After seeing one of the biggest surprises in the history of the World Cup happen in Qatar 2022 we were curious to see if there were other historic football world cup upsets no one saw coming! The World Cups mark the history of football like no other tournament. Every four years the attention of the entire planet is focused on them, to observe the great champions, and also the teams that surprise everyone in a sport that is prone to unexpected results. Let’s begin our list of the craziest upsets no one saw coming!
11 World Cup Upsets Similar To Saudi vs Argentina 2022
1. Saudi Arabia 2 – Argentina 1
What is probably Lionel Messi’s last World Cup, as he himself explained, began with a BANG:
Saudi Arabia shook the world by stopping the team led by Lionel Scaloni 2-1.
The result itself is surprising, there is no doubt about it, but above all it is impressive because the South Americans arrived with an undefeated record of 36 games and more than three years without losing.
The Arab BANG did not allow Lionel Messi to match them as Saudi Arabia entered Qatar 2022 with just 11 points from 16 games and just three wins. They had previously beaten Morocco (2-1) and Belgium (1-0), both in 1994, and Egypt in 2018. The players who made history against Argentina were Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari.
2. Mexico 1 – Germany 0 and South Korea 2 – Germany 0
“Let’s imagine cool things,” Chicharito Hernández declared before the 2018 World Cup in Russia in a total demonstration of optimism for the performance of the Mexican National Team. El Tri finished its campaign in Russia in the same way as in the previous six World Cups, with a defeat in the round of 16, but the one who was truly surprised in that tournament was once again the defending champions, Germany.
The Teutonic team fell 1-0 against the Mexican team on the first day and then in the third game, already in the desperate search for a win that would allow them to advance to the round of 16 to leave Mexico behind, they allowed two goals for South Korea. South and lost 2-0, thus finishing in last place in Group F and with just two goals scored. The Germans had never before lost in a World Cup against an opponent from Asia or from Concacaf. In fact, they didn’t even record previous World Cup draws against Asian teams.
3. Costa Rica 1 – Italy 0
After the draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Costa Rica was the center of attention of all meme creators by sharing a group with England, Italy and Uruguay, three world champion teams. Of course, nobody expected that the Ticos, who had been eliminated in the group stage in 2002 and 2006 and had not been able to qualify for South Africa 2010, would end up as the best in Group D.
The debut could not have been better for Jorge Luis Pinto’s men, who despite going down 1-0 at halftime were able to beat an Uruguayan team that was missing Luis Suárez 3-1. Given the circumstances, a victory against Italy would see Costa Rica secure a place in the round of 16 one day before the end, but it seemed a difficult task: the Italians, runners-up in Europe in 2012, had beaten England 2-1 in their premiere.
An error by the Chilean referee Enrique Osses did not indicate a clear penalty for Costa Rica at the end of the first half, but a minute later Bryan Ruiz, the great creator of the Ticos, made it 1-0 that would be the final. While Italy ended up eliminated in the group stage along with England, Costa Rica left Brazil 2014 undefeated in the quarterfinals, losing to the Netherlands on penalties.
4. South Korea 2 – Italy 1
As for the final positions of the last World Cups, the fourth place obtained by South Korea in Korea-Japan 2002 is most striking, in the case of a team that until then had played 12 games in the World Cup and had not been able to win any.
Led by Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, the South Koreans relied on the great physical condition of their team and the massive support of their fans to try to go as far as possible in their World Cup. And in the group stage, they were the best in a relatively benevolent Group D that they shared with Poland, Portugal, and the United States, from which they emerged undefeated.
In the round of 16, the locals faced Italy, a team that despite arriving as one of the candidates and being the current European runner-up, had not impressed in a group stage in which they only got four points. But it could not be denied that the Italians, accustomed to going from less to more in each World Cup, were the favorites to reach the quarterfinals.
South Korea missed an early penalty and it was Italy who led 1-0 with Christian Vieri’s goal after 5 minutes, but the home team equalized after 88 minutes through Seol Ki-Hyeon and then celebrated a triumph historic for Ahn Jung-Hwan’s golden goal after 116 minutes to be the second Asian team in history to enter the top eight of a World Cup.
The match was not without controversy: Francesco Totti was sent off after 103 minutes when he received a second yellow card for feigning a penalty, according to the interpretation of Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno. A possible Italian golden goal was also annulled incorrectly for offside, the penalty for South Korea was not entirely clear and players from the Asian team were saved from two expulsions.
