2014 17:22 BST | Updated 06/09/2014 10:59 BST

The history of the World Cup is full of the best teams, players and coaches of all time, but every year there are also true underdog fairytales, without which the competition wouldn't be anything like as special as it is.

So far 2014 has proved to be no different. Algeria shocked audiences by progressing past the group stage, while Costa Rica are still going strong and are ready to contest a quarter final clash.

In celebration of those plucky overachievers, here's a look back at the World Cup's greatest ever underdog fairytales.

5. Italy, 1982

Having already won the competition twice before, Italy were certainly no minnows when they arrived at Spain's World Cup in 1982, but against a back drop of domestic scandal there was significant scepticism about how much they could achieve.

Following the Totonero match fixing scandal of 1980, many players in Serie A and Serie B were suspended, including Paolo Rossi who served a two year ban. The striker returned in time for the World Cup, but as Italy stumbled through the first round with three draws, he, along with his team-mates, were widely criticised.

In the second round, however, the Azzurri, now operating under a siege mentality, turned the tides. A tactical masterclass against Argentina and a stunning Rossi hat-trick against Brazil sent Italy through to the last four, where two further goals from the striker secured a place in the final against West Germany.

With destiny seemingly on their side, Italy won 3-1 to lift a third world title.

4. Senegal, 2002

In their first ever World Cup match, Senegal faced the daunting task of coming up against reigning world and European champions France, featuring the likes of Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Lilian Thuram.

However, the West Africans were far from star-struck and in one of the great tournament shocks a single scrambled goal from Papa Bouba Diop rendered the French speechless.

Senegal didn't stop there after a 1-1 draw against Denmark and an action packed 3-3 draw with Uruguay secured their passage to the knockout rounds.

El-Hadji Diouf and co met Sweden in the last 16 and after a tense 1-1 draw in 90 minutes progressed courtesy of a golden goal from Henri Camara to match the best African performance at a World Cup to date.

Unfortunately, the quarter-finals were where the dream ended for Senegal as they came up against Turkey in the last eight, losing to a golden goal themselves in extra time.

3. North Korea, 1966

With Asian nations having previously been little more than whipping boys, little was expected from the North Korea team that arrived in England in 1966.

The side certainly did little to abate such a lack of faith in their opening game of the tournament when they were crushed 3-0 by the Soviet Union.

A late equaliser in the second game against Chile kept Korean hopes alive, but it is the legendary win over Italy which is the greatest part of this famous story.

In front of 18,000 fans at Middlesbrough's old Ayresome Park ground, a solitary goal from Pak Doo-Ik was enough to send North Korea through at Italy's expense.

North Korea bowed out of the competition after an epic 5-3 loss to Portugal in the quarter-finals, but their place in World Cup folklore was already confirmed.

2. South Korea, 2002

Prior to co-hosting the finals in 2002, South Korea had never won a World Cup match in 14 attempts going back to 1954 and among the public there was genuine concern that the team would be embarrassed at its own tournament.

However, the anxiety needn't have existed as an electric atmosphere inspired Guus Hiddink's Taeggeuk Warriors to an emphatic 2-0 win. A follow up draw against the USA left Korea within touching distance of the second round and a final win against Portugal in front of another frenzied crowd was enough to top the group.

A controversial golden goal win over Italy followed, after which goalscorer Ahn Jung-Hwan was sensationally sacked by his Italian club side. Another incredible win against Spain, which included a disallowed Spanish goal, put South Korea into the semi-finals, the first and only Asian team to achieve such a feat.

1. Cameroon, 1990

In 1990, Cameroon almost single handedly shattered negative perceptions about African football.

Teams like Zaire had done little for the continent's reputation and the world expected Cameroon to be comfortably beaten by holders Argentina in the opening game.

However, a shock win proved to be the catalyst as the Indomitable Lions went on to top their group, inspired by the goals of a 38-year-old Roger Milla. In the second round against Colombia, Milla popped up with two more goals in extra time to put an African team into the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time.

But having struggled with naivety throughout the tournament, poor discipline ultimately hurt Cameroon in the end. Leading 2-1 in their quarter-final match against England, a late penalty sent the game to extra time and a further penalty in the additional period secured the Indomitable Lions' elimination.

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