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Upsets and the World Cup have become synonymous

Last updated on: June 17, 2010 09:49 IST

Image: Switzerland's Fernandes celebrates after scoring against Spain's goalkeeper Casillas
Photographs: Reuters Bikash Mohapatra

As Switzerland defy odds to shock European champions and favourites Spain 1-0 in the final first round match, Bikash Mohapatra argues the trend of upsets has become so synonymous with the World Cup that an edition sans one such result does lose some of its lustre.

It might pass off as a quiz question.

Which unheralded team got the better of England at the 1950 World Cup?

Those of you who follow football will promptly come up with the answer.

And you all are right, it is the US team.

But the point doesn't lie in the answer but the trend the result set.

The American squad was made up of amateurs, and they were supposed to have no chance against one of the best teams in the world then.

But Joe Gaetjen's famous goal in Belo Horizonte not only ensured a stunning win for the underdogs but also marked the first instance of an upset in World Cup football.

Uruguay's win in the final that year against hosts Brazil at a packed Maracana stadium was a similar result.

And so was West Germany's come-from-behind win over the Ferenc Puskas-inspired Magical Magyars (Hungary) in the final four years later.

Upset results have since become synonymous with the World Cup.

Scratch your heads and you will recall Pak Do Ik's goal which gave North Korea a surprise win over Italy in the 1966 edition, Algeria getting the better of the mighty West Germans in their maiden appearance in 1982, or for that matter Omam Biyik ensuring unheralded Cameroon a shocking 1-0 win over holders Argentina in 1990.

The trend has become such that an edition sans an upset result does lose some of its lustre. Yes, we are definitely hinting at Germany (2006), the only recent edition without an upset.

Switzerland's 1-0 win over European champions and favourites Spain is the latest addition to the list of upsets.

The Swiss had never beaten the Spaniards, unbeaten in 12 prior games and one of the favourites to win, in 19 previous attempts - dating back to 1925 - but Wednesday's result at Durban ensured the biggest shock of the ongoing edition.

As a Swiss celebrate and the Spaniards plot a comeback, we take a look at the some of the biggest upsets in the World Cup in recent years.

When debutants Senegal shocked holders France

Image: Senegal's Papa Bouba Diop (C) celebrates his goal as he runs away from France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez

Senegal 1 France 0

Senegal shocked holders France and the footballing world by claiming a 1-0 victory at the Seoul World Cup stadium in the opening Group A game of the 2002 edition.

Midfielder Pape Bouba Diop scored the decisive goal after 30 minutes.

The defending champions struggled to find their stride and clearly suffered from Zinedine Zidane's withdrawal through injury.

Roger Lemerre's team, who had followed their triumph of home soil in 1998 with the Euro 2000 title, seemed pedestrian against the aggressive debutants.

Senegal, on the other hand, was fielding a side made up entirely of France-based players, went on to draw with Denmark and former champions Uruguay and qualify for the second round.

A 2-1 upset win over former finalist Sweden ensured them a quarter-final place but they failed to get past Turkey.

As regards France, they had ignominy of finishing last in their group. Moreover, they failed to find the net.

A win that sent an entire nation into delirium

Image: South Korea's Ahn Jung-hwan (left) celebrates his golden goal with teammate Hwang Sun-hong (second right) as Italy's Paolo Maldini (second left) and Damiano Tommasi stand in disbelief

South Korea 2 Italy 1

Italy are no strangers to upsets.

Their shocking defeat at the hands of North Korea in 1966 has been mentioned at the outset.

In 2002, it was the turn of the country south of the 38th parallel.

Christian Vieri had given the then three-times winners an 18th minute lead at the Daejeon  World Cup stadium.

And the Azzurri looked set to book their berth in the last four.

However, the co-hosts, coached by veteran Dutchman Guus Hiddink, hadn't given up hopes of a comeback.

Seol Ki-Hyeon scored in the 89th minute to put the contest into extra-time and Ahn Jung-Hwan scored a golden goal to sent an entire nation into delirium.

The Taeguk Warriors had earlier in the tournament put out a powerful Portuguese side in a group game and went ahead an upset Spain to ensure their best ever finish in the tournament. 

The Americans have come a long way since...

Image: A soccer fan hold a sign in the middle of USA's fans as they celebrate their win against Portugal in their group D World Cup Finals match in Suwon

U.S.A. 3 Portugal 2

The Americans had come a long way since their upset win over England in 1950.

Having hosted the competition in 1994, Bruce Arena's side had bettered their performances with every tournament they played.

But the side they faced in their opening Group D encounter at the Suwon stadium comprised Portugal's Golden Generation.

However, after 36 minutes it was the unfancied Americans who were leading 3-0, John O'Brien and Brian McBride scoring before and after an own-goal by Portugal's Jorge Costa.

Beto reduced the deficit before another own-goal, this time by American Jeff Agoos, made it seem like a Portuguese comeback.

But the Americans survived the onslaught that followed and send shockwaves through the footballing world.

Portugal, on the other hand, with the then FIFA World Player of the Year Luis Figo in their ranks were considered favourites to win the tournament.

They went out in the first round.

Six minutes of separation

Image: Norway's Tore Andre Flo (top) celebrates with teammate Ole Solskjar after scoring a goal as Brazil's Rivaldo looks on

Norway 2 Brazil 1

It was a Tore Andre Flo-inspired performance.

Norway, desperately needing a win, scored two goals in the last eight minutes to upset defending champions Brazil in a Group A match at Marseille in 1998.

With its future in the World Cup down to eight minutes, Norway scored twice, including a controversial penalty kick that Kjetil Rekdal converted in the 89th-minute, to stun Brazil 2-1.

Flo had scored the equalizer with a remarkable individual effort in the 83rd minute after Bebeto had put Brazil in the lead 12 minutes from time. 

The result ensured Norway reached the second round of the World Cup for the first time in three tries.

Brazil had already guaranteed themselves top spot in the group.

However, the holders accepted their folly.

"We came in overconfident against a rival we didn't know how would play against us," Brazilian coach Mario Zagallo admitted after the match.

That unforgettable American summer

Image: Bulgaria's Hristo Stoitchkov (8) kicking the ball past a wall of German defenders and goalkeeper Bodo Illgner (1) to score his team's first goal of their World Cup match at Giants Stadium

Bulgaria 2 Germany 1

The result still stands as Bulgaria's biggest international success in football, and still remembered as 'the unforgettable American summer.'

Hristo Stoitchkov had inspired the till then unheralded side to the last four at the 1994 World Cup.

Bulgaria's journey to the finals had begun when Emil Kostadinov had earned them a sensational victory over France in Paris with a goal from virtually the last kick of their final qualifying match in 1993.

And even if the Germans looked a safe bet to progress from their quarter-final tie at New York Giants stadium, Bulgaria never doubted their chances.

The defending champions went ahead courtesy a Lothar Matthaus penalty after half time.

Stoitchkov brought Bulgaria back into the game in the 75th minute.

However, the man who scored the decisive goal was journeyman midfielder Yordan Letchkov.

The Magician scored an audacious header with 12 minutes to play.

And Bulgaria made history while Germany made a hasty exit.