Also with refereeing errors in their favor, South Korea went to penalties against Spain in the quarterfinals and prevailed by that method, to later fall against Germany and Turkey.
5. Senegal 1 – France 0
The 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup was the last in which the defending champion had the honor of kicking off the World Cup with action in the first game. Just as Argentina was stunned by Cameroon in 1990, France was disappointed against Senegal, a World Cup rookie team that had 21 of its 23 players playing in the French league.
Les Blues, world champions in 1998 and European champions in 2000, arrived as big favorites in Korea-Japan despite Zinedine Zidane’s injury that would prevent his great star from being in the first games (he just played in the third game, with clear discomfort above). Senegal pressed well in midfield and constantly sought speed from their lone striker, El Hadji Diouf, which led to Papa Bouba Diop’s 1-0 draw after 30 minutes. Without making a single modification during the game, the Africans took the victory by the minimum.
While France left Korea-Japan 2002 without winning a match, Senegal managed to hold out against Uruguay on the final day of the group stage (Senegal led 3-0 and the match ended 3-3, Uruguay needed to win), reached the 16th round and there they defeated Sweden with a golden goal. Turkey was only able to put the bell on the Senegalese team in the quarterfinals.
6. Saudi Arabia 1 – Belgium 0
In the 1994 World Cup in the United States, Saudi Arabia was one of the three rookie teams along with Greece and Nigeria. The Arabs dominated Asia at that time, continental champions in 1984 and 1988 and runners-up in 1992, but their intercontinental experience was practically nil, with a squad made up of 100% players from their local league and more than half of them under the age of 23 years, directed by the Argentine Jorge Solari. In fact, they were the only team in the tournament without a footballer in a European league.
Thus, together with the Netherlands, Belgium, and Morocco, it seemed that the World Cup in Saudi Arabia would end in the group stage and the forecast was increased with the victory of the Netherlands over them 2-1 in the debut, despite the fact that The Arabs led 1-0 until the 50th minute and only fell behind in the 86th minute due to an error by goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Deayea.
However, in a system in which four of the six third parties advanced to the round, Saudi Arabia came close to that goal with a 2-1 defeat against Morocco and on the last day against Belgium, which was already classified, they needed a draw to advance to the round of 16. They didn’t stop there: they won 1-0 thanks to number 10 Saaed Al-Owairan scoring one of the greatest goals in World Cup history: a 69-meter run from his midfield into the box rival in which he beat four rival defenders before finishing on the goalkeeper.
In the round of 16, Saudi Arabia lost 3-1 against Sweden and accumulated 12 games without a win in the World Cups until they were able to defeat Egypt 2-1 in Russia in the year 2018.
7. Cameroon 1 – Argentina 0
The African teams had shown in Spain in 1982 and Mexico in 1986 that, without being candidates to become champions, they were serious rivals who could not be underestimated. Cameroon, in fact, used six footballers who played in the major European leagues in this match (albeit in small teams). But despite everything, for Argentina, the world champion, their debut in Italy in 1990 seemed easy, although Carlos Salvador Bilardo’s team, with Diego Maradona as captain, did not arrive in great condition.
However, it was the Cameroonians who enjoyed what to this day continues to be their most important victory in World Cups due to the size of their rival: the formula of a defensive team that waited well behind for Argentina without much-attacking power and to which He also hit a lot (Cameroon had two sent off in the second half) gave the Indomitable Lions success. The 1-0 goal, the work of Francois Oman-Biyik, came after 67 minutes, already with Cameroon trailing 10 vs. eleven.
Cameroon was the big surprise for Italy 1990: in that group stage, they also beat Romania, then eliminated Colombia in the round of 16 and England had to go to extra time to beat them in the quarterfinals. Argentina, without shining, reached the final of the tournament and lost against Germany in a tight game. So far, that defeat against Cameroon is the only one that Argentina suffered in a World Cup against a non-European or South American team in 18 games.
8. Algeria 2 – West Germany 1
The first victory in the history of the World Cups for an African team was scored by Tunisia in Argentina in 1978, with a 3-1 defeat against Mexico that did not end up having such an impact due to the lousy performance of the Mexican team in that World Cup, in which they did not even achieve add a point The expansion to 24 teams that Spain had in 1982 gave Africa two places for the first time and both Cameroon and Algeria showed that the teams from that continent were ready to compete.
Cameroon drew against Poland (which finished third), Peru, and Italy (later champion) but with those results it was not enough to advance to the round. And Algeria suffered an injustice of fate, but first, it surprised the world.
In Gijón, the Desert Foxes defeated a superpower like West Germany, European champions in 1980, 2-1, in the first match of Group 2, 2-1 despite the temporary equalizer of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the captain German. The talent of Rabah Madjer, European and Intercontinental Cup champion as a star for Porto in 1987, and Lakhdar Belloumi, another African football legend not so well known because he never played outside the Algerian or Qatari leagues, made the surprise possible against who would later be runners-up in the world in 1982.
Algeria lost 2-0 to Austria in their second appearance and on the third day they beat Chile 3-2, but with four points they were eliminated from the tournament at the hands of the Germans and Austrians, who played a day later knowing that a victory for Germany Occidental by one or two goals classified the two teams: Germany won 1-0, while the spectators showed their disgust at the non-aggression pact that the two teams ended up showing on the pitch. It was only in 1986 that Morocco, after eliminating Portugal, was able to get an African team to advance to the next round in a World Cup.
9. North Korea 1 – Italy 0
Until their southern neighbors finished fourth at the 2002 World Cup, North Korea’s performance in 1966 was the best by an Asian team in World Cup history.
In Group D, Italy had debuted with a 2-0 victory over Chile, after a good performance at home in 1962, while North Korea had received a 3-0 defeat against the Soviet Union. Then the Italians lost to the Soviets, but the North Koreans couldn’t against Chile, although with their 1-1 draw they warned that they weren’t there to be a comparison and they remained with chances of advancing to the quarterfinals. For that, they had to beat Italy, something that sounded like a miracle. And they did it.
With a goal from youngster Pak Doo-ik in the 43rd minute, the Asians triumphed while being supported by almost all of the 17,000 spectators present at the Middlesbrough stadium, according to the chronicles. The discipline and effort of the North Koreans led them to victory against some Italians who already took it for granted that they would at least get a draw to advance to the quarterfinals and they did not, although they had legends like Gianni Rivera, Sandro Mazzola, Giacomo Bulgarelli and Giacinto Fachetti.
In the next instance, North Korea shocked the public more for a moment, with a 3-0 lead against Portugal in 25 minutes, although they ended up losing 5-3 against Eusébio’s men, who scored four goals.
10. Czechoslovakia 6 – Argentina 1
By its own decision, Argentina did not participate in the 1950 and 1954 World Cups while it dominated South American football in the 1940s and 1950s: it won 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, and 1957 Copas América and was third in 1956 (not participating in 1949 and 1953). The team had the sensation of a champion without a crown. And he arrived in Sweden in 1958 with great confidence, beyond the fact that he participated without some of his great stars in the 1957 Copa América (Omar Sívori, Antonio Angelillo, and Humberto Maschio, already transferred to Italian teams) and without friction with European rivals.
All this was the breeding ground for what the Albiceleste experienced as a great failure in Sweden 1958, while Brazil was crowned champion with a teenage Pelé. The debut, against the defending champion West Germany, was defeated 3-1 after being in the lead. Then Argentina beat Northern Ireland and that gave them hope for the last day, in which they faced Czechoslovakia, last in the group and whom they had beaten in a friendly in Buenos Aires in 1956.
With the tie, Argentina advanced to the round if Northern Ireland did not beat the Germans at the same time (it did not happen, they tied 2-2). But after 17 minutes the Czechoslovakians already controlled the game 2-0 and ended with a historic 6-1 victory that eliminated the Argentines in the first round (also the Czechs, due to the draw achieved by the Northern Irish), received by a shower of coins when he returned to his country after what was called “The disaster in Sweden”.
11. United States 1 – England 0
England and the United States will meet in the group stage of Qatar 2022 and it will be a game with an important history for the English, who faced the Americans twice in the World Cups but could never beat them. The 1-1 draw at South Africa 2010, where the two teams were knocked out in the round of 16, was far from a blowout, but the North Americans’ triumph at Brazil 1950 was completely unexpected.
England, the country that invented soccer, already came to that World Cup with many years of professionalism in its league, in which it made its debut in the World Cups with a 2-0 defeat of Chile on the first day of the group stage, while the United States had lost 3-1 to Spain.
The team underestimated the England game so much that they decided to rest Stanley Matthews, one of the best footballers in Europe at the time. In front they had a semi-professional team, which surprised the world.
The United States won 1-0 on a goal by Haitian-born footballer Joe Gaetjens in the 38th minute, and both teams were knocked out in the group stage by Spain, but the game was history: a movie was even made about it and it was called “The match of their lives”.