Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina is the biggest upset in World Cup history, says data firm


Argentina have won the World Cup twice – in 1978 and 1986 – but at Qatar 2022 The Albiceleste wrote its name in the history books quite differently.

According to sports data group Gracenote, Argentina’s 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their Group C fixture is the biggest upset in World Cup history.

Led by Lionel Messi, ranked third in the world, unbeaten for three years and among the favorites to win the 2022 tournament, many expected Argentina to sweep Saudi Arabia with 48 places separating the two teams in the world rankings.

All the pre-match talk focused on Messi, one of the greatest players in the world who is probably playing his last World Cup.

The Argentina captain netted an early penalty to put his side ahead, but two second-half goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari turned the game upside down.

Al Dawsari’s incredible distance winner – and ensuing acrobatic celebration – will become one of the highlights of this – or any – World Cup, and no doubt, in time, a “I was there” moment for fans.

According to Gracenote, the most surprising previous victory in the World Cup was the victory of the United States against England in 1950, in which the American team had a 9.5% chance of victory.

But Saudi Arabia’s chances of winning on Tuesday were estimated at 8.7%, meaning the Green Falcons take first place.

Gracenote said it uses the “company’s proprietary football ranking system to identify the most shocking upsets in the 92 years of the World Cup”.

But what were the other big surprises of the World Cup?

Diego Maradona conquered the world at the 1986 World Cup, delivering a succession of spectacular individual performances as Argentina won their second title.

Four years later, the tournament was hosted by Italy and Maradona entered the World Cup after guiding Italian club Napoli to an iconic Serie A title.

Argentina’s opponents in the Italia 90 opener were a Cameroonian side who had been knocked out of that year’s Africa Cup of Nations in the group stage and had recently recalled Roger Milla, so 38 years old, who had not played for the Indomitable. Lions for three years.

Cameroon didn’t let Maradona play, fouling him almost every time the Argentine magician touched the ball – so much so that the African side finished the match with nine players.

However, a header from Francois Omam-Biyik in the second half was enough to give Cameroon a famous win.

El Hadji Diouf was voted African player of the year in 2001 and 2002.

France won the World Cup on home soil in 1998, beating Brazil 3-0 in the final, then won Euro 2000 two years later and were strong favorites to retain their world title in South Korea and Japan .

France’s first match was against a Senegal side making their World Cup debut.

The former French colony was clearly up for the game. With iconic players such as El Hadji Diouf, Khalilou Fadiga and current Teranga Lions head coach Aliou Cisse, Senegal went for the throat of their beloved opponent.

Diouf put in a spectacular performance, but it was the unsung Papa Bouba Diop who scored the game’s only goal to secure a stunning win for Senegal.

Things went from bad to worse for France as the defending champion failed to reach the round of 16, finishing last in their group.

Like Saudi Arabia's team in Qatar, Algeria's team in 1982 was almost entirely made up of local players.

Another African nation making their debut, Algeria, faced West Germany in a group that would change the World Cup forever.

West Germany entered the game as one of the tournament favorites after winning all qualifying matches. The team were so confident that manager Jupp Derwall said he would “jump on the first train for Munich” if they lose.

That arrogance came back to haunt Derwall as a totally unknown Algerian side dominated West Germany.

The North Africans took the lead in the 54th minute through Rabah Madjer, before Karl-Heinz Rummenigge equalized 13 minutes later. But from the kick-off, Algeria went up the other end of the field to regain the advantage.

Despite the famous win, Algeria won’t make it out of the group, partly because West Germany secured a 1-0 victory over Austria – a result that saw both European teams qualify for the next round at the expense of Algeria.

Since the “Disgrace of Gijón”, the last group matches of the World Cup have been played simultaneously.

The 1950 USA team reached the semi-finals, the nation's best finish at the tournament.

Prior to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, football had been fully professional in England for decades, although this was the England side’s first appearance at a World Cup after opting out of the three previous tournaments.

England faced an American team made up of semi-professional and amateur players including a gravedigger, a dishwasher and a postman.

But those amateurs pulled off the first big upset of the World Cup as Joe Gaetjens’ header late in the first half was enough to secure a remarkable victory for the United States.

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