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FIFA World Cup – Top Five Upsets

As we reach the conclusion of the group stage in Qatar, we take a trip down memory lane to look at some of the biggest ever boilovers in World Cup history.

A tournament which pits European and South American heavyweights against some almost unknown challengers, the FIFA World Cup is ripe for upsets. And in 2022, we’ve already seen several. The Socceroos have pulled off two, against Tunisia and Denmark at $3.50 and $7.40 respectively pre-game. And while incredible results for the Aussies, historically these are small-fry compared to the biggest World Cup upsets of all time. Here’s the top five.

5. North Korea 1-0 Italy (1966)

It seems impossible that this result could occur in 2022. But then again, it was deemed similarly unlikely back in ’66 and, in some people’s eyes, is the biggest World Cup boilover ever. Political issues delayed the North Koreans getting visas into England for the tournament, but when they were eventually allowed into the country, they made a huge impact after a slow start. Going down 3-0 to the Soviet Union before drawing 1-1 with Chile, hopes weren’t overly high for the North Koreans heading into their final group game against the might of the Italians. But they shocked the world, eking out a 1-0 win to bundle Italy out and progress to the quarter-finals.

4. Senegal 1-0 France (2002)

France went into the 2002 World Cup, quite rightly, as favourites. World Cup and European Championship winners in 1998 and 2000 respectively, Roger Lemerre’s side boasted a bevy of players with experience on the biggest stage of all. As such, they went in almost unbackable favourites in their opening game against Senegal. The French side oozed class. Henry, Viera, Petit and Trezeguet were all among the starters. But they were stunned 1-0 by Senegal courtesy of a Papa Bouba Diop goal and, as a result, reiterated that no country going forward could or should underestimate the potential of African football. France would go on to claim just one point from the group stage, where they were unceremoniously booted by Denmark.

3. Switzerland 1-0 Spain (2010)

If the above France side oozed class, try this on for size. Spain, heading into the 2010 World Cup as reigning European Champions, boasted a side featuring Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, and Silva, with a defensive quartet featuring Ramos, Puyol and Pique. Not bad. As such, they went into their opening clash against Switzerland — whose only prior World Cup wins were against South Korea and Togo — as the heaviest of favourites. Switzerland, by contrast, were $13 long shots pre-game. But the Swiss weathered relentless Spanish possession, plus a staggering 24 shots, to register a famous 1-0 win. Unlike the French, Spain dusted themselves off and would go on to claim World Cup glory in 2010.

2. Saudi Arabia 2-1 Argentina (2022)

Saudi Arabia’s underdog win over Argentina in the first week in Qatar had to be seen to be believed. The Argentinians arrived in the Gulf after an unbelievable unbeaten streak spanning 35 games. Not only boasting that menacing form, they arrived with the compelling goal of sending legend Lionel Messi out on a high with perhaps the one trophy that has eluded him throughout his career. But that was flipped on its head in their very first game. Saudi Arabia, unlike Argentina, don’t have a storied World Cup history, and they went into the clash as whopping $19 outsiders against Messi’s men. They had, after all, won just three World Cup games in their history. And when Argentina went 1-0 up inside 10 mintues, those odds ballooned even further. However a dogged Saudi performance saw them run out 2-1 winners in a famous win.

1. USA 1-0 England (1950)

A result many consider the biggest ever upset in World Cup history. England went into the 1950 tournament in Brazil — their first ever World Cup appearance — as strong favourites. The Americans, meanwhile, were a ragtag bunch of semi-professionals. This clash of cultures, with a healthy dose of hubris on the English side, ended up 1-0 to the USA, a result that eventually saw the inventors of football themselves bundled out in the group stage in a hugely embarrassing exit.



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