The World Cup has produced some stunning results over the years. Here are 10 of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history.
United States 1, England 0 (1950): After defeating Chile 2-0 in its first game, England, who previously mocked the idea of the World Cup and never doubted for a second that it was the best soccer nation in the world, fell 1-0 to the U.S. The result was so improbable – the Americans had lost their previous seven international matches by a combined scored of 45-2 – that when word reached back to England, people thought it was a misprint in the newspapers. This is soccer’s equivalent of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice.”
North Korea 1, Italy 0 (1966): Little was known about the North Koreans before the tournament, but few expected them to provide much opposition to an Italian side featuring Gianni Rivera, Sandro Mazzola and Giacinto Facchetti. And yet, it was North Korea who prevailed, Pak Doo Ik’s name still a painful reminder to a generation of Italians to this day five decades after he scored the winning goal just before halftime. The match was profiled in the 2002 documentary, “The Game of Their Lives.”
South Korea 2, Italy 1 (2002): The Azzurri looked to have it in the bag but then Seol Ki-Hyeon scored in the 89th minute to tie the game. Compatriot Ahn Jung-Hwan scored the “golden goal” in extra time to send South Korea through to the quarter-finals in the biggest upset at the World Cup since Korea’s neighbours to the north defeated Italy 36 years earlier.
Algeria 2, West Germany 1 (1982): A mind-boggling result when you consider Algeria was playing in its first World Cup. This should tell you all you need to know about the disparity between the two teams: Algeria was listed as a 1000-1 long shot to win the World Cup prior to the tournament, while the West Germans were 3-1 favourites to win it all.
East Germany 1, West Germany 0 (1974): Nobody saw this one coming. How could the hosts lose to their lowly cousins from the other side of the Berlin Wall? Lose they did, although Franz Beckenbauer and his West German teammates had the last laugh – they won the World Cup.
Cameroon 1, Argentina 0 (1990): What a way to start a World Cup! In the tournament opener in Milan, Cameroon stunned Diego Maradona and the reigning world champions, a result all the more remarkable when you consider the Africans finished the game with nine players. The Indomitable Lions used the momentum from that result to become the first African nation to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
Senegal 1, France 0 (2002): Another reigning World champion falls at the feet of an unheralded African team in the tournament curtain-raiser. This time it was tiny Senegal, appearing in its first World Cup, who played David to France’s Goliath, slinging Les Bleus to the ground.
Bulgaria 2, Germany 1 (1994): The Germans looked well on their way to reaching their fourth straight final at the World Cup when Lothar Matthaus scored early in the second half of this quarter-final. The Bulgarians, however, had other ideas, spoiling the party when they scored two goals three minutes apart late in the game to send the Germans crashing out.
Cuba 2, Romania 1 (1938): The Cubans only made it to the World Cup after Mexico withdrew from the competition and nobody gave the tiny Island nation much chance of scoring a goal, let alone winning a game at the tournament.
Northern Ireland 1, Spain 0 (1982): Northern Ireland had to play the final 30 minutes a man down, but it fought hard to preserve a slender 1-0 lead over the hosts and repelled wave after wave of Spanish attack to hold on for the victory.