Biggest Upsets in FIFA World Cup history

Bafana Bafana beat France by 2 goals to 1 in their final Group A match at the FIFA World Cup yesterday. Some might say that this one of the biggest upsets in FIFA World Cup history (and they would be right). There have been other upsets in the FIFA World Cup over the years though. This post contains a few of them.

Northern Ireland 1 Spain 0 – 1982 FIFA World Cup: In 1982 Spain hosted the FIFA World Cup. Northern Ireland became the smallest nation in history to qualify for the 1982 FIFA World Cup finals. Gerry Armstrong played football for Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s. He scored a goal against the host nation (Spain) on the 25th of June 1982. Northern Ireland won the game despite having only 10 players on the field. It was one of the biggest upsets in FIFA World Cup history. Northern Ireland went on to secure a spot in the quarter finals of the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

Senegal 1 France 0 – 2002 FIFA World Cup: In 2002 South Korea & Japan hosted the FIFA World Cup. In the opening match of the tournament France (then defending FIFA World Cup Champions) suffered a shock defeat against Senegal (a former French colony in Africa) in Seoul, South Korea. Papa Bouba Diop scored the goal for Senegal in the 30th minute of the match. The French eventually got knocked out of the group stages without scoring a goal. Senegal (who were playing in their first FIFA World Cup) were eventually knocked out of the 2002 FIFA World Cup in the quarter final stage (after beating Sweden in the 2nd round by 2 goals to 1).

USA 1 England 0 – 1950 FIFA World Cup: In 1950 Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup. England faced the United States in a group match in the tournament. At the time the England national football team considered themselves as the “Kings of Football”. They had a post World War II record of 23 wins, 4 losses, and 3 draws. The team from the USA consisted of semi-professional players, most of whom had other jobs to support their families. One of the players, Walter Bahr, was a high school teacher and other players worked as mail carriers and dishwashers. The American team was hastily assembled and they only trained for 1 day before they left for Brazil. Joe Gaetjens broke the English team’s spirit when he scored in the 37th minute of the match. The English did not have a response to his goal. There was only one American journalist that covered the FIFA World Cup in 1950. He could not get the newspaper he worked for to pay for the trip and had taken time off work to cover the event. The English cricket team suffered their first defeat at the hand of the West Indies on the same day. The United States victory over the English was not the main story in the papers the next day. Some of the papers that covered the 1950 FIFA World Cup presumed that the 1–0 scoreline was a typing error and reported that England had won on a scoreline of 10–0 or 10–1.

Uruguay 2 Brazil 1 – 1950 FIFA World Cup: In the final match of the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil at the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio De Janeiro Brazil faced Uruguay in a round robin match. Brazil only needed to win the match by a single goal. There was no one-off FIFA World Cup final in that year, a thusfar unique occurrence. Almost 200,000 people packed the stadium. At half time Brazil was leading by 1 goal to 0. Brazil were so sure they would win the 1950 World Cup on home soil that some early editions of the South American domestic newspapers hit the streets declaring victory before the game was even finished. In the second half of the match Brazil were victims of a Uruguayan comeback. Uruguay scored 2 goals in the 2nd half of the match giving them the title of 1950 FIFA World Cup champions. Brazil had to scrap the specially composed victory song and Brazilian gold victory medals (which were already pressed).

Henno Kruger

Digital Marketing Campaign Coordinator at Junk Mail Publishing.

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