F365’s top ten football upsets – where does Saudi Arabia beating Argentina rank?

Saudi Arabia celebrate beating Argentina in the World Cup. Credit: Alamy
Saudi Arabia celebrate beating Argentina in the World Cup. Credit: Alamy

One-off upsets only, featuring only one FA Cup giant-killing – probably not that one – and four World Cup matches…

It has been five years since Daniel Storey got annoyed enough by a similar list elsewhere to bring you his own. Four World Cup games already feature – should Saudi Arabia beating Argentina make the 10?


10) Algeria beating West Germany at the 1982 World Cup
Algeria were making their World Cup debut in Spain in 1982, and were expected to be swatted aside by a West Germany side that had won the European Championship two years earlier. Instead, Lakhdar Belloumi’s second-half winner, a minute after a German equaliser, consigned them to defeat and gave Algeria hope of an astonishing qualification.

Unfortunately, the Algerians were undone by collusion between Austria and West Germany, who played out a 1-0 German victory that would ensure Algeria’s elimination in a match known as the “Disgrace of Gijon”. That’s why final group games are now played at the same time.


9) FV 09 Weinheim beating Bayern Munich in the 1990/91 DFB-Pokal
Unsurprisingly there isn’t an awful lot of English language information on the 1990/91 DFB Pokal, but it did produce one of the biggest shocks in German football history. Bayern Munich had just won the Bundesliga and reached the semi-finals of the European Cup under Jupp Heynckes, and made the trip to Weinheim, a town of approximately 40,000 people.

FV Weinheim were in the fourth division, and were a team comprised of both amateurs and professionals. They inexplicably won 1-0 thanks to a penalty from Thomas Schwechheimer, consigning Bayern to their first elimination from the Pokal first round in their history. Being knocked out of the cup on August 4 really is a top effort. That’s the magic of the DFB-Pokal for you.


8) SC Gondomar beating Benfica in the 2002/03 Taca de Portugal
A second European domestic cup tie, and this time a humbling home defeat that saw the end of Jesualdo Ferreira’s unhappy tenure in charge of Benfica. His team were already frustratingly inconsistent – and seven points behind Porto in the Primeira Liga – when they hosted SC Gondomar of the *checks Soccerway* II Divisão B Zona Norte.

Brazilian striker Cilio scored a free kick from 25 yards out, and Gondomar held on for comfortably the most famous win in their history. A team that included Roger, Nuno Gomes, Petit, Nuno Santos, Mantorras and Miklos Feher had been humiliated. Someone fetch me a P45.


7) North Korea beating Italy at the 1966 World Cup
North Korea has already done plenty enough upsetting by even qualifying for the 1966 World Cup. Twenty of the 22 nations had pulled out after FIFA had only allowed one qualifier from Africa, Asia and Oceania, meaning North Korea only played Australia in a play-off to reach the tournament. As a Times correspondent wrote:

‘Unless the Koreans turn out to be jugglers, with some unexpected ploy like running with the ball cushioned in the crook of their necks, it looks as though Italy and the Soviets should have the run of the place.’

Not jugglers, but pretty good magicians. North Korea had lost 3-0 to Soviet Union, but beat Chile to set up a final game against Italy from which only one would prevail to the quarter-finals. Italy only needed a draw, but Pak Doo-Ik scored the winner against an Italian side reduced to ten men after half an hour following an injury to Giacomo Bulgarelli. They then gave Eusebio’s Portugal a mighty scare in the quarters…


6) Lincoln Red Imps beating Celtic in 2016/17 Champions League qualifying
Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic tenure is going wonderfully well now, but it started in the most embarrassing of circumstances. A team being priced at 15/1 to win an away match is one thing, but to win a home tie in Europe is something else entirely. Lincoln Red Imps inflicted the worst defeat in Celtic’s history in Rodgers’ first game in charge.

The Red Imps’ team contained a fireman, policeman and taxi driver, with several players driving straight to the stadium after completing shifts on their day jobs. The BBC using the line ‘Lee Casciaro’s second-half goal did the damage, the Ministry of Defence officer outfoxing Efe Ambrose to score’ tells you just about all you need to know.

