When thinking about the World Cup upsets ranked, there are certain runs that spring into mind.
Cameroon became the darlings of Italia 90 by reaching the quarterfinals. Twelve years later, fellow African side Senegal finished second in a group featuring two prior World-Cup-winning nations. In a Final, Uruguay defeated Brazil in front of over 170,000 fans in Rio de Janeiro. This result shocked the soccer world, especially the record-high for spectators at a soccer game.
Every World Cup has a team that neutral spectators get behind because it punches above its weight. Often, those nations burst onto the stage with one major result. Or, these sides just have one defining match that their country remembers for generations.
Here are the top 10 World Cup upsets ranked.
Top 10 World Cup upsets ranked
10. Switzerland 1-0 Spain (2010, Group Stage)
This was the only game Spain lost in the World Cup. With players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Iker Casillas, David Villa, Sergio Ramos and Carles Puyol on the field, Spain was loaded. They, of course, went on to win Spain’s first World Cup.
However, the opening game for the eventual champions did not go to plan. Switzerland, which exited the competition in the group stage, pulled off the stunner. Spain conceded just two goals in the tournament from start to finish. However, Gelson Fernandes’s goal is one to remember for the Swiss.
9. Senegal 1-0 France (2002, Group Stage)
The tournament’s opening game celebrated the defending champions, France. Senegal spoiled the party in its first appearance at a FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 win over the holders.
Eventually, Senegal qualified ahead of France and Uruguay for the knockout stages. The performance against France put the Senegalese squad on the map, making them the darlings of the tournament as they reached the quarterfinals.
8. Algeria 2-1 West Germany (1982, Group Stage)
West Germany would eventually make it out of the group. Controversy ensued regarding the style of qualification, but Algeria made things stressful for the Germans.
Algeria had never qualified for the World Cup. With the favorites casting aside the African nation before the fixture, Algeria outplayed West Germany in terms of skill and passion. Algeria failed to qualify despite winning two matches. Austria and West Germany played a meaningless 80 minutes after West Germany opened the scoring in their final group stage.
After Algeria’s failure to qualify, the last group stage games happened at the same time to avoid this collusion.
7. Bulgaria 2-1 Germany (1994, Quarterfinals)
In 1994, Germany entered the competition as the defending champions, having played in each of the last three World Cup Finals. Bulgaria, on the other hand, was on its best run at a World Cup, led by Barcelona striker Hristo Stoichkov.
Bulgaria scored two goals in a four-minute span to equalize then take the lead against one of the tournament’s favorites. Such is the power of having one of the most on-form strikers in the world during the World Cup.
6. East Germany 1-0 West Germany (1974, Group Stage)
It seems unfair to include Germany or West Germany again, but they have been on the brunt of embarrassing defeats over the years.
This was the only time East Germany played West Germany on the international scale. West Germany, champions in 1954 and runners-up in 1966, already established its soccer pedigree.
The political side of this rivalry is written in history. However, West Germany were the hosts, the favorites and the eventual winners of the tournament. Perhaps the shock loss to the political rivals sparked West Germany, who rolled on to win its second World Cup.
5. North Korea 1-0 Italy (1966, Group Stage)
Just by looking at these teams, you can picture how much of an upset this is. North Korea, making its first appearance as an independent nation, beat the then two-time winners, Italy, in Middlesbrough.
North Korea was the first side from Asia to qualify for the World Cup. Italy, struggling in its group stage games, entered with little stress against a North Korean side that lost comfortably against the Soviet Union and squeaked out a draw against Chile. Italy entered the competition among the favorites to win. However, an early exit caused outrage in Italy upon their return.
4. West Germany 3-2 Hungary (1954, Final)
In modern times, this would be a reverse upset. However, the Hungarian side of 1954, referred to as the Golden Team, featured players like Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis. West Germany, on the other hand, did not have the go-to big name that developed over later years.
Hungary scored twice inside eight minutes. However, the game was level before 20 minutes passed. Eventually, West Germany defeated Hungary for its first World Cup title courtesy of Helmut Rahn’s second goal of the match.
Hungary has not made it past the quarterfinals since then. Moreover, it failed to qualify for every tournament after 1986. West Germany and Germany, however, have a long line of success.
3. USA 1-0 England (1950, Group Stage)
Clearly, the United States is not a soccer powerhouse. Despite a third-place finish in the inaugural World Cup, the country lacks any prestige and history.
That is notwithstanding the stunning defeat of England in the group stage of the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. A rag-tag team representing the United States went up against England, making its first appearance at the biggest sporting event. England, the self-dubbed kings of the sport, were the betting favorites to win the World Cup, let alone sweep aside the United States.
2. Cameroon 1-0 Argentina (1990, Group Stage)
The opening game of Italia ’90 saw the defending champions, Argentina, take on Cameroon. The African side was making only its second ever appearance at the World Cup, three draws and a group stage exit. Cameroon defeated an Argentina side featuring Diego Maradona, Jorge Burruchaga and other members of the world champions.
Argentina were among the favorites to win again after success in Mexico four years prior. After all, five of the starters against Cameroon also started against West Germany for Argentina’s second World Cup.
Even more remarkably, Cameroon picked up a pair of red cards. Francois Omam-Biyik scored the only goal of the match in the 67th minute.
1. Uruguay 2-1 Brazil (1950, Final)
As stated previously, no game welcomed more spectators than the 1950 World Cup Final. Reports dispute the actual number there. Regardless, the hundreds of thousands on hand witnessed what became known as the Tragedy of the Maracaña. Brazil, the hosts, practically celebrated the World Cup win, or at least the fans did.
Despite leading in the second-half, a pair of goals from Uruguayans Juan Alberto “Pepe” Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia took away what would have been the greatest celebration in the history of the sport. The collapse became the most embarrassing moment for Brazil. Uruguayan players and fans still taunt Brazil for the humiliation.
Brazil fell into a state of depression, mostly attributed to the fact that Brazil wrote itself off as World Champions before the match. Uruguay, underdogs and noisy neighbors to Brazil, managed its best moment in sport history.
PHOTO: STAFF/AFP via Getty Images
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