8 of the Craziest Upsets the FIFA World Cup Has Ever Seen

| April 29, 2022 7:38 am PDT
FIFA World Cup logo with soccer teams surrounding

What are the biggest FIFA World Cup upsets of all time?

Given that the first World Cup took place all the way back in 1930, there is no shortage of memorable surprises to choose from. But it’s fair to say that some World Cup shockers stand out more than others.

I have scoured the history books to find the very best FIFA World Cup upsets. From the United States’ shock triumph over England in 1950 to Germany’s thrashing of Brazil in 2014, the following list is stacked with crazy results.

Join me as I relive eight of the wildest upsets in World Cup history.

USA Beats England 1-0 (1950)

Team USA

The United States headed into the 1950 World Cup as the rank outsider. Having lost seven straight matches by a combined score of 45-2, the Stars and Stripes looked destined to suffer another heavy defeat at the hands of European powerhouse, England.

The Three Lions fielded legendary names such as Alf Ramsey, Billy Wright, Tom Finney, and Stan Mortensen. However, the only goal of the game was scored by a Haiti-born dishwasher named Joseph Gaetjens.

Yep, that’s right, a bunch of part-timers managed to beat England’s star-studded side on the biggest stage in world soccer!

This match has since become known as the “Miracle on Turf”. Naturally, it will always be remembered as one of the biggest FIFA World Cup upsets of all time.

Senegal Beats France 1-0 (2002)

Few would argue that France’s title winning side of 1998 is not one of the greatest World Cup teams in history. Led by superstars like Didier Deschamps, Lillian Thuram, and Zinedine Zidane, Les Blues crushed Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 final to lift the famous trophy on home soil.

Four years later, however, France was involved in one of the craziest World Cup upsets of all time.

The 2002 FIFA World cup was hosted by Japan and South Korea. The opening game of the tournament saw the tournament saw defending champion France come up against World Cup debutant Senegal.

Naturally, the French were expected to kick off their title defense with an easy victory. But Senegal had other ideas. Against all the odds, the Lions of Teranga beat the reigning champs 1-0 – thanks to a first-half goal from Papa Bouba Diop.

France would go on to reclaim the crown at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Still, there is no hiding the fact that Senegal’s shocking win against Les Blues is among the biggest World Cup upsets in history.

South Korea Beats Italy 2-1 (2002)

Senegal’s triumph over France was not the only surprise result at the 2002 World Cup. Three weeks on from the opening match, co-host South Korea managed to defeat four-time champion Italy in the round of 16.

Gianluigi Buffon saved an early penalty before Christian Vieri gave Italy the lead on 18 minutes. Despite a spirited display for the South Koreans, the Italians held onto their advantage. But only until the 88th minute.

Seol Ki-Hyeon scored a late equalizer to take the game to extra-time. Then, in the dying moments of extra-time, Ahn Jung-Hawn sent the home crowd into raptures with a dramatic golden-goal winner.

Prior to 2002, South Korea had never managed to reach the knockout phase of a World Cup. By contrast, Italy had lifted the trophy on four occasions. That’s why this crazy match is one of the top FIFA World Cup upsets of all time.

North Korea Beats Italy 1-0 (1966)

Team North Korea

Unfortunately for the Italians, the shock loss against South Korea in 2002 is not the only time that a Korean nation has humiliated them on soccer’s biggest stage.

North Korea stunned the world by even qualifying for the 1966 World Cup. When the North Koreans were drawn in a group with the Soviet Union, Chile, and Italy, they would have been planning for an early return home.

After losing 3-0 to the Soviet Union, North Korea claimed a surprise 1-1 draw with Chile. That result set up a winner-takes-all clash against Italy in the final group game.

The Italians – who already had two World Cup titles to their name – were expected to make light work of North Korea. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the North Koreans booked their spot in the knockout phase with a stunning 1-0 victory over the Azzurri.

Pak Doo-ik etched his name into World Cup folklore by scoring the only goal of the game just before half-time. To this day, North Korea’s remarkable triumph over Italy remains one of the biggest upsets in FIFA World Cup history.

Cameroon Beats Argentina 1-0 (1990)

Argentina headed into Italia ‘90 as the defending World Cup champion. Four years earlier, Diego Maradona – one of the greatest soccer players of all time – had led his country to glory in Mexico.

On paper, Maradona and co. had an easy opening game at the 1990 World Cup. Given that Cameroon was making only its second appearance in the prestigious tournament, the African minnow was not expected to cause the South American giant any problems.

But Cameroon did not read the script.

Having made it through the first half unscathed, the Indomitable Lions were beginning to dream of toppling the mighty Argentina. When Francois Omam-Biyik scored midway through the second half, their dreams became reality.

