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Greatest shocks in World Cup history




The fifth game of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar saw one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history as Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1.

South American champions Argentina were one of the most fancied teams ahead of the tournament following a 36-game unbeaten run, while Saudi Arabia were the lowest ranked in 51st place.

But a stunning second-half comeback from Herve Renard’s side left Lionel Messi and Co humbled in their first game at the Middle East showpiece.

We look at a selection of the World Cup’s previous stunning scorelines that Saudi Arabia’s victory will now join.

USA 1-0 England (Group stage, 1950)

England arrived in Brazil for the 1950 edition full of confidence, with star names Billy Wright, Stan Mortensen and Tom Finney making them one of the favourites.

A USA side made up of amateurs and semi-professionals was expected to be no issue in their second game, but Haiti-born striker Joe Gaetjens scored to secure the unlikeliest of victories.

North Korea 1-0 Italy (Group stage, 1966)

North Korea dumped Italy out of the 1966 World Cup
North Korea dumped Italy out of the 1966 World Cup

Italy were among the favourites for the 1966 World Cup and went into their group-stage clash with minnows North Korea confident of securing qualification to the knockout stages.

But a goal from Pak Doo Ik sent the tournament debutants through to the quarter-finals, while the Azzurri suffered a humiliating early exit.

Argentina 0-1 Cameroon (Group Stage, 1990)

1986 champions Argentina were left stunned in the tournament opener at the San Siro, when Francois Omam-Biyik scored the only goal of the game for a Cameroon side reduced to nine men by the final whistle.

Diego Maradona and Co were able to get their tournament back on track, losing the final to West Germany, but it was the eventual quarter-finalists from Africa which stole the hearts of the footballing world.

Italy 0-1 Republic of Ireland (Group stage, 1994)

The Republic of Ireland had revenge on their mind as they faced Italy in the group stage at 1994 following their defeat to them at the quarter-final stage in 1990.

Jack Charlton’s men eased that heartache with a stunning 1-0 win in New Jersey, thanks to Ray Houghton’s screamer and Paul McGrath’s defensive heroics.

France 0-1 Senegal (Group stage, 2002)

Papa Bouba Diop scored the winner in Senegal's 2002 victory over France
Papa Bouba Diop scored the winner in Senegal’s 2002 victory over France

One of the most memorable opening games of a World Cup came in South Korea and Japan in 2002 when Senegal claimed a historic scalp over defending world and European champions France.

Papa Bouba Diop’s iconic winner set Senegal on their way to becoming only the second African side in the tournament’s history to reach the quarter-finals, while Les Blues were dumped out in the group stage with just one point.

Spain 0-1 Switzerland (Group stage, 2010)

Spain were overwhelming favourites for the 2010 tournament in South Africa after their Euro 2008 triumph but Gelson Fernandes’ strike got La Roja off to the worst possible start.

Vicente del Bosque’s men did recover from this early set-back and go on to eventually lift the crown — conceding only one more goal on their path to glory.

Slovakia 3-2 Italy (Group stage, 2010)

Slovakia pulled off a stunning 3-2 win to dump Italy out in 2010
Slovakia pulled off a stunning 3-2 win to dump Italy out in 2010

The curse of the defending champions continued in 2010 when Italy suffered another humiliating World Cup exit in South Africa.

With only two points picked up from games against Paraguay and New Zealand, the Azzurri were beaten 3-2 as they failed to reach the knockout stages for the first time since 1974.

Spain 1-5 Netherlands (Group stage, 2014)

Spain were thrashed 5-1 in brutal fashion by the Netherlands thanks to a wonderful Robin van Persie header and an Arjen Robben masterclass.

The defending champions would then lose 2-0 to Chile in their next game to ensure their three-tournament winning streak came to an end with elimination in the group stage.

Brazil 1-7 Germany (Semi-final, 2014)

Hosts Brazil were humiliated in the semi-final by Germany in 2014
Hosts Brazil were humiliated in the semi-final by Germany in 2014

A result that shocked the world like no other saw hosts Brazil dumped out in truly humiliating style by eventual champions Germany.

An emotional Selecao were determined to win the competition for injured star Neymar but found themselves 5-0 down inside half an hour, before conceding a further two to leave a packed-out Belo Horizonte crowd in a state of shock.

South Korea 2-0 Germany (Group stage, 2018)

For the fourth time in five World Cups, the defending champions were sent tumbling out in the group stage with Germany the latest to suffer the curse at Russia in 2018.

With the four-time winners needing to beat South Korea in their final group game to qualify, Kim-Young Gwon struck in added time before goalkeeper Manuel Neuer lost the ball up-field — allowing Heung-Min Son to seal a truly remarkable result.

Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia (Group stage, 2022)

Lionel Messi's Argentina were stunned by Saudi Arabia at the World Cup in Qatar
Lionel Messi’s Argentina were stunned by Saudi Arabia at the World Cup in Qatar

Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi had put Argentina on their way as he got his efforts to secure a first-ever World Cup triumph off to the ideal start.

But two superb second-half strikes from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari earned the minnows a huge scalp, only their fourth ever World Cup win and a place in the competition’s heritage.

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