The Greatest Football World Cup Upsets Of All Time

The World Cup is one of the best sporting events in the world – filled with drama and excitement from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. There have been a number of moments that will long live in the annals of history.

Upsets are always a part of the World Cup, but thanks to the increased focus on analytics and sports psychology in recent years, coaches have more knowledge than ever about their opponents. This has enabled them to build strategies that can turn an underdog into a contender and provide teams with the belief they need to take on giants.

Fans worldwide bet on these huge tournaments, and those who predict an upset can win a lot of money. Sports betting at gives you some of the most competitive odds and markets that football has to offer regularly, with this year’s World Cup no exception, thus allowing everyone to enhance their viewing of this tournament.

Senegal 1-0 France (2002)

In 2002, France was the defending champion in the World Cup. However, Roger Lemerre’s team were to suffer the dreaded curse of being champions. Despite being gifted with Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, Les Bleus suffered without Zinedine Zidane in their opening match.

Senegal capitalized on France’s fear of the stage. In a game against France, Senegal’s Bouba Diop scored the game-winning goal.

Cameroon 1-0 Argentina (1990)

The defending champion Argentina came to Italia ’90 hoping to win a third championship in 12 years and become just the third team to defend the World Cup successfully. La Albiceleste, led by Diego Maradona, ultimately fell short of West Germany in the championship game, although they were handed a big upset in their first match.

Cameroon was looking to build on a poor World Cup debut in 1982, and they took advantage of an off-form Argentina. François Omam-Biyik netted the game’s lone goal in the 67th minute.

Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia (2024)

As Copa America champions led by seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, Argentina was widely expected to win the championship when they arrived in Qatar. Messi’s conversion of a 10th-minute penalty gave Lionel Scaloni’s squad the perfect start against a Saudi Arabia team that was placed 48 spots lower than them in the FIFA rankings.

Before Saleh Al-Shehri scored the first goal in the 48th minute, Argentina was in control. Five minutes later, Salem Al-astonishing Dawsari’s strike had the crowd of green shirts in a state of ecstasy.

Ireland 1-0 Italy (1994)

The Boys in Green were introduced to the world of international football with Ireland’s journey to the quarterfinals of Italia ’90, but their loss to the hosts will always be remembered.

In the heat of New Jersey, they faced a rematch with Italy, and Jack Charlton had retribution on his mind. Ireland took the lead immediately, thanks to a flash of inspiration from Ray Houghton. A wall from Paul McGrath kept Italy at bay as they repeatedly threatened the Irish goal.

England 0-1 USA Brazil 1950

England 0-1 USA Brazil 1950 stands out as one of the greatest football world cup upsets of all times. This match saw an inexperienced United States side take on the Three Lions of England at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.

No one expected much from the US team, which was composed mainly of semi-professional players and students, but they pulled off a huge shock by beating England 1-0 thanks to a goal from Joe Gaetjens. It is still seen as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history – despite being 6 decades ago – as massive favourites England were thought to be untouchable and had opened their campaign with a 4-0 win over Chile.

Italy 0-1 Korea DPR England 1966

In 1966, the football world was shocked as Italy, one of the pre-tournament favorites, was defeated by North Korea in one of the greatest World Cup upsets of all time. Prior to their second round match against Italy at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park stadium, North Korea had already made history by becoming the first Asian team to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals.

Italy dominated possession throughout the encounter, but were unable to find a breakthrough in a match that featured some controversial refereeing decisions. Just five minutes before full-time, they were unanimously stunned when North Korean forward Pak Doo Ik scored off an angled drive in the 75th minute. At that moment a jubilant crowd of more than 24,000 spectators rose as one and erupted into a wave of chants and cheers directed towards Pak.

Italy 0-1 Costa Rica Brazil 2014

On June 20, 2014, one of the greatest World Cup upsets in football history happened as Italy were beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in their opening game of the 2014 Brazil World Cup. It was a match that saw Cesare Prandelli’s side dominated throughout and ultimately punished for their mistakes by Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz who scored the only goal of the game.

The result sent shockwaves through the football world as one of Europe’s most dominant sides were shocked by an unheralded side from Central America. Coming into the match Italy were considered favourites and had been given a great chance to make a deep run at the tournament based on their strong recent form in competitions like the Euro 2012. However, against Costa Rica, they looked off-balance and unable to generate any real scoring threats despite having several chances.

Final Thoughts

Who doesn’t love an underdog story? In football, anything can happen on any given day, making the sport great. Every now and then, we see a team expected to lose cause of an upset against a much stronger opponent. These are the moments that make football so unique. These stories will live long in the memory of every football fan.

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