Algeria-FRG, North Korea-Italy, Senegal-France… a look back at the surprise matches in the history of the World Cup


From United States-England in 1950 to Argentina-Saudi Arabia in 2022, find seven surprises in the history of the World Cup.

Who says World Cup, says surprise. And the clap of thunder Saudi Arabia v Argentina (2-1) this Tuesday in Doha is not the first in the history of the competition. From the United States’ victory over England in 1950 to the success of the Green Falcons against Messi’s teammates, find seven surprises in the history of the World Cup.

1950: United States-England (1-0), the Haitian amateur

After shunning the first three editions of the World Cup, the inventors of football finally deign to participate. After a victory against Chile (2-0), the Three Lions let themselves be surprised by the American amateurs and a goal on a deviation from Joe Gaetjens, of Haitian origin. Too confident, the English coach Walter Winterbottom had spared his best player, Stanley Matthews, for this match which was to be only a formality. the Daily Express even proposed in its pages to leave three goals in advance to the “Team USA“. Humiliated, it was the last time England played with a blue shirt.

1966: North Korea-Italy (1-0), Asia in the spotlight

The only team neither European nor South American in the World Cup, North Korea is a great unknown. Corrected by the USSR (3-0) and saved against Chile by an equalizer at the end of the match (1-1), it should not weigh heavily against the “Nazionaleby Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera. And yet Pak Doo-ik surprises the Italian defense with a cross shot. The public in the working-class town of Middlesbrough sides with the communist country, which moreover plays in red as the “Boro” local. North Korea will still dream in the quarter-finals by leading 3-0 against Portugal, before being struck down by a quadruple from Eusebio (5-3 final score).

1982: Algeria-RFA (2-1), the feat wasted

For the first time, an African nation beats a European great, an earthquake on the scale of football. Rabah Madjer opened the scoring and Lakhdar Belloumi restored the lead to the Greens after Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s goal. “We had no doubts after this equalizer“, told the captain of Algeria, Ali Fergani, to Jeune Afrique. “We could have cracked, but we held on, despite German pressure“. Unfortunately, this feat is marred by the “game of shamenext, where the FRG beats Austria (1-0), smacks the score needed to qualify the two European teams.

1990: Cameroon-Argentina (1-0), the Lions tame Maradona

Argentina has already experienced a huge surprise at the World Cup at its expense. At the opening match of 90, in Milan, the team of the immense Diego Maradona, reigning world champion and favorite to succeed him, was devoured by the “Indomitable Lionsfrom Cameroon. A header from François Omam-Biyik, on an extraordinary extension, surprised goalkeeper Nery Pumpido. His cousin André Kana-Biyik then Benjamin Bassing received a red card at the end of the match where the Cameroonians played elbows and tackles to hold the result. Confident by this fanfare start, the Lions will go to the quarters (defeat against England 3-2 ap), the first African team to reach this level.

2002: Senegal-France (1-0), the curse of world champions

This is where the curse begins. France, then reigning world champion, inaugurated the 2002 competition with a match against Senegal. If the Teranga Lions have a good workforce, the Blues are still favorites, wanting to achieve the double. However, it is Senegal, with the dazzling acceleration of El-Hadji Diouf to erase Leboeuf which makes the difference. He perfectly serves Bouba Diop, who scores in two stages. Trezeguet’s post and Henry’s bar won’t change anything. The Blues will be eliminated from the competition in the first round.

2002: South Korea-Italy (2-1 golden goal) and the questionable arbitration of Byron Moreno

Another bad Korean surprise for the “Azzurri», Swept away this time by South Korea, boosted at home for the first round of 16 in its history. The host country (with Japan) will even go to the semi-finals, beaten by Germany (1-0). This time the hero is called Ahn Jung-hwan, author of the golden goal three minutes from the end of extra time (117th). In a meeting full of suspense, Korea had already equalized at the very end of regulation time by Seol Ki-yeon (88th). The other hero of the match, in the role of villain, is Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno, who ended up in prison years later for drug trafficking. Many of his decisions drove the Italians crazy, from the golden goal denied to Damiano Tommasi for a borderline offside to the second yellow for Francesco Totti for simulation, when the whole Boot had seen a penalty.

2022: Argentina-Saudi Arabia (1-2), the Falcons fly away

It’s the first surprise of the 2022 World Cup. Lionel Messi’s teammates arrive in Qatar undefeated for 36 games. Among the favorites of the competition, they face the modest team of Saudi Arabia (51st in the FIFA rankings) for the first match of group C. Quickly, Lionel Messi opens the scoring from the penalty spot (10th). The Argentinians then clearly dominated the first period, without managing to make the break. Back from the locker room, five minutes will be enough to turn the game around. Al Shehri first reduced the mark with a strike which came to lodge in the small net of Martinez (48th, 1-1). No time to breathe, the Green Falcons, encouraged by their fans on fire, took the lead thanks to a superb curling shot from Al Dawsari (53rd, 1-2). Messi and his teammates then pushed, without managing to equalise.

All World Cup winners since 1930

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