The biggest upsets in FIFA World Cup history

Vivek Mishra
Vivek MishraNov 25, 2022 | 13:45

The biggest upsets in FIFA World Cup history

Saudi Arabia shocked the football world with a 2-1 victory over Argentina at Qatar World Cup. (Getty Images)

Qatar World Cup 2022 has seen five days of action, and we have already witnessed two big upsets in football's biggest and most prestigious event.

While Saudi Arabia staged a huge upset with a 2-1 victory over Argentina, ending La Albiceleste's 36-match unbeaten run, the Japanese team shocked the Germans with a gritty 2-1 win.

These results are like moments to be forgotten for the fans of the losing teams, but for the winners and all neutrals, these are the moments that make the World Cup special.


We take a look at some of the biggest upsets in FIFA World Cup history:

USA shock England with 1-0 victory (1950): Dubbed as the miracle on grass, it is seen as one of the biggest upsets of all time in FIFA history. The United States had lost seven straight international matches in a row but shocked everyone with the win where their goalkeeper was the star performer.


Argentina 0-1 Cameroon (1990): Argentina were the 1986 World Cup winners and entered the 1990 tournament as favourites. But they lost the opening match of the competition as a nine-man Cameroon clinched a 1-0 win. Argentina still managed to reach the final where they lost to Germany.


North Korea 1-0 Italy (1966): The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in their first World Cup appearance, shocked the world with their 1-0 win over two-time champion Italy. They lost their quarter-final to Portugal and wouldn't return to a FIFA World Cup until 2010, but they eliminated Italy in the group stage in 1966.


Senegal stun France 1-0 (2002): Anyone who has followed football in the last 2-3 decades would remember this as one of the most shocking results of the FIFA World Cup. France were defending champions and Senegal, then ranked 68th, were taking part in their maiden World Cup. But Papa Bouba Diop's first-half goal gave them the victory and the team would go on to reach the quarters.



Bulgaria knocks out Germany (1994): Germany were the defending World Champions and were looking to hold their title in 1994 in their first appearance as a unified nation following the fall of the Berlin Wall. But Bulgaria were the surprise package of the tournament led by Barcelona star Hristo Stoichov. They defeated Germany 2-1 in the quarters before losing in the semis.


Saudi Arabia 2-1 Argentina (2022): Saudi Arabia staged a huge upset at Qatar World Cup with 2-1 victory over Argentina, ending the two-time World Cup champions 36-match unbeaten run. Lionel Messi scored the only goal for Argentina on a penalty, but Saudi Arabia made a stunning comeback in the second half scoring two goals in five minutes.

Three disallowed goals for the Argentines set them back, and an attacking spell in the second half from Saudi Arabia produced the most unlikely result of the tournament.


Switzerland 1-0 Spain (2010): Spain were looking unbeatable at that time, and would went on to also win the World Cup, but not before a shocking 0-1 loss to Switzerland. Gelson Fernandes bagged the winner seven minutes into the second half, and from there on the Swiss defended like their lives depended on it.



Uruguay 2-1 Brazil (1950 WC Final): Dubbed as the Tragedy of the Maracana, the game is regarded as the first major and probably one of the biggest upsets in FIFA WC history. There is no official figure on this, but it is claimed that hundreds of thousands, mostly Brazilians, were at the stadium hoping for a Brazil win.

Brazil were leading 1-0 in the second half, before a pair of goals from Uruguayans Juan Alberto "Pepe" Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia (just 11 minutes before final whistle) took the victory away from them. It is still know as one of the most embarrassing moment for Brazilian football.


Last updated: November 25, 2022 | 13:45
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