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Over the years the World Cup has produced plenty of upsets from way back in 1938 when Cuba beat Romania 2-1 all the way through to Germany's 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico in 2018. Our list of the top 5 World Cup upsets contains matches that many of you will have seen and others that avid football fans will have heard all about.
Choosing which World Cup upsets to select and where to start our list is tricky given the fact that there have been so many memorable upsets over the 90-year history of the world's most important international cup competition. In no particular order, we're starting with a shock result from the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
Senegal 1-0 France
France were the World Cup champions heading into the 2002 tournament after defeating Brazil in the 1998 final with relative ease. The group draw for the 2002 World Cup looked to have been kind to the French as they went up against Denmark, Uruguay and little known African outfit Senegal.
The first game of the entire tournament saw France take on Senegal in which Roger Lemerre played an all-star line-up that included Barthez, Thuram, Leboeuf, Desailly, Lizarazu, Vieira, Petit, Djorkaeff, Henry and Trezeguet. Little was known about the Senegal players, though many plied their trade in France, but after the game, the names Papa Bouba Diop, Salif Diao and El Hadji Diouf would become recognised around the world.
A 30th-minute effort from Papa Bouba Diop would spark unforgettable celebrations from the Senegal players and make the Seoul World Cup Stadium erupt. Senegal would hold on to secure one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, something France failed to recover from as they finished bottom of Group A.
South Korea 2-1 Italy
Sticking with the 2002 World Cup, hosts South Korea weren't expected to give the Italians much of a run for their money in this last 16 tie, but Gus Hiddink's men had other ideas. The match appeared to be going the way of the Azzurri when Buffon saved a penalty early on and then Vieri scored the games opening goal.
However, with just a couple of minutes remaining in normal time, Seol Ki-Hyeong scored a shock equaliser for South Korea and the game went to extra time. The turning point in extra time arrived when Totti, already on a booking, was sent-off for simulation after going down in the South Korean penalty area, a decision that enraged the entire Italian team and their staff.
That anger overflowed when Ahn Jung-Hwan, who was at the time playing for Italian side Perugia, netted the golden goal winner for the host nation. The day after scoring the winning goal, Jung-Hwan had his contract cancelled by Luciano Gaucci, the Perugia owner, because he did not pay the “salary of someone who has ruined Italian football“, but the South Korean hero would return to Europe later in his career with both Metz and Duisburg.
USA 1-0 England
The 1950 World Cup was the first to be played since the break out of WWII and was hosted by Brazil. England were in a group alongside Spain, Chile and the United States of America, who had been identified as the whipping boys after conceding a whopping 45 goals in their previous seven internationals.
However, despite fielding a side that had the likes of Alf Ramsey, Billy Wright, Tom Finney and Stan Mortensen, as well as Stanley Matthews on the bench, it was the underdogs that stole the day. A solitary strike from Joe Gaetjens in the first half proved enough for the USA to claim their most impressive international result to date and condemn the England side to embarrassment.
Neither side would go on to qualify for the knock-out stages of the 1950 World Cup but this match would be forever remembered as the ‘Miracle on Turf‘.
North Korea 1-0 Italy
Remaining in the realms of England and introducing yet another Italian upset, the 1966 World Cup produced one of the biggest shocks in the tournaments long history. Italy had been grouped with the Soviet Union, Chile and North Korea and would have been expecting a routine passage to the knockout stage, especially after winning their opening match against Chile 2-0.
However, defeat to the Soviet Union meant the Italian needed a positive result against a North Korea side that had lost their opening game 3-0 to the Soviet Union and drew their game against Chile 1-1 in order to qualify for the knock-out stage. That night at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, a first-half goal from Pak Doo-ik saw North Korea pull-off one of the greatest World Cup upsets, not only in winning the game but qualifying for the knock-out stage ahead of both Chile and Italy.
Cameroon 1-0 Argentina
We England fans might remember the 1990 World Cup for Gazza's tears but it terms of World Cup upsets the match known as the ‘Miracle of Milan‘ would go down as one of the matches of the tournament. Argentina went into Italia '90 as the current World Cup champions and had the best player in the world in their side, Diego Maradona.
The two nations met in their first group game of the tournament and went in goalless at the break causing Carlos Bilardo to make a substitution, as Claudio Caniggia entered the fray. In the 61st-minute Cameroon had Andre Kana-Biyik sent-off and the game appeared to have swung in favour of Argentina. Instead, just 6-minutes later Cameroon took the lead through striker Francois Omam-Biyik.
As time began to run out for the champions, Cameroon had a second man sent-off in the 88th-minute, when Benjamin Massing was handed his marching orders. However, The Indomitable Lions held on to secure a memorable victory. Argentina recovered from this early setback to reach the final of the 1990 World Cup only to lose to West Germany.
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