It is also worth noting that Cameroon had not one, but TWO players sent off. Andre Kana-Biyik and Benjamin Massing were both shown a red card, but the underdogs managed to hold on.

Germany Beats Brazil 7-1 (2014)

You may have noticed that the majority of World Cup upsets are narrow wins. That’s because rank outsiders rarely get the better of heavy favorites. And when they do, they invariably scrape through by the skin of their teeth.

However, this FIFA World Cup upset is different.

Brazil and Germany are the most successful teams in World Cup history. The Brazilians have clinched a record five titles, while the Germans have reached an unrivalled eight finals – winning four and losing four.

When the two powerhouses faced off in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, soccer fans anticipated a memorable match. But nobody could have predicted what happened.

All of the top soccer betting sites favored Brazil to triumph on home soil. Remarkably, the Brazilians found themselves 5-0 down after just 30 minutes. Germany eventually won 7-1, producing one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.

Miroslav Klose scored Germany’s second goal to clinch the Golden Boot. Follow the link below to find out where Klose ranks among all of the FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winners.

Ranking Every FIFA World Cup Golden Boot Winner

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Northern Ireland Beats Spain 1-0 (1982)

Back In 1982, Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside became the youngest player in World Cup history at the age of just 17 years and 41 days. Since Northern Ireland was making only its second World Cup appearance, nobody expected them to break any FIFA World Cup records.

Nonetheless, the Green and White Army enjoyed an extraordinary tournament. After taking points off both Yugoslavia and Honduras, they came up against host nation Spain in their final group game.

Despite coming under intense pressure throughout the opening 45 minutes, Northern Ireland managed to carry a goalless draw into half-time. Less than two minutes after the restart, Gerry Armstrong scored what would prove to be the winning goal.

To make life even harder for the underdogs, Mal Donaghy was sent off midway through the second half. Northern Ireland played the final 30 minutes with ten men, meaning this has to go down as of the best World Cup upsets ever.

Algeria Beats West Germany 2-1 (1982)

Team Algeria

It could be argued that Espana ‘82 is the wildest World Cup of all time. In addition to Northern Ireland’s famous win against Spain, Algeria stunned everyone by overcoming West Germany.

West Germany was the European champion at the time, having triumphed at Euro 1980. On top of that, the nation already had two World Cup titles to its name and was favored to add a third trophy to its collection in 1982.

By contrast, the Algerians were making their World Cup debut.

It’s fair to say that the North Africans could not have dreamed of a tougher way to begin their World Cup journey.

Captained by the legendary Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, West Germany was tipped to destroy Algeria. However, Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi scored either side of Rummenigge’s equalizer to hand their country a memorable victory.

There is absolutely no denying that Algeria’s shock win against West Germany is among the biggest FIFA World Cup upset of all time.

How to Predict World Cup Upsets

That concludes my take on the craziest upsets in the history of the FIFA World Cup.

It goes without saying that betting on the World Cup was not a big deal when the USA stunned England back in 1950. Fast-forward to today – it has never been easier to bet on the biggest sporting event on the planet.

Of course, shocking World Cup upsets are few and far between. But if you want to capitalize on the next “Mircale on Turf”, here are a few tips for predicting FIFA World Cup upsets.

Study World Cup Qualification

Before every edition of the World Cup, teams must get through qualifying to punch their ticket to the showpiece. Therefore, bettors can gain the upper hand over the bookmakers by analyzing the qualification process.

If a high-profile team endures a below-par qualifying campaign, they might struggle when it comes to the main event. On the flip side, if an underdog exceeds expectations in qualifying, they could upset the World Cup odds.

Follow Expert Tips and Strategies

The soccer World Cup is one of the most popular sporting events from a betting perspective. More than 3.5 billion people tuned in to watch the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while millions of punters wagered on the spectacle.

Due to the tournament’s popularity, it can often be difficult to find the very best World Cup betting tips. But don’t worry – we have got you covered.

Lucky for you, we have a page dedicated to tips and strategies for betting on the FIFA World Cup. There is no shortage of useful information on that page, including advice on how to predict World Cup upsets.

Never Disregard Home-Field Advantage

The value of home-field advantage cannot be overstated in soccer. As a result, it is important that you consider home-field advantage when attempting to predict World Cup upsets.

For example, South Korea was not expected to achieve anything in 2002. But the host nation ended up beating Poland, Italy, and Spain en route to the semi-finals. The South Koreans thrived on the support from their fans and upset the odds on multiple occasions.

Are you looking for more World Cup betting advice? If so, be sure to check out our complete betting guide for the FIFA World Cup.

FIFA World Cup Betting Guide
Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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