Biggest World Cup Shocks


Biggest World Cup Shocks

From opening group game defeats to plucky underdogs reaching the latter stages, few things light up a World Cup more than a decent shock.

Here are some of the most shocking results in World Cup history…


France 0-1 Senegal, 2002
France have shown a tendency to self-destruct at certain tournaments and this jaw-dropping reverse for the reigning champions in the opening game of 2002 was a sign of things to come.

The French would eventually finish rock-bottom of the group whilst tournament debutants Senegal would enjoy a spirited run to the Quarter-Finals.


Spain bomb out of Group B, 2014
Another tournament where the World Cup holders crashed out in spectacular fashion. In their opening group game, Spain couldn’t live with a Netherlands side still smarting from their 2010 World Cup final defeat, going down to a heavy 5-1 defeat.

A limp display in a 2-0 reverse to a dangerous Chile side in the following game would see the Spaniards making holiday plans before the second week of the tournament was out.


South Korea knock out Italy and Spain, 2002
Roared on by an infectious home crowd, the co-hosts rode the crest of a wave at the 2002 World Cup to secure a stunning semi-final berth.

South Korea v Spain

Dubious refereeing decisions helped them along the way, but the South Koreans showed plenty of spirit in knocking out Italy and Spain before their luck eventually ran out against Germany.


USA 1-0 England, 1950
Football was an alien concept across much of the United States back in the fifties, and this result still goes down as one of the most stunning upsets in World Cup history.

An American side packed with semi-professional players including high school teachers and funeral directors pulled off the result of the tournament in Brazil.


Republic of Ireland 1-0 Italy, 1994
Still perhaps the most famous day in Ireland’s sporting history, Jack Charlton’s side lit up the opening week of the ’94 World Cup as they edged out Italy at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

Ray Houghton

Charlton’s achievement in overcoming the odds would be recognised later that year as he was handed the Freedom of the City of Dublin.


Costa Rica top the Group of Death, 2014
England fans feared the worst when they were placed in a group alongside Uruguay and Italy in 2014 but didn’t see the real threat lingering right in front of their eyes.

Minnows Costa Rica stunned Group D by staying undefeated, beating Uruguay and Italy and topping the table.


Cameroon 1-0 Argentina, 1990
Italia ’90 had plenty of cagey, low scoring games and whilst this opening match was no classic, the result was hugely significant as African football made a major breakthrough.

Argentina were the defending champions and had arguably the world’s greatest ever player – Diego Maradona – in their ranks but couldn’t find a way past the indomitable spirit of the nine-man Cameroonians.


North Korea 1-0 Italy, 1966
Not much discussion of 1966 these days touches on an obscure group game at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park, but bar England’s heroics one of the major highlights of the tournament was North Korea defying gravity to overcome Italy 1-0 and seal a shock Quarter-Final place.

North Korea


Germany 0-3 Croatia, 1998
Led by an inspired talisman in Davor Suker, the Croatians made a real splash as the surprise package of France ’98 and would eventually go on to finish third in their debut World Cup.

However, it was a thumping Quarter-Final victory over perennial favourites Germany that would be their stand-out result, with the Croatians counter-attacking majestically in the second half to stun Berti Vogts’ side.


Brazil 1-7 Germany, 2014
And finally, the definitive result of the last World Cup.

This was a shock not so much for the eventual outcome – Germany had looked dangerous throughout 2014 – but for the nature of the defeat. It would go down as Brazil’s darkest hour in their proud World Cup history.

Brazil 1-7 Germany

The Brazilians were left shell-shocked as wave after wave of German attacks hit the back of their net inside the first 30 minutes, leaving the hosts 5-0 down and an entire nation shattered. The second half wouldn’t get much better as the Brazilians were humiliated in Belo Horizonte and left a fairy tale ending to the tournament ripped to shreds.


What is your favourite World Cup shock?

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All image sources from PA Images


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