The World Cup is never short on drama. Whether it is a last-gasp goal or a horrific injury, international football’s biggest tournament has inspired and surprised in equal measure over the years. With the latest edition of the World Cup in Qatar set to begin imminently, we imagine there will be plenty to unpack in the next few weeks, and you can expect the odd upset here or there.
What are the biggest upsets in World Cup History?
In any given World Cup, there is usually a dark horse that jumps out from the pack, and a giant will be toppled. With that in mind, we have decided to reminisce on six of the biggest World Cup shocks. This is in no particular order, but it’s safe to say that the following results all merit places on this list.
Germany 7-1 Brazil (2014)
This spluttering defeat epitomized Brazil’s crazy demise, and few would have expected it, especially in a World Cup semi-final. However, the game quickly descended into chaos for Brazil.
Thomas Muller broke the deadlock in the 11th minute, and with half an hour on the clock, Germany surged into a 5-0 lead. Perhaps it was the mesmerizing brilliance of Germany’s attacking or Brazil’s atrocious defending that meant there was such a chasm.
Andre Schurrle later came on as a substitute and he popped up with a double, but this was Brazil’s biggest defeat since 1920, and the Selecao faithful will not want to be reminded of their humiliation.
Senegal 1-0 France (2002)
Four years before this, France had been crowned World Cup champions after they demolished Brazil 3-0 – a Final that was overshadowed by a mysterious injury to Ronaldo (not Cristiano, but the phenomenon as he was known back in the day!).
But a star-studded team that featured Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, and Patrick Vieira were bundled out of the 2002 World Cup in unceremonious fashion without even scoring a goal.
However, their nadir came against Senegal, who produced a spirited performance, and a scrappy Papa Bouba Diop goal proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Scotland 3-2 Netherlands (1978)
Scotland may not be gracing us with their presence in Qatar, but they certainly rocked the boat in 1978 when they came up against the mighty Netherlands. At the time, the Oranje had developed the notion of ‘Total Football’ with the likes of Johan Cruyff one of the perfect exponents of this philosophy.
Scotland failed to read the script and they raced into a 3-1 lead, and although the Netherlands pulled one back, it was a famous victory for the Scots. Unfortunately, Scotland failed to get out of their group, but the Netherlands reached the Final, only to lose to Argentina.
Cameroon 1-0 Argentina (1990)
The 1990 edition of the World Cup was a festival of football, but once again, the heavy favorites were outdone in the first game. This time, Cameroon took center stage.
Like France were in 2002, Argentina were the reigning champions. Despite going down to 10 men, Cameroon pulled off one of the great shocks when Francois Omam-Biyick peeled off at the back post to power home a header, which prompted wild celebrations.
USA 1-0 England (1950)
The USA and England are no strangers to each other at the World Cup, and they have been pitted in the same group in Qatar. But let’s flash back to 1950 when the minnows that were the USA left England rather deflated.
Remember, this was a highly-vaunted England team that contained Tom Finney, Stan Mortensen, and Alf Ramsey. The Three Lions even had a post-war record of 23 wins, four losses, and three ties, but Haitian-born Joe Gaetjens netted the only goal of the game in the 38th minute to leave the crowd stunned.
South Korea 2-1 Italy (2002)
South Korea were involved in many a World Cup story, but the 2002 World Cup was a fairytale for them. Italy, at the time, were something of a juggernaut and they were always consistent performers, but they didn’t expect to come up against a team that were as persistent as South Korea.
After going a goal down, Seoul Ki-Hyeon equalized deep in injury time to force the game into extra time. And Ahn Jung-hwan made himself a hero when he netted the golden goal three minutes from the end of extra time. It was an extraordinary end to a riveting match, and South Korea went deep into the tournament, reaching the semi-finals.
Whether they can replicate their exploits in Qatar remains to be seen, but Son Heung-Min will have a big role to play if they are to do so.