World Cup greatest upsets, ranked: Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia in top five, with France’s 2002 loss No. 1

The World Cup is already underway but the fun doesn’t really begin until we are treated to our first upset of the tournament. It’s safe to say that after Tuesday’s shock result that saw Saudi Arabia defeat Lionel Messi and one of the tournament favorites Argentina, the madness has begun. We don’t want to be prisoners of the moment, but we also don’t want the magnitude of this shock result to diminish. The World Cup is nearly 100 years old and we’ve seen quite a few stunning results over the years, so let’s handpick our top five upsets to see where the loss Argentina stacks up to the rest.

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1. Senegal 1-0 France in 2002

It was the opening match of the tournament in Japan and South Korea. France were fresh off winning the 1998 World Cup at home. They had Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane in their prime against a Senegalese team that had never reached the World Cup before this match. Papa Bouba Diop, who sadly died in 2020, scored the winning goal, took his shirt off and placed it on the ground near the corner flag before his teammates joined him for a dance. It was one of the most iconic moments in the history of this tournament as the Senegalese reached the quarterfinals in their first appearance.

2. Cameroon 1-0 Argentina in 1990

Who can forget what Roger Milla and the Indomitable Lions accomplished in Italy. Their Cinderella run to the quarterfinals was a first for any African nation. And still, to this day, no African team has ever reached the semifinals. Francois Omam-Biyik scored the winner to topple the reigning champions of 1986.

3. North Korea 1-0 Italy in 1966

The Italians already had two World Cup titles under their belt and the North Koreans were making their debut. Pak Doo-Ik scored the only goal of the match to pull off the upset. In the same tournament, the North Koreans nearly pulled off another stunner, jumping out to a 3-0 lead over Eusebio’s Portugal in the round of 16 before remarkably squandering their lead by conceding five goals to bow out of the tournament in Liverpool.

4. Saudi Arabia 2-1 Argentina in 2022

What can you say about the Saudis here. A defensive masterclass by the backline with the countless offside traps and the goalkeeper, Mohammed Al Owais, who did everything in his power to keep his team in position to pull off an incredible upset. Argentina saw their unbeaten run that lasted 36 matches dating back to 2019 come to an end. Will this be a sign of things to come in Messi’s last hurrah or will the Albiceleste bounce back and finish the group with six points?

5. Switzerland 1-0 Spain in 2010

Normally, a European team defeating another European team shouldn’t be enough to crack the list, but that’s just a testament to how magnificent the Spanish team was before, during and after this tournament. During a breakaway in the 52nd minute, Switzerland striker Eren Derdiyok hurdled over Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas and Gelson Fernandes, a Cape Verde-born defensive midfielder, emerged from the scrum to tap home the only goal of the match. Spain are the only team to lose their World Cup opener and win the title while the Swiss failed to make it out of their group.


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