World Cup shocks: Underdogs have their day
World Cup shocks: Underdogs have their day

World Cup shocks: Underdogs have their day

There were a host of World Cup shocks during the Qatar 2022 group stage worthy of being added to any list of all-time greatest upsets.

This was the first tournament since the expansion to 32 teams in which no side qualified for the knockout rounds with a 100 per cent record.

Germany and Belgium suffered shock early exits, while Argentina, France, Spain, Portugal and Brazil all endured defeats against lower-ranked opposition.

Here are the Qatar World Cup shocks which left most punters baffled:

Argentina 1 Saudi Arabia 2

Few expected anything other than a Lionel Messi-inspired cakewalk at the Lusail Stadium, where the 35-year-old’s early penalty only furthered that feeling. Argentina went on to have three goals disallowed for offside in a one-sided first half that was followed by a remarkable second period in which the raucous Saudi fans cheered their side to a stunning victory. Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari scored a quickfire double soon after the restart and goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais put in a man-of-the-match display to help see out a famous win.

Germany 1 Japan 2

Having trailed to a 33rd-minute penalty from Ilkay Gundogan, who also hit the post on the hour mark, the Samurai Blue produced another shock as late goals from substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano saw them turn things around in spectacular fashion at the Khalifa International Stadium. Adding insult to injury for Die Mannschaft was the fact that Doan and Asano play in Germany for Freiburg and Bochum respectively. Japan boss Hajime Moriyasu said: “I believe it is a historic moment, a historic victory, to say the least.”

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Tunisia 1 France 0

Wahbi Khazri’s superb solo goal secured the Eagles of Carthage a memorable victory against the reigning champions. Former Sunderland forward Khazri pounced after a mistake by Youssouf Fofana, outstripping Raphael Varane before threading a fine finish past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. Didier Deschamps made sweeping alterations and France failed to click, despite still having plenty of quality on the pitch. Substitute Antoine Griezmann looked to have landed a sucker punch when equalising deep into stoppage time, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside after a VAR intervention.

Australia 1 Denmark 0

Tunisia’s cheers turned to tears as the Socceroos secured second place in Group D behind France by stunning Denmark at the same time. Mathew Leckie’s superb second-half strike put spirited Australia in the knockout stages for the first time since 2006, prompting wild celebrations back home Down Under. Head coach Graham Arnold said: “I’m just so proud and happy, this is what World Cups are for. When the Cricket World Cup is on, you don’t see Federation Square (in Melbourne) like it is and pubs like they are, or if it’s rugby union, rugby league or anything.”

Belgium 0 Morocco 2

The Atlas Lions had already claimed a creditable goalless draw against 2018 finalists Croatia in their opening game and did even better here. Roared on by their hordes of fanatical fans, the goals came from second-half substitutes Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal, after Hakim Ziyech had one disallowed just before the interval. Just three months after stepping in as coach after predecessor Vahid Halilhodzic was sacked, Walid Regragui declared: “Seeing Morocco fans coming from all four corners of the world to support your team, you feel those family ties.”

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Japan 2 Spain 1

The Samurai Blue produced another stunning comeback to secure top spot in Group E. Spain had looked in total control at half-time after taking the lead through Alvaro Morata’s early header. Japan, though, turned things around in the space of five minutes at the start of the second period when substitute Doan equalised before Ao Tanaka netted another – which was allowed to stand following a lengthy VAR review after the ball had appeared to have gone out of play. La Roja manager Luis Enrique moaned: “We entered collapse mode. If they had needed to score two more goals, they would have scored them against us.”

Cameroon 1 Brazil 0

Brazil were already through and rested a number of key players, but this was still a stunning triumph for the Indomitable Lions. Captain Vincent Aboubakar scored a memorable stoppage-time decider and was then sent off after being shown a second yellow card for removing his shirt in celebration. It was not enough to secure progress to the last 16, but Cameroon became the first African team to beat the Selecao at a World Cup. Coach Rigobert Song said: “We do have a feeling of regret but you need to look on the positive side…I realise this was an historic victory, so my players should be congratulated.”

