When a side’s players have exhausted all their efforts, given their all for the cause, they require a lift to get them over the line. That’s when the fans can become a 12th man, quite literally. Some supporters give off such positive energy that they can genuinely spur their side over the line, enabling them to find that second wind needed to progress closer to glory.
Usually, the host nation’s fans light up the city, which can motivate the players to do the whole country proud by swatting aside the opposition. It has been seen before, and it will most likely be seen again.
Having said that, let’s take a look at a few teams who have been dragged to World Cup success…
England – 1966
The host nation went all the way to glory back in 1966, largely thanks to their fans. In fairness to the team alone, they made light work of getting to the final against West Germany, but it was in the showpiece event that they needed their fans.
With the score at 2-1 heading towards the end of the game, the Three Lions looked set for the trophy but for an 89th equaliser from Wolfgang Weber. That looked certain to knock the stuffing out of the English, but their fans rallied behind them to spur them back onto the path of glory.
England scored two goals in extra time to snatch the win by four goals to two, but they may not have done it without their valiant supporters.
Argentina – 1978
The tournament famous for it’s ticker tape littered pitches, the atmosphere created by La Albiceleste’s fans played a huge part in their nation’s World Cup win.
The final against Holland, in particular, needed the fans to be on their best form. Argentina found themselves level after 90 minutes with the Netherlands, meaning they would have to endure the hard slog that is extra time.
It was there that Argentina’s fans got them over the line in every sense of the phrase. On the ticker tape covered pitch, Diego Maradona’s Argentina prospered by three goals to one to win the trophy on home soil.
Republic of Ireland – 1994
Not backed as huge favourites before the tournament started, the Republic of Ireland side entered the World Cup in the US with little pressure.
That non-existent pressure was emphasised by their passionate fans in the stands, who were simply just there to have a good time with little expectation.
A win against Italy in the group stage contributed to their progression to the round of 16, where Holland awaited them. Ireland played well but succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to a vastly talented Dutch side. Not much was expected of Ireland, but thanks to their fans, they performed above themselves.
France – 1998
After staggering through the round of 16 and the quarter finals against Paraguay and Italy respectively, France’s excellent World Cup campaign looked to be running out of steam. However, the host nation had the backing of the entire country behind them.
Streets littered in red, white and blue inspired Les Bleus, reinvigorating their tournament significantly. With an entire nation carrying them, France dispatched Croatia in the semi finals before swatting Brazil aside in the final with a 3-0 win.
Iceland – 2018 Qualifying
Even after their impressive Euro 2016 exploits, not many expected Iceland to take their place at the World Cup in Russia. Many thought that may be a step too far for such a little nation to qualify, but qualify they did.
A solid unit combined with some excellent individual players, Iceland’s playing style worked wonders. However, their fans got them to believe they were good enough. The Iceland fans’ famous viking clap and vociferous support has put them and their side on the map; can they repeat their European Championship form in Russia?
Panama – 2018 Qualifying
Panama qualified for their first ever World Cup after a gruellingly lengthy process of qualification. At times, with such a small squad with few players of real talent, this organised unit of a side must’ve wondered if they could realise their World Cup dream.
Of course, Hernan Dario Gomez used all of his experience to calm his side, but the Panama fans arguably played just as big a part. They rallied behind their country to send them to their first ever World Cup finals, and they deserve every bit of the phenomenal experience they will have in Russia.