EVERY World Cup produces a shock result here and there, often propelling an unlikely side pushing to the latter stages of the tournament.
From Cameroon’s defeat of Argentina at Italia ’90 to Costa Rica humbling Uruguay and Italy en route to the 2014 Quarter Finals, the World Cup has seen so called minnows emerge from the shadows to humble the elite nations and send shockwaves around the globe.
Don’t be surprised in Russia if you see Panama beating England, Morocco humiliating European Champions Portugal or little Iceland taming Lionel Messi and his Argentinian teammates. History does show that shock results do happen on the greatest football event on the planet – and here’s some of the evidence to prove it!
Argentina 0-1 Cameroon – Italia ‘90
My first World Cup saw one of the biggest shocks in the opening match when holders Argentina took on African unknowns Cameroon at the San Siro. Cameroon set about frustrating the Argentines at every opportunity, but were dealt a blow when defender Kana Biyik received a straight red card for a foul on Claudio Caniggia. On reflection, it looked a harsh decision.
Spurred by the injustice, the ten men stunned the footballing world by taking the lead when Francois Oman Biyik wrote his name into World Cup history by leaping like a salmon to head towards goal, and his effort trickled under the body of Nery Pumpido and into the net. It was a calamitous moment for the Argentina goalkeeper and the goal sent shockwaves around the world.
With only a couple of minutes left, Cameroon were reduced to nine men. If there was dubiety in the previous red card, there was no question whatsoever on this one as defender Benjamin Massing wiped out Caniggia, who’d just about hurled two challenges, and he saw red whilst trying to retrieve his boot.
It mattered little as Cameroon hung on to claim a famous victory and launch African Football as a force to be reckoned with on the World stage.
Bulgaria 2-1 Germany – USA ‘94
This Quarter Final was deemed a foregone conclusion pre-match as the defending Champions took on a Bulgarian side, who had never won a World Cup match in their previous 16 games at the Finals.
Captain Lothar Matthäus converted a penalty to put the Germans in front and looked as though was going to set them on their way to the Semi Finals. However, a