Bradford City celebrate beating Chelsea in the FA Cup. Credit: Alamy
Bradford City celebrate beating Chelsea in the FA Cup. Credit: Alamy

5) Bradford City beating Chelsea in the 2014/15 FA Cup
It may not have the romance of Wrexham beating Arsenal, Wimbledon beating Liverpool, Sutton humbling Coventry or Ronnie Radford Ronnie Radford-ing Newcastle, but the biggest individual shock in FA Cup history may well have come at Stamford Bridge in 2015. According to the match odds, at least.

The price on an upset victory decreases dramatically when the underdog is playing at home, so the price quoted for League One Bradford to beat Chelsea was a whopping 25/1. By way of comparison, National League side Lincoln’s price to beat Burnley in 2017 was 10/1.

Chelsea had won all ten of their matches at Stamford Bridge so far that season, and were heading towards the Premier League title. Yet they somehow squandered a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2, a defeat Jose Mourinho called “a disgrace of which Chelsea’s players should be ashamed”. Oh yes.


4) Alcorcon beating Real Madrid in the 2009/10 Copa del Rey
There is a Wikipedia page dedicated to ‘Alcorconazo’, the headline given to Real Madrid’s catastrophic exit from the 2009/10 Copa del Rey at the hands of third tier Alcorcon. A team including Guti, Rafael van der Vaart, Raul and Karim Benzema lost 4-0 to a club whose entire squad had an annual salary of around £700,000.

The Spanish press focused on the fact that the average annual salary of one Alcorcon player was less than new signing Cristiano Ronaldo made in a day, and also that Real Madrid’s youth team played in the same division as Alcorcon and had lost only one of their last seven meetings.


3) Uruguay beating Brazil in the 1950 World Cup
Or the Maracanazo, to give it its full name. If pride comes before a fall, Brazil threw themselves off the cliff. Several newspapers declared Brazil’s wonderful team the victors even before the final had taken place, while FIFA president Jules Rimet had prepared a speech to congratulate Brazil. The largest stadium and crowd in world football was ready to anoint their kings.

And then Juan Schiaffino happened, equalising after Friaca’s opener. And then Alcides Ghiggia happened, scoring a 79th-minute winner. And then the whistle blew. And then the tears flowed. One fan reportedly committed suicide, while three others had heart attacks. Brazil would not play another match for two years, or play in the Maracana for four years. The entire country was paralysed by a genuine grief. More famously, they ditched their white kit in favour of yellow and green.


2) Faroe Islands beating Greece in Euro 2016 qualifying
When Faroe Islands beat Greece in 2014, the Euro 2004 winners had finally hit their lowest ebb. Having already lost at home to Northern Ireland during that same qualifying campaign, Claudio Ranieri’s team somehow lost to a Joan Edmundsson goal for a team of semi-professionals in Athens.

It was the Faroes’ 20th win in their history, but their first against an established nation. As The Guardian’s wonderful ‘Knowledge’ column later revealed, this was also the biggest gap between two nations’ FIFA rankings that had ever been overturned by victory.


1) USA beating England in the 1950 World Cup
For those who thought England’s dismal defeat to Iceland in 2016 was a new major tournament low, think on. The Football Association’s boycott of the World Cup after a dispute with FIFA meant that they final took their bow in 1950. They had beaten Chile 2-0 in their first game, while the USA had lost 3-1 to Spain. England had beaten Portugal 10-0 a fortnight before the tournament began, while the Americans had lost their last seven internationals by an aggregate scoreline of 45-2.

This was the ultimate David vs Goliath. Stanley Matthews was rested for more difficult fixtures, but the England team still contained Alf Ramsey, Stan Mortenson, Tom Finney, Wilf Mannion and Billy Wright. The USA team contained a teacher, a hearse driver, a pot washer and a postman. Even the American coach said before the game that “we have no chance” and that his team were “sheep ready to be slaughtered”. Final score: United States 1-0 England.

Read more: Argentina go arse over elbow in opening sequence to Messi’s last dance…

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