Exploring FIFA World Cup’s Greatest Upsets

The FIFA World Cup has seen its fair share of astonishing upsets throughout its rich history. In this article, we delve into some of the most memorable and unexpected moments that have unfolded on the grandest stage of international football. From underdog triumphs to powerhouse defeats, we explore the greatest upsets that have left fans in awe and forever etched in the tournament’s storied legacy. Join us as we relive these remarkable underdog victories and celebrate the indomitable spirit that makes the FIFA World Cup a spectacle like no other.

Upset #1: 1950 World Cup – USA vs. England


The 1950 World Cup held in Brazil was a tournament of surprises and upsets, none more shocking than the match between the United States and England. At that time, England was considered one of the strongest teams in the world, having won the tournament once before in 1930. On the other hand, the United States was seen as an underdog with little chance of success.

Match Details

The match took place on June 29, 1950, at the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. Despite being the clear underdogs, the United States team showed immense determination and resilience right from the start. The English team, confident in their abilities, underestimated their opponents, which would later prove to be a costly mistake.

In the 37th minute, Joe Gaetjens, a Haitian-born player representing the United States, scored the only goal of the match. It was a stunning header that left the English goalkeeper helpless. As the final whistle blew, the scoreline read USA 1 – England 0, marking one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

Impact and Aftermath

The unexpected victory of the United States over England sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world. It was a defeat that England never saw coming and left them in a state of disbelief. The media and fans were in awe of the remarkable performance displayed by the American team.

This upset had a significant impact on both nations. In the United States, it brought attention to the sport of soccer and sparked a renewed interest in the game. It paved the way for the growth and development of soccer in the country, leading to the establishment of professional leagues and increased participation at all levels.

For England, this defeat was a wake-up call. It made them realize that no team could be taken lightly in the World Cup. The loss forced them to reevaluate their strategies and approach to future tournaments. It also highlighted the importance of thorough preparation and respect for all opponents.

The 1950 World Cup match between the United States and England remains one of the most memorable upsets in football history. It serves as a reminder that in the world of sports, anything is possible, and underdogs can triumph against all odds.

Upset #2: 1966 World Cup – North Korea vs. Italy

Underdog Story

The 1966 World Cup witnessed one of the most remarkable upsets in football history when the underdog North Korean team faced off against the mighty Italians. North Korea, a team relatively unknown in international football at the time, managed to create a captivating underdog story that would be remembered for generations to come.

Hailing from a nation with limited football infrastructure and resources, the North Korean team was considered a massive underdog against the powerful Italian side. Italy, a footballing powerhouse, had won the World Cup twice before and boasted a roster filled with talented players. On the other hand, North Korea had qualified for the tournament with a young and inexperienced squad, making their presence in the knockout stage seem almost improbable.

Match Highlights

The match between North Korea and Italy took place on July 19, 1966, at Ayresome Park in Middlesbrough, England. The Italians were expected to dominate the game and secure an easy victory, but what unfolded on the pitch stunned the football world.

In the 42nd minute, the North Koreans took a shock lead when Pak Doo-Ik scored a memorable goal, stunning the Italian defense and sending shockwaves through the stadium. Despite the relentless pressure from the Italians, the North Korean defense held firm, with goalkeeper Ri Chan-Myong pulling off several phenomenal saves to deny the Italian attackers.

As the final whistle blew, North Korea emerged victorious with a 1-0 triumph over Italy, causing one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. The result was met with disbelief and astonishment, as the underdog team had managed to defeat one of the tournament favorites, sending shockwaves throughout the footballing world.


The upset victory of North Korea over Italy in the 1966 World Cup left a lasting legacy in football history. It showcased the unpredictable nature of the beautiful game and reminded fans and pundits alike that football matches are not won solely on reputation or past achievements.

The North Korean team’s triumph over Italy inspired countless underdog stories in football, encouraging teams with limited resources to dream big and defy the odds. It demonstrated that passion, determination, and teamwork can overcome even the most formidable opponents, leaving a lasting impact on the sport.

To this day, the 1966 World Cup upset remains an iconic moment in football, reminding fans that anything is possible on the grandest stage of them all. The underdog story of North Korea’s victory over Italy serves as a testament to the magic and unpredictability that makes the FIFA World Cup a truly captivating tournament.

Upset #3: 2010 World Cup – Spain vs. Switzerland

Pre-Match Expectations

The clash between Spain and Switzerland during the 2010 FIFA World Cup was highly anticipated, with Spain being one of the tournament favorites. Coming into the match, Spain had a star-studded squad filled with talented players like Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, and David Villa. They were known for their possession-based style of play, often referred to as "tiki-taka," which had brought them success in previous competitions.

On the other hand, Switzerland, although a respected team, was not considered a major threat to Spain. They had a solid defensive record and were known for their disciplined approach. However, their lack of star power and attacking prowess made them underdogs in this encounter.

Key Moments

The match between Spain and Switzerland took place on June 16, 2010, in Durban, South Africa. The game started with Spain dominating possession, as expected, and creating several scoring opportunities. However, Switzerland’s defense stood strong, frustrating the Spanish attackers.

In the 52nd minute, the unexpected happened. Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes capitalized on a defensive mistake by Spain and scored the first and only goal of the match. This shocking turn of events stunned both the players and the viewers, as Spain had been widely expected to win comfortably.

Despite relentless efforts from Spain to equalize, Switzerland’s resolute defense held firm until the final whistle. The match ended with a surprising 1-0 victory for Switzerland, leaving Spain and their fans in disbelief.


The consequences of this upset were significant for both teams. For Spain, it was a major setback as they had high hopes of winning the tournament. The defeat against Switzerland made them realize that their possession-based style of play alone could not guarantee success. It served as a wake-up call for the Spanish team, forcing them to reassess their approach and make necessary adjustments.

On the other hand, Switzerland’s victory against Spain provided them with a tremendous boost in confidence. It showcased their defensive prowess and proved that they could compete with the best teams in the world. This upset victory helped Switzerland advance to the knockout stages of the tournament and instilled a sense of belief in their squad.

Overall, the Spain vs. Switzerland match during the 2010 FIFA World Cup will forever be remembered as a remarkable upset. It serves as a reminder that in football, anything can happen, and underdogs can rise to the occasion against all odds.

The FIFA World Cup has seen its fair share of astonishing upsets throughout its history. From underdog teams defeating reigning champions to unexpected triumphs against all odds, these upsets have left a lasting impact on the tournament’s legacy. As we explored some of the greatest upsets in World Cup history, we have witnessed the power of determination, teamwork, and the unpredictability of the beautiful game. These moments have not only brought joy and celebration to the underdog nations but have also served as reminders that anything is possible in the world of football. The FIFA World Cup’s greatest upsets continue to inspire future generations of players and fans alike, reminding us that the true magic of the tournament lies in its ability to create unforgettable moments on the grandest stage of all.