The biggest shocks in World Cup history

The FIFA World Cup 2022 is currently playing out in Qatar, and like previous tournaments, surprises are to be expected.

It is normal for an underdog to pull off an incredible victory over one of the teams thought to be superior in every FIFA World Cup, but some victories are more shocking than the others.

Below is a list of the biggest shocks in world cup tournaments:

England 0-1 United States: 1950

England proudly boast that they invented the beautiful game – and it was for this reason that they thought they were too good to enter the World Cup in its early tournaments.

They finally agreed to take part in the 1950 World Cup and entered as one of the favourites.They boasted superstars of the world game such as Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and Stan Mortensen.

United States v England 29 June 1950

In their opening match they played against a part-time United States team comprised of players were not even U.S citizens. England were expected to win in double figures, but fell to a shock 1-0 defeat with the winner scored by Haiti-born Joe Gaetjens.

Italy 0-1 North Korea: 1966

Serie A was the strongest league in the world during the early to mid 1960s, with Milan and Inter winning three straight European Cups between them.

The Italy national team was full of stars from these teams and were one of the favourites to win the World Cup in England. However, they were eliminated in the group stages after a shock loss to North Korea in Middlesbrough.

Pak Doo-Ik scored the winner for a nation who no knew anything about. Italy’s players were greeted with rotten fruit from angry fans upon their return to their homeland.

Argentina 0-1 Cameroon: 1990

Partly due to bias or even racism, African nations weren’t treated very seriously as we headed into the 1990 World Cup. In fact, they were treated as something of a joke.

That all changed in the opening match of Italia ’90 as Cameroon shocked reigning champions Argentina.

Argentina had the best player in the world in Diego Maradona but Francois Oman-Biyik’s header clinched a shock victory for Cameroon.

Cameroon would have two players sent off but held on for victory comfortably and made it all the way to the last eight.

Bulgaria 2-1 Germany: 1994

Germany were the reigning champions in 1994, having lifted the World Cup four years earlier in Italy. Their team in 1994 was still incredibly strong, boasting superstars such as Lothar Matthaus, Jurgen Klinsmann, Andreas Brehme and Rudi Voller.

They were expected to beat Bulgaria with ease in the quarter-finals, with the East Europeans the weakest team remaining in the competition.

But Bulgaria launched a famous comeback after Matthaus had given Germany the lead. Hristo Stoichkov curled home a stunning free kick to equalise before Yordan Letchkov’s flying header won the day.

France 0-1 Senegal: 2002

France went into the 2002 World Cup as world and European champions, having added the Euro 2000 crown to their 1998 Mundial success.

Their team was filled full of superstars; the likes of Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Marcel Desailly.

They played Senegal in the first game of the tournament, a nation in their first ever World Cup. But France were under-par throughout as Papa Bouba Diop scored the winner on 30 minutes. Les Bleus ended up exiting the tournament in the group stage.

Switzerland 1-0 Spain in 2010

A European team defeating another European team shouldn’t normally be enough to make the list, but it only serves as further evidence of how outstanding the Spanish team was before, during, and after this competition.

The game’s lone goal was scored by defensive midfielder Gelson Fernandes, a Cape Verdean, after Switzerland attacker Eren Derdiyok beat Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas during a breakaway in the 52nd minute.

The only team to lose its World Cup opener and go on to win the championship was Spain, while the Swiss were unable to advance from their group.

Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia: 2022

Argentina went into the 2022 World Cup as second favourites to win the whole tournament. They travelled to Qatar on the back of a 36-game unbeaten run – and would have equalled Italy’s all-time record of 37 if they avoided defeat in their opening game.

That seemed to be a formality as they were playing supposed whipping boys Saudi Arabia. It all started well as Lionel Messi converted an early penalty. Argentina had a number of goals disallowed for offside but Saudi Arabia stunned them with two quick-fire goals at the start of the second half.

Argentina tried desperately to find an equaliser but created little thereafter as Saudi Arabia held on for a shock victory.

Japan 2 – 1 Germany: 2022

Four-time World Cup winners Germany’s loss against Japan in their first Group E match of Qatar 2022 may well go down as one of the most significant results in the nation’s history. Having fallen at the first hurdle of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, going out in the group stage of a second consecutive World Cup was unthinkable. 

While a matchup against Japan wasn’t seen as an easy game, Germany’s 2-1 loss and subsequent exit from the tournament before the round of 16 sent shockwaves around the country, with Chelsea forward Kai Havertz saying: “Now we’ve been knocked out twice in the group stage. I don’t think we’re a tournament team anymore.”

The first half against Japan went largely to plan for the Germans who went ahead through a 33rd-minute penalty from İlkay Gündoğan. But the men in white had no answer to Japan’s verve and energy in the second half, as goals from Doan Ritsu and Asano Takuma left the 2014 world champions on the ropes. 

Despite rallying to secure a 1-1 draw in their second match with Spain and a 4-2 victory in the final group stage game against Costa Rica, Germany crashed out of the tournament on goal difference, with Japan and Spain finishing first and second in the group.

Morocco 2 – 1 Belgium: 2022

On Sunday 27 November, Belgium faced Morocco in the sides’ second Group F game of the World Cup in Qatar. Belgium, ranked second in the world, had entered the tournament as one of the favourites having finished third in the World Cup in Russia four years earlier, while Morocco stood 22nd in the FIFA Men’s World Ranking.

After a scoreless first half, Morocco’s Romain Saiss found the net in the 73rd minute to give his country the lead. Then in the 92nd minute of the match, Toulouse striker Zakaria Aboukhlal made it 2-0 to the North African nation to secure a vital three points for Morocco. 

Just four days later Belgium were out of the World Cup, after a 0-0 draw with Croatia left them third in the table on four points, behind first-place Morocco and group runners-up Croatia. But the damage had been done in the shock defeat to Morocco who secured their place in the last 16 with a 2-1 victory over Canada in their final group stage game.

Source: Football Transfers, Olympics

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