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World Cup A-Z: Upsets

6 June 2014

Everyone loves a cup upset, especially on the global stage of the World Cup - though if you're on the receiving end, the memories are far more painful.

The World Cup has given us so many great upsets since the tournament was first staged 84 years ago, that it becomes almost impossible to choose just a few.

Who can forget co-hosts South Korea knocking Italy out with a golden goal back in 2002? What about Scotland's disappointments against Costa Rica in 1990, and Peru 12 years previously?

Go back further and you have the amateurs of West Germany beating the great Hungarian side including Ferenc Puskas to win the 1954 final in Switzerland. Upsets have always been a big talking point.

But, in date order, here are the favourite five of your reporter - starting with something from four years before the 'Miracle of Berne'?

USA 1 England 0 (1950)

It could have been a tale right from the FA Cup's playbook - the side consisting of players earning their living as teachers and postmen seeing off some of the greatest stars in football.

On 29th June 1950 in the Est?dio Independ?ncia in Belo Horizonte, that is exactly what happened as Joe Gaetjens scored for the Americans to earn a remarkable victory against the nation with the reputation at the time as the 'Kings of Football', owing to their recent superiority over all comers, although England were making their World Cup debut.

There are conflicting reports as to how the match was perceived in England. It came on the same day as the country's cricket team lost to the West Indies for the first time so that became the major sports story while the football was little more than a side-note. However, it is believed in some sources - though doubted in others - that some newspaper editors presumed the result submitted to them was a mistake and printed scores of 10-0 and 10-1 in England's favour.

Interestingly, England return to Belo Horizonte this year on 24th June when they take on Costa Rica, although they will be relieved to know that the Est?dio Independ?ncia is no longer standing.

North Korea 1 Italy 0 (1966)

Everyone remembers 1966 for the final but perhaps the biggest story of the tournament came in the unlikely shape of North Korea, who were taking part in their first World Cup.

They had got off to an inauspicious start by going down 3-0 to the Soviet Union in their opening group stage match but a 1-1 draw with Chile next up, combined with other results, meant that they could qualify for the quarter-finals by beating Italy, the two-time world champions.

North Korea were not given a hope by pundits and fans, especially as they almost didn't make it to England because the UK's government at the time initially refused to offer their players visas to enter on account of not recognising the Asian land as a country.

That didn't bother the footballers as Pak Doo-Ik scored the only goal of the game four minutes before half-time at Ayresome Park to see them progress to the last eight, where they gave Eusebio's Portugal an almighty scare by opening up a three-goal lead inside the first 25 minutes only to eventually lose 5-3.

Northern Ireland 1 Spain 0 (1982)

Beating Spain in Spain has always taken some doing so when the 1982 World Cup rolled around the hosts were fancied to do well in their own country.

They just needed a point from their final group game to qualify as winners and as they were taking on the smallest nation ever to reach the World Cup finals they were expected to do the business, especially as Northern Ireland had picked up just a draw from their opening two matches.

Yet when Gerry Armstrong swept the Irish into a 47th-minute lead at Valencia's Mestalla Stadium the shock was on. Spain were stunned but they were given a boost just after the hour when Mal Donaghy was sent off. It was a case of whether Billy Bingham's side could hold on.

They did just that to win the group and earn their place in the second group stage, where they were eliminated by France and Austria, while Spain breathed a huge sigh of relief as they also qualified only by virtue of having scored one more goal than third-placed Yugoslavia.

Cameroon 1 Argentina 0 (1990)

The opening match of Italia '90 took place in the San Siro, Milan, and pitted the defending champions Argentina against Cameroon, who were in the finals for only the second time.

It was expected to be a walkover for a Diego Maradona-led Argentina side but what followed on the evening of 8th June 1990 was anything but straightforward.

Cameroon found themselves down to 10 men on 61 minutes because of a straight red shown to midfielder Andre Kana-Biyik following a cynical foul, but just six minutes later Francois Omam-Biyik wrote himself into folklore as his header goalwards from a free-kick was fumbled over the line by Argentine goalkeeper Nery Pumpido.

The 10 men from Africa had to dig in and they finished with just nine on the field as Benjamin Massing picked up a second yellow for a late foul on Claudio Caniggia - both in terms of time played and after the ball had gone. So thunderous was it in fact that Massing lost a boot in the challenge.

Senegal 1 France 0 (2002)

In a repeat of 1990, the 2002 tournament's opening match saw an African nation in its first World Cup beating the holders by a single goal - though this time without the two red cards.

It was no less of a shock however as France had won the World Cup in 1998 on home soil and they had followed that triumph up by winning the European Championship in 2000, so they were expected to have no problems against a Senegal side who had been runners-up in the African Cup of Nations earlier in 2002.

The French were without the talismanic Zinedine Zidane - the scorer of two goals in their 1998 triumph over Brazil - and perhaps that showed as they struggled to get going and fell behind to a goal on the half-hour from Papa Bouba Diop, who would later play in England with Fulham, Portsmouth, West Ham and Birmingham.

France never recovered from that blow and finished bottom of their group without scoring a single goal. The Senegal adventure continued as they drew with Denmark and Uruguay to qualify for the knock-out stage, where they beat Sweden before bowing out after extra-time to Turkey in the quarter-finals.

Click here to see the other letters in our World Cup A-Z


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