Biggest World Cup upsets: Ranking the top 10 shock results as Saudi Arabia beat Argentina at 2022 FIFA finals – Sporting News

Saudi Arabia’s remarkable upset of Argentina at the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup was the latest, and one of the greatest, examples of a smaller nation completing a huge shock on the global stage.
World Cup history is full of memorable David vs. Goliath wins, dramatic comebacks and defending champions suffering embarrassing defeats, as tournament dreams are made and broken.
The 2018 World Cup in Russia memorably featured Croatia’s push to the final and holders Germany ruthlessly knocked out in the group stages.
Qatar 2022 offers a host of other potential shocks in the Middle East, with the hosts featuring in their first ever World Cup, and defending African champions Senegal tipped to be the continent’s first ever World Cup winners.
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The Sporting News gives our take on the biggest upsets ever and looks ahead to potential other upset results at Qatar 2022:
Despite four successive winless group-stage exits between 1986 and 1998, confidence amongst hosts South Korea hinted at a shock in the 2002 tournament.
Roared on by a fanatical home support, Guus Hiddink’s side topped their group, with impressive wins over Poland and Portugal.
However, a showdown with Italy in the last 16 looked to be a major test of their capabilities, as Hiddink’s side survived a barrage of Italian pressure.
The host nation stayed in the game, as Italy struggled to build on their 1-0 lead, before Seol Ki-hyeon’s equaliser forced extra time and Ahn Jung-hwan’s golden goal won it.
Despite the huge acclaim for South Korea’s shock, the post-tournament chat was dominated by allegations of corruption in their subsequent quarter-final win over Spain.
Germany were looking to defend their world title at USA ’94, in their first appearance as a unified nation following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Berti Vogts’ squad was packed with experienced talent including Lothar Matthaus, Jurgen Klinsmann and Matias Sammer ahead of the competition.
After cruising through to the quarter-finals, the holders were thrown a curveball of Bulgaria in the last eight, with the mercurial Hristo Stoichkov in sensational form.
The Barcelona lynchpin had dismantled Argentina on route to the knockout stages but he saved his best performance for Germany.
Germany were stunned into submission in the final 15 minutes, as Stoichkov’s incredible free kick hauled Bulgaria level at 1-1, before Yordan Letchkov headed them into the last four.
Spain’s Euro 2008 win placed La Roja amongst the favourites in South Africa but Vicente del Bosque’s side struggled on their opening night in Durban.
With an unfamiliar lack of cohesion opening the door for the Swiss, Gelson Fernandes scrambled them in front, and Spain simply failed to react.
Ultimately the defeat did not derail Spain, but del Bosque was clear on the impact it had on refocusing his players, as Andres Iniesta went on to clinch their first-ever world title.
Pak Doo Ik’s name remains the most famous in North Korean football history after he secured the most incredible moment in their national team history.
Twice winners Italy were expected to breeze through the group stages in England, but they were dumped out at the group stages, as Doo Ik’s winner secured a knockout spot for the tournament debutants at Italy’s expense.
Despite only making their World Cup bow at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, England were tipped to upset the established order, against an unfancied United States side filled with part-time players.
Joe Gaetjens’ goal sealed a 1-0 win for the US, but the narrative of the game continued for decades after, with The Game of Their Lives book and film dedicated to the major shock caused by Bill Jeffrey’s side.
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Ireland’s run to the quarter-finals of Italia ’90 put the Boys in Green on the international football map but their defeat to the hosts linger long in the memory.
Jack Charlton had revenge on his mind as they faced a rematch with Italy in the sweltering heat of New Jersey.

Ray Houghton’s bolt from the blue put Ireland in front early on, but as Italy laid siege to the Irish goal, they were repelled time and again by a Paul McGrath wall.
Brazil looked destined to end their 12-year wait to win the World Cup as the Samba Boys headed to Spain in 1982.
Socrates and Zico were the inspiration for Telê Santana’s side, but despite a 100% record in their opening four games, they were picked off by Italy in the second round.
Paolo Rossi turned in one of the greatest individual World Cup performances, with a ruthless hat trick, to dump Brazil out and inspire his side on to glory in the final.
Argentina were fancied for the title by many when they arrived in Qatar as Copa America winners under the captaincy of seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Against a Saudi Arabia team ranked 48 places below them in the FIFA rankings, Lionel Scaloni’s side made an ideal start when Messi converted a 10th-minute penalty.
Instantly iconic 🇸🇦#FIFAWorldCup | #Qatar2022
There were few signs of danger until Saleh Al-Shehri slotted in with 48 minutes gone. Five minutes later, the shock was on when Salem Al-Dawsari’s stunning strike sent the green shirts in the crowd into delirium.
Scaloni’s players needed to avoid defeat to equal Italy’s record of 37 international matches unbeaten, and they were expected to break it against Mexico in their subsequent game. As it was, their resolute opponents deservedly held on for one of the most memorable results in history, and according to US bookmaker BetMGM the biggest odds upset of all tine.
This will go down as the biggest upset in World Cup history. Saudi Arabia were +1800 to win the game before it started! #ARGKSA
Defending champions Argentina arrived at Italia ’90 looking to win a third title in 12 years and become only the third side to defend the World Cup.
Led by Diego Maradona, La Albiceleste eventually lost out to West Germany in the final, but they were dealt a major shock in their opening fixture.
Cameroon were aiming to build on a poor World Cup debut in 1982, and they sucker-punched an off-form Argentina in Milan, as François Omam-Biyik netted a late winner.
Valery Nepomnyashchy’s side were eventually knocked out by England in the last eight, as they broke new ground for African nations at the World Cup.
Roger Lemerre’s France were to suffer the curse of the defending champions ahead of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Les Bleus build up was dogged by minor controversies, and despite the talents of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, they struggled without Zinedine Zidane in their opener.
Senegal took full advantage of France’s stage fright. to announce themselves on the World Cup stage, through Papa Bouba Diop’s iconic winner.
As Saudi Arabia have proved, the opening round of fixtures at a tournament can be crucial for smaller nations to gain an advantage, with complacency from the favourites often a key feature in their first matches.
Australia and Costa Rica will be looking to punish infamously slow starters France and Spain respectively.
Canada could be an option as a shock, up against an under-pressure Belgium, with Group H looking particularly open, as Ghana kick off against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.


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