Euro 2020 Special

Famous FIFA World Cup Upsets

At the World Cup things do not always go according to plan, and shock results do occur. Over the past 92 years of the tournament, there have been some big upsets, with the following ranked among them.


1950 England v USA

England did not enter the World Cup until 1950, in part due to a parochial attitude insisting that their football was the best in the world, and there was no need to prove it on the international stage. But, when they finally made their debut in Brazil in 1950, they were in for a rude shock.

Playing against an American team in Bel Horizonte made up of part-timers, a Haitian born student named Joe Gaetjens headed in what proved to be the only goal of the game.

The English returned home with their tail tucked between their legs.


1966 Italy v North Korea

When the Italian team returned from the 1966 World Cup in ignominy, they were greeted at the airport by their fans who threw rotting fruit and vegetables at the team coach. That was after their team had suffered the embarrassment of losing to a North Korea side who only took their place in the tournament due to boycotts and withdrawals from other nations.

What should have been a mismatch on paper at Ayrsome Park in Middlesbrough, instead became the stuff of fairy tales when a little-known 24 year old midfielder Pak Doo-It allowed a ball to run across his body before slamming it past Italian keeper Enrico Albertosi.

Italy piled on the pressure in a bid to find an equaliser, but their efforts proved in vain.

Improbably North Korea then led Portugal by three goals in their quarter-final, before the Portuguese scored five without reply.


1990 Cameroon v Argentina

The opening game of the 1990 World Cup featured Argentina, the defending champions, played Cameroon, making just their second appearance in the finals.

On paper the two sides were worlds apart when it came to experience and talent, and, although the Africans got to half-time without conceding, when André Kana-Biyik was shown a straight red card in the 61st minute, it seemed just a matter of time before Argentina would score.

Instead, six minutes later, it was Omam Biyik who capitalised on a goalkeeping error to put his side ahead. Despite finishing the game with only nine men, Cameroon still held on to win and would become the first African side to reach a World Cup quarter final.

Argentina recovered to reach the final before losing to West Germany.


1954 West Germany v Hungary

Normally one team beating another in the final of a World Cup should not count as a surprise. 1954, though, was different. By some distance, Hungary were considered the best team in the world at the time, having beaten England 6 – 3 at Wembley and then thrashed them 7 – 1 in Budapest in the return fixture. They were also the reigning Olympic champions, and they had already played their opponents West Germany in the group phase and trounced them 8 -2.

When the Germans went two down after just eight minutes in the final, a repeat seemed very much on the cards. But, then the Germans hit back to equalise, before Helmut Rahn produced what turned out to the winner in the 84th minute.

So unexpected was the result that it became known as the “Miracle of Bern.”


2002 South Korea v Italy

Despite the backing of a fanatical home crowd, South Korea were expected to find the power and intensity of an Italian team too much for them in Seoul in 2002.

And, having missed an early penalty, the stadium fell silent when Christian Vieri fired his side ahead.

Aided by some questionable refereeing decisions though, including the disallowing of a perfectly good Italian goal for offside, South Korea stayed in the match, and equalised in the 88th minute, taking the game to extra time.

The controversy was not finished as Francesco Totti was sent off for diving, even though replays showed he had slipped. And then, in the 117th minute, striker Lee Young got above his marker, despite being several centimetres shorter than him, and scored with a soaring header.

In the process he sent several million people into ecstasy.




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