Five Biggest World Cup Finals Upsets

The FIFA World Cup is the world's best known football tournament and down the years it has produced some major shock results.

FIFA World Cup

There have been some massive surprises at the World Cup since the first tournament in 1930 and we have picked out five of the most memorable that sent shockwaves across the football world.

Here are five of the biggest stunners. 

USA 1 England 0, 1950

A row over payments to amatuer players meant England had boycotted the first three World Cups, but that was resolved in time for them to take part in Brazil in 1950.

Only group winners progressed from their section including Spain, Chile and the USA and it was expected to be a routine exercise.

The Americans, in particular, weren’t expected to provide any problems as they had lost their last seven matches by an aggregate score of 45-2, a run that included an 11-0 loss to Norway.

What chance did the team of part-time players have against a team containing the likes of Billy Wright, Tom Finney and future World Cup-winning manager Alf Ramsey?

Well, Haitian-born striker Joe Gaetjens gave them a 37th-minute lead in Belo Horizonte and England just could not get back into it.

The defeat was the first of a catalogue of World Cup disappointments.

North Korea 1 Italy 0, 1966

Italy headed to England in 1966 aiming to claim their third World Cup but while their recent tournaments had been disappointments, no one expected what happened against North Korea at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough.

The Koreans had won a two-legged qualifier against Australia to book their place in the finals, after the other 20 countries affiliated to Asia, Africa and Oceania withdrew in protest to them only receiving one finals spot between them.

Italy had won the tournament twice before the Second World War but had not got past the first round since, but a win over Chile and a defeat to the USSR meant a draw against the unknown quantity would be enough to make the last eight.

However, a first-half goal from Doo-Ik Pak was enough to take the Koreans through.

They then went 3-0 up in their quarter-final against Portugal before four goals from Eusebio helped their opponents gain a 5-3 victory.

The Italians, meanwhile, were pelted by rotten tomatoes upon their arrival at Genoa airport.

West Germany 1 Algeria 2, 1982

West Germany had suffered the indignity of being beaten by East Germany in a group game in 1974, but their loss to Algeria in 1982 was arguably an even bigger surprise.

Just as they had eight years earlier, the West Germans went into the tournament as European champions and were expected to comfortably win their first game in Gijon, but it didn’t turn out like that.

After getting to half-time goalless, the North Africans took a surprise lead through Rabah Madjer nine minutes after the interval.

Captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge brought the West Germans level, but parity lasted less than a minute as Lakhdar Belloumi fired a winner.

That had the Algerians dreaming of reaching the second round, but it turned out that a 1-0 win for West Germany in their final game against Austria meant both they and their european neighbours would progress.

Horst Hrubesch scored early on before the two teams went through the motions and the uproad that charade caused is why final group games are now played simultaneously.

Argentina 0 Cameroon 1, 1990

Defending champions Argentina had the honour of opening the 1990 World Cup and few expected Diego Maradona and his team-mates having problems in putting Cameroon in their place at Milan’s San Siro.

The Indomitable Lions did well to hold Argentina for an hour but the writing seemed to be on the wall when Andre Kana-Biyik was sent off.

However, Francois Oman-Biyik sent a towering header towards the South Americans’ goal and keeper Nery Pumpido conspired to push it across the line.

A physical approach allowed them to hold on. Maradona received plenty of rough attention but nothing compared to the foul on Claudio Caniggia that led to Benjamin Massing’s late sending off.

And they didn’t rest on that success, topping their group and beating Colombia in the last-16 before an unfortunate extra-time loss to England in the quarter-finals.

France 0 Senegal 1, 2002

France had added the European Championship to their home World Cup triumph as they headed to South Korea as hot favourites to claim another global crown.

However, their group campaign could not have been more miserable and their star-studded line-up were unable to get over their opening defeat to Senegal.

Most of the African players were plying their trade in France, but they were underestimated as El Hadji Diouf terrorised the Bleus defence, setting up Pape Bouba Diop for what turned out to be the winning goal.

Senegal would go on to reach the quarter-finals, while France, for all the hype, were unable to score a single goal in their three group matches.

*All odd correct at time of writing.

A vastly experienced journalist, Ian has worked the beat on a number of local newspapers and covers a number of different sports for the Racing Post
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