Biggest Upsets in World Cup History

Four days of World Cup action in Qatar 2022 have already produced two big upsets, with Saudi Arabia defeating Argentina and Japan defeating Germany.

Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari’s goals helped Saudi Arabia shock the South American champions in an incredible comeback.

Saudi Arabia fans celebrate World Cup win vs Argentina

A little more than a day later, Japan did the same as late goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano caused four-time champion Germany to lose the game.

We take a look at some of the previous jaw-dropping scorelines from the World Cup in light of those two surprises.

USA 1-0 England (Group stage, 1950)

USA celebration after defeating England in 1950

With star players like Tom Finney, Stan Mortensen, and Billy Wright, England entered the 1950 edition of the tournament in Brazil full of optimism.

In their second game, an amateur and semi-professional USA team was predicted to be no problem, but Haitian-born striker Joe Gaetjens scored to secure the most unlikely of victories.

North Korea 1-0 Italy (Group stage, 1966)

Italy, one of the favorites for the 1966 World Cup, headed into their group-stage match against underdog North Korea confident of advancing to the next round.

But the tournament’s first-timers advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to a goal from Pak Doo Ik, while the Azzurri were eliminated early and humiliated.

Argentina 0-1 Cameroon (Group Stage, 1990)

In the tournament opener at the San Siro, the 1986 champions Argentina were left speechless when Francois Omam-Biyik scored the game’s only goal for a Cameroon team that was down to nine players by the time the game ended.

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Even though Diego Maradona and his teammates were able to turn around their tournament, losing to West Germany in the final, it was the eventual quarterfinalists from Africa who won the hearts of the footballing community.

Cameroon players celebrate after shock win over Argentina in 1990 World Cup

Italy 0-1 Republic of Ireland (Group stage, 1994)

Following their defeat by Italy at the quarterfinal stage in 1990, the Republic of Ireland had vengeance on their mind as they faced them in the group stage in 1994.

Thanks to Ray Houghton’s screamer and Paul McGrath’s heroics on defense, Jack Charlton’s team was able to soothe that pain with a surprise 1-0 victory in New Jersey.

France 0-1 Senegal (Group stage, 2002)

In one of the most memorable opening matches of a World Cup, Senegal defeated France for the first time in history in 2002 in South Korea and Japan.

Papa Bouba Diop vs France in 2022 World Cup

Senegal’s legendary winner from Papa Bouba Diop put them on their path to becoming only the second African team in tournament history to advance to the quarterfinals, while Les Blues were eliminated from the group stage with just one point.

Spain 0-1 Switzerland (Group stage, 2010)

After winning Euro 2008, Spain was the overwhelming favorite to win the 2010 tournament in South Africa, but Gelson Fernandes’ goal gave La Roja the worst possible start.

Vicente del Bosque’s team did overcome this early setback and go on to win the championship, giving up just one more goal along route to victory.

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Slovakia 3-2 Italy (Group stage, 2010)

In 2010, Italy endured another devastating World Cup exit in South Africa, which extended the curse of the defending champions.

The Azzurri were defeated 3-2 and failed to advance to the knockout rounds for the first time since 1974 with just two points gained from games against Paraguay and New Zealand.

Spain 1-5 Netherlands (Group stage, 2014)

The Netherlands brutally destroyed Spain 5-1 courtesy to a fantastic header from Robin van Persie and a masterful performance by Arjen Robben.

The reigning champions would later suffer a 2-0 defeat against Chile in their subsequent match, halting their three-match winning streak and sending them home in the group stage.

Brazil 1-7 Germany (Semi-final, 2014)

Brazil captain David Luiz looking frustrated in front of home crowd after Germany 7-1 humilation

In a result that stunned the globe more than any other, hosts Brazil were eliminated by eventual champions Germany in a really degrading manner.

The emotional Selecao was keen to win the match in honor of injured star Neymar but fell behind 5-0 after 30 minutes before giving up two more goals that stunned the Belo Horizonte crowd.

South Korea 2-0 Germany (Group stage, 2018)

The reigning champions were eliminated in the group stage for the fourth time in five World Cups, with Germany being the most recent victim in Russia in 2018.

The four-time champions needed to defeat South Korea in their last group game to advance, but Kim-Young Gwon scored in extra time before goalkeeper Manuel Neuer misplaced the ball up-field, allowing Heung-Min Son to seal an incredible victory.

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Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia (Group stage, 2022)

Argentina had already started their quest for a first-ever World Cup victory when seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi set them on their course.

However, two outstanding goals in the second half from Al-Shehri and Al Dawsari gave the underdogs a stunning victory, only their fourth World Cup victory overall, and a place in the annals of the tournament.

Germany 1-2 Japan (Group stage, 2022)

Germany may not be able to afford to lose against Japan given that their next match is against Spain after being eliminated from the group stage in 2018.

Before Doan’s equalizer at the 75-minute mark, Ilkay Gundogan’s first-half penalty appeared to calm any tension.

Japan come from a goal down to beat Germany 2-1 in Qatar 2022 World Cup

It was then revealed that the Germans’ worst fear had come true when replacement Asano squeaked the ball in from a tight angle.


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