GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 22:  WM 2002 in JAPAN und KOREA, Gwangju; Match 59/VIERTELFINALE/SPANIEN - KOREA (ESP - KOR) 3:5 n.Elfmeterschiessen; SCHLUSS JUBEL SUEDKOREA; Ki Hyeon SEOL, Chun Soo LEE, Eul Yong LEE, Sun Hong HWANG und Ji Sung PARK  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Underdogs: 6 Countries Who Have Reached a World Cup Semi Final Since England Last Did

In the 28 long years since England last reached a World Cup semi final, the Three Lions have won just two knockout ties - Denmark in 2002, Ecuador in 2006.


In the last World Cup, England didn't even make it out of the group and expectation is now at an all-time low. Ironically, that reduced pressure may now serve to actually help the players.


Perhaps England could even learn a few things from these six countries who have arguably unexpectedly reached a World Cup semi final since the English last did...

6. Uruguay

Notable Players: Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez, Diego Lugano, Alvaro Pereira.


Although twice previous World Cup winners, Uruguay's World Cup record had become patchy at best by 2010, with a group stage exit in 2002 their only appearance on the global stage during a barren 20-year period for the country.


Things eventually came together marvellously in South Africa, led from the front by prolific forward Diego Forlan, who finished the tournament with the Golden Ball award as best player.


Uruguay topped a potentially tough group ahead of Mexico, hosts South Africa, and France, before a favourable draw saw them knock out South Korea and Ghana en-route to the semi finals. Only a 3-2 defeat to the Netherlands denied them a place in the final.

5. Bulgaria

Notable Players: Hristo Stoichkov, Yordan Letchkov, Trifon Ivanov, Nasko Sirakov.


Bulgaria's Golden Generation in 1994 boasted star Barcelona forward Hristo Stoichkov, who went home from the USA with a share of the Golden Shoe after scoring six goals - later that year he also collected the Ballon d'Or.


The iconic moment from Bulgaria's run to the last four came in the quarter final against reigning champions Germany, when Yordan Letchkov scored a flying header.


Stoichkov, Letchkov and co had progressed from the group stage after beating Greece and Argentina, before knocking out Mexico in the last 16. It was a brace from Italy's Roberto Baggio in the semis that ended their World Cup dream.

4. Sweden

Notable Players: Tomas Brolin, Martin Dahlin, Stefan Schwarz, Henrik Larsson.


Like Bulgaria, a Golden Generation from Sweden also made it through to the semi finals in 1994. They got even closer to the final, with eventual champions Brazil needing a late goal from Romario to get through at the Scandinavians' expense.


The Swedes were building on an impressive display at Euro '92 where they had reached the semi finals on home soil and secured qualification from the group stage after draws against Brazil and a tough Cameroon side, and victory over Russia.


As well as the likes of future Premier League flops Tomas Brolin and Martin Dahlin, that Swedish team also featured a young Henrik Larsson playing at his first tournament.

3. Turkey

Notable Players: Hakan Sukur, Hasan Sas, Rustu Recber, Tugay Kerimoglu.


When Turkey qualified for Euro '96 they had not been to a major international tournament since the 1954 World Cup and it ended with a whimper after three defeats in the group stage and not a single goal. Four years later they reached the quarter finals of Euro 2000.


By the time the World Cup in 2002 came around, a Golden Generation of Turkish players was seen as being among the best in Europe - only two years earlier Galatasaray, a team featuring many of the national squad, had won the UEFA Cup.


In the Far East, Turkey drew with Costa Rica and beat China to reach the knockout rounds, before further victories against Japan and Senegal put them in the semis.

2. South Korea

Notable Players: Park Ji-sung, Ahn Jung-hwan, Yoo Sang-chul, Lee Young-pyo.


South Korea's run to the World Cup semi finals on home soil in 2002 is one of the competition's most famous and infamous memories, with landmark victories over Italy and Spain in consecutive knockout games tarnished by enormous officiating controversy.


The nation had been to five previous World Cups stretching back to 1954, but had never even won a game prior to 2002. A group stage victory in their opener against Poland was their very first at the 15th attempt.


Favourable refereeing decisions aside, the incredible fitness of the South Korean players and a new focus on fresh talent over seniority from manager Guus Hiddink were key aspects.

1. Croatia

Notable Players: Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki, Robert Jarni.


Just three years after the Croatian War of Independence officially ended, the Croatian national team, which was only admitted into FIFA in 1992 during the conflict, reached the semi finals and finished third at the 1998 World Cup in France.


The team was powered by the goals of Davor Suker, who ended the tournament with the Golden Boot, and performed even better than a quarter final appearance at Euro '96.


Croatia finished second in their group behind Argentina, setting up a last 16 clash with Romania. Their greatest moment then came in the form of a thumping 3-0 win over Germany in the quarter finals, while eventual champions France had to come from behind in the semis.