World Cup upsets: 5 biggest shocks in FIFA tournament history, after Saudi Arabia stun Argentina at Qatar 2022

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Argentina fell to a shock 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia in their 2022 World Cup opener.

Lione Scaloni’s side were viewed by many football experts as one of the favourites to win the competition before a ball was kicked and it was seen as a formality that they would get off to a winning start against underdogs Saudi Arabia. Argentina possess a star studded team consisting of talented players such as Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala and most notably seven time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.

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In the early stages everything seemed to be going to plan for Scaloni’s side and they took an early lead courtesy of a Messi penalty. The Copa America champions were confident of extending their 36-game unbeaten run and headed in 1-0 up at the break.

Saudi Arabia were the second lowest ranked team heading into the tournament and very few expected them to make a dent at Qatar 2022. However, Saudi Arabia did not follow the script in the second half and they produced an heroic and shocking come back in the second half with two quick fire goals from Al Sherhi and Al Dawsari.

The victory leaves Saudi Arabia top of their group and they are aiming to progress to the round of 16 for the first time since 1994. The result is far from the only shock at this tournament and four- time winners Germany also fell to a shock 2-1 defeat against Japan.

Saudi Arabia’s result will undoubtedly go down as one of the great shocks in the tournament’s 92 year history and the nation even called a national holiday on Wednesday 23 November to commemorate the result.

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But what is the greatest shock in World Cup history? Here we take a look back at five other big World Cup shocks from years gone by.

What is the greatest ever shock in World Cup history?

Germany 0-2 South Korea: World Cup 2018 group stage

Germany entered Russia 2018 as defending champions and were viewed as one of the most talented teams in the competition.

They had an immensely talented team consisting of players such as Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Toni Kross and Mesut Ozil. The German national team had been immensely consistent in the World Cup and had made the last four of every competition since 2002 - remarkably Germany had also reached at least the quarter-final in every tournament since 1938.

Germany were drawn in Group F alongside Sweden, Mexico and South Korea and were viewed as the clear favourites to top the group. However, that was not how it panned out in Russia - Germany began the tournament with a 1-0 defeat to Mexico but bounced back to claim a 2-1 against Sweden in their second game.

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In their final group game Joachim Low’s side would face South Korea who had already been knocked out of the competition. All Germany needed to do to progress was record a victory over South Korea and it was seen as a formality that Low’s side would progress to the last 16. However, Germany fell to a shock 2-0 defeat and were unable to break down a stubborn South Korea defence.

Italy 0-1 Costa Rica: World Cup 2014 Group Stage

Four-time world champions Italy were out for redemption at the 2014 World Cup after a poor showing in South Africa in 2010.

Italy entered the tournament as one of the sides tipped for success and had been runners-up at the European Championships in 2012. Cesare Prandelli named a strong and experienced side for the tournament which included key players such as Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon.

Italy were drawn in the group of death alongside England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. But they began the tournament in impressive fashion by beating England 2-1.

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Costa Rica on the other hand were viewed as rank outsiders to progress and despite producing a shock victory against Uruguay in their opener very few gave them any hope against the 2006 winners.

On the day it proved a very different story and Costa Rica were full value for their 1-0 victory over Italy and secured their way into the knockout stage of the tournament. The 2014 World Cup proved to be a breakout tournament for goalkeeper Keylor Navas who earned a move to Real Madrid after the tournament.

Brazil 1-7 Germany: World Cup 2014 Semi-final

Hosts Brazil entered the 2014 tournament as clear favourites to win the World Cup.

Brazil are the most successful team in the history of the competition and have won football’s greatest prize on five occasions. The host nation had an array of talented players at their disposal heading into the tournament such as Neymar, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves. Brazil were also led into the tournament by manager Luis Felipe Scolari. Scolari had an array of experience at international level and had previously proven himself on the big stage by guiding Brazil to victory in the 2002 World Cup. It appeared all the omens were in Brazil’s favour and they sailed through the group stage comfortably as leaders and overcame Chile and Colombia to reach the last four.

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Germany themselves were viewed as contenders heading into the tournament and proved formidable throughout the competition. In many people’s eyes the game would be a close encounter.

However, it proved a very different outcome on the night and the most host nation were crushed 7-1 in what would ultimately prove to be the biggest ever semi-final victory in World Cup history.

France 0-1 Senegal: World Cup 2002 Group Stage

France entered World Cup 2002 as reigning world and European champions after victory in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

The holders were blessed with an immensely talented team featuring Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram and Patrick Vieira.  Les Bleus were expected to cruise through a group consisting of Senegal, Uruguay and Denmark.

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France faced Senegal in the opener who at the time were viewed as the easiest of the three opponents. Senegal ran out 1-0 winners in the game and Papa Bouba Diop established himself as a national hero.

France ultimately crashed out in the group stage of the tournament - a pattern which has cursed reigning champions such as Italy, Spain and Germany in years to follow.

Brazil 1-2 Norway: World Cup 1998 Group Stage

Brazil entered the 1998 World Cup as the holders and began the tournament in perfect fashion with Ronaldo shining on the world stage.

Brazil recorded comprehensive victories in their first two games and were seen as the favourites to lift the World Cup. In their final group game they faced a Norway side who had only previously won one game at the World Cup in their history.

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Norway had drawn both of their opening two games and needed a win to secure their place in the knockout stages. Tore Andre Flo and fellow forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were the heroes on the day and scored the decisive goals to earn Norway a historic victory.

The victory was Norway’s last in a World Cup and they are yet to qualify for a World Cup since that tournament.

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