South Korea 2 Portugal 1

With Portugal having already booked a place in the last 16, this probably wasn’t a huge surprise, but the manner of the victory still made it unforgettable. South Korea looked to be heading home before Tottenham star Son Heung-min broke free following a Portugal corner and played a perfect pass for Hwang Hee-chan of Wolves to slot home in the 91st minute. The Taegeuk Warriors then had an anxious wait to see if Uruguay could add to their 2-0 lead against Ghana in eight minutes of injury time, but the score stayed the same and South Korea sneaked through by virtue of having netted more times.

World Cup shocks

Past World Cup shocks

USA 1 England 0, Brazil 1950

The most humiliating defeat in England’s history. The tournament favourites dominated to start with but in the 37th minute the US stunned them by taking the lead through Larry Gaetjens. Walter Winterbottom’s side could not hit back and suffered a hugely embarrassing defeat.

North Korea 1 Italy 0, England 1966

Italy were expected to thump the Asian minnows but, against all the odds, the Koreans’ defence held firm versus the might of the Europeans. The now legendary Pak Doo Ik was on hand to score a scarcely believable winner.

Scotland 3 Holland 2, Argentina 1978

Holland’s celebrated ‘total football’ side were in their prime, brimming with confidence and fully expected to dish out a real lesson to the Scots. However, Archie Gemmill had other ideas and fired a superb brace, and with Kenny Dalglish also popping up to score, the Dutch were defeated.

Cameroon 1 Argentina 0, Italy 1990

The Indomitable Lions, reduced to nine men after a double sending-off, produced another strong candidate for one of the biggest-ever World Cup shocks against the reigning champions. In only Cameroon’s second appearance in the finals, they stunned the South Americans and stole the hearts of supporters when Francois Omam Biyik headed home the winner.

Costa Rica 1 Scotland 0, Italy 1990

One of the most embarrassing results in Scotland’s history. Juan Cayasso condemned the Scots to one of their darkest days with the only goal. Scotland turned in a dreadful performance and set the wheels in motion for another first-round exit.

Republic of Ireland 1 Italy 0, USA 1994

Even Ireland’s travelling army could surely not have believed their side would defeat the mighty Italy. But Jack Charlton’s men did exactly that, thanks to Ray Houghton’s brilliant 25-yard strike. The Irish defence kept the Italian strike force at bay as Charlton’s men sent their supporters into ecstasy.

France 0 Senegal 1, Japan and South Korea 2002

The World and European champions were left stunned in their opening game of the tournament through a goal from El Hadji Diouf. France went close and hit the woodwork twice, but the African nation held on for victory.

USA 3 Portugal 2, Japan and South Korea 2002

America surged into an incredible 3-0 lead after only half an hour thanks to goals from John O’Brien, an own goal from Jorge Costa and Brian McBride. Beto scored just before the interval to give the fancied Europeans hope and Jeff Agoos’ second-half own goal set American nerves jangling – but they hung on for a famous victory.

Italy 1 South Korea 2, Japan and South Korea 2002

Ahn Jung-hwan, who missed a first-half penalty, was the Korean hero with the dramatic winner three minutes from the end of extra-time in this second-round match. In an extraordinary encounter, Seol Ki-hyeon scored in the 88th minute to cancel out Christian Vieri’s opener. Italy striker Francesco Totti was also dismissed in extra-time.

Spain 0 Switzerland 1, South Africa 2010

Switzerland stunned then European champions Spain with a narrow win in the teams’ Group H opener in Durban. Gelson Fernandes got the only goal in the 52nd minute, before Spain’s Xabi Alonso was denied by the crossbar in the 71st minute. Spain wasted a hatful of other chances – and the Swiss held on.

Italy 0 Costa Rica 1, Brazil 2014

Los Ticos had already upset Uruguay with a 3-1 victory and backed that up by shocking the Azzurri, with Bryan Ruiz doing the damage just before half-time. Costa Rica went on to draw 0-0 with England and top the group as rank outsiders.

South Korea 2 Germany 0, Russia 2018

Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min both struck in stoppage time as South Korea stunned the four-time champions, who ended up finishing bottom of their group and suffering the embarrassment of an early flight home.

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