5 Biggest Upsets in World Cup History

We take a look at five of the biggest shock results in the history of the FIFA World Cup, including some lamentable efforts from defending champions down the years.

Papa Bouba Diop

There have been some sensational World Cup upsets since the inaugural edition back in 1930 and we have delved into the history books to find our top-five shock results at the tournament.

Before we delve into the list, there has to be a couple of notable mentions for a pair of results that only just missed out on a spot in the top five.

The first of those was at USA ’94, when the Republic of Ireland defeated Italy 1-0 in the group stage before going on to lose to the Netherlands in the last 16, while the Azzurri famously lost a dull final on penalties to Brazil despite that early setback against Jack Charlton’s outfit.

The second was Bulgaria’s 2-1 victory over Germany in the quarter-finals at the same tournament, when Hristo Stoichkov and Yordan Letchkov fired two goals in three minutes inside the final quarter of an hour to stun the reigning world champions in the Giants Stadium, New Jersey.

Now….on with the top five!

Northern Ireland 1 – 0 Spain (1982)

Northern Ireland were taking part in just their second World Cup when the 1982 edition came about, having only previously played at the 1958 event, but they made their mark for sure in their final group match.

Having drawn their first two matches, the Green and White Army went up against hosts Spain and managed to pull off a shock 1-0 victory at the Estadio Luis Casanova thanks to Gerry Armstrong’s strike.

To make the victory more impressive, Northern Ireland played the final half hour with 10 men after Mal Donaghy was shown a straight red card, and still managed to hold on for the win.

Senegal 1 – 0 France (2002)

Playing at your first World Cup can be daunting for any team, but being drawn against the defending champions in the tournament opener certainly added to the nerves for debutants Senegal in 2002.

However, The Lions of Teranga produced a battling performance to down Les Bleus 1-0, with Papa Bouba Diop grabbing the only goal of the game in the 30th minute.

Senegal would go on to lose to Turkey in the quarter-finals, while France finished bottom of Group A in what was a dreadful title defence.

South Korea 2 – 1 Italy (2002)

The 2002 World Cup was full of shocks and another came in the last-16 stage of the tournament when South Korea, joint hosts with Japan, knocked out the now four-time champions Italy 2-1 in extra time.

Christian Vieri had given Italy an early 1-0 lead but with just two minutes of normal remaining Seol Ki-Hyeon, spurred on by the partisan home crowd, found an equaliser. Ahn Jung-Hwan then grabbed the golden goal in the 117th minute.

In truth, South Korea could have featured on this list again as they went on to beat Spain in the quarter-finals on penalties before eventually losing to beaten finalists Germany in the semi-finals.

Cameroon 1 – 0 Argentina (1990)

Another African side that caused a huge upset were Cameroon at Italia 90 when they defeated Argentina, the defending champions who were heavily fancied to retain the title, 1-0 in their opening Group B match.

Cameroon had Andre Kana-Biyik sent off in the 61st minute but that didn’t stop them as Francois Omam-Biyik managed to find the back of the net just six minutes later.

Benjamin Massing was then given his marching orders two minutes from the end of normal time, sending the Indomitable Lions down to nine, but they managed to fend off Diego Maradona and Co to clinch the win.

Cameroon ended up reaching the quarter-finals, the first African nation to achieve this feat, where they were knocked out 3-2 by England after extra time.

USA 1 – 0 England (1950)

We have to go all the way back to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil to round off our top-five list, with the USA’s 1-0 victory over England one of the most shocking results to this day.

Dubbed the ‘Miracle on Turf’, the United States, who had lost seven straight international matches to England by a combined score of 45-2, managed to pull off a 1-0 victory thanks to Joseph Edouard Gaetjens’ 38th-minute strike.

This was the USA’s only victory at the tournament and they ended up bottom of the group, but they will never forget this result against an England side that boasted the likes of Stanley Matthews and Alf Ramsey.

A single-handicapper, James always offers an interesting insight to the world of golf, with extensive knowledge of both the US and European Tours. James also has a wealth of information about the domestic and international football scene.
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