(Reuters) - Five of the biggest sporting flops from 2014:
Anything less than a World Cup win on home soil was always going to be seen as a failure but nobody could have predicted Brazil would suffer a 7-1 semi-final drubbing by Germany, one of the greatest shocks in soccer history.
To make matters worse, the Brazilians followed that up with a another woeful performance to lose 3-0 to the Netherlands in the third-place playoff.
The poor showing at the month-long tournament will remain a black spot for a country that has one of soccer’s proudest traditions — with five World Cup titles, more than any other nation.
Russia (Ice hockey)
The men’s ice hockey gold medal was one of Russia’s top priorities at the Sochi Olympics, and winning the event for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 was supposed to offer the world a symbol of the country’s might.
Facing massive pressure each time they played, the talented squad had a mediocre preliminary round that forced them into a do-or-die qualification game versus Norway, which they won easily as a nation exhaled for one more day.
But the toll of playing four games in five days showed as Russian dreams of celebrating a gold medal victory on home soil were crushed in a 3-1 quarter-final loss to Finland.
Shaun White (Snowboarding)
The American snowboarder was one of the biggest draws in Sochi where he was looking to join a rare pantheon of Winter Olympic greats as the first from his young sport to win three golds in one individual event.
The 2006 and 2010 champion’s triple gold bid in the halfpipe was looking good after the morning qualification where he was the top finisher but things started to unravel in his first run in the finals when he fell twice.
White, needing a flawless run in his second run to win gold, was the night’s final competitor and while he didn’t fall, two stumbles left the world’s most famous snowboarder off the medal podium in fourth place.
Denver Broncos (National Football League)
Clear favorites to win the Super Bowl before the season started, Denver reached the NFL’s championship game in impressive fashion as the first team to score over 600 points in a season.
The Broncos were built around future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, who had thrown a record 55 touchdown passes that season and was seeking a second Super Bowl title that, in the eyes of many, would have made him the greatest quarterback of all time.
But Denver were humiliated from the start as the game’s opening snap sailed over Manning’s head for a safety that put his team behind. The Seattle Seahawks went on to win the biggest game in American professional sports 43-8, the third-worst rout in Super Bowl history.
Sebastian Vettel (Motor Racing)
Vettel won four consecutive Formula One world championships and the last nine races of 2013 but his run of success ended in 2014 when the Red Bull driver went through the entire season without a victory.
Reliability problems and his car’s underperforming Renault engine had something to do with that but Vettel would have a had a more solid case had he not been eclipsed by team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who took three wins and was the only driver outside the Mercedes team to stand on the top step of the podium.
Formula One greats are supposed to show their greatness by making a difference and getting more out of a poorly-performing car than might be supposed possible. On that score alone, Vettel flopped.
Compiled by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Justin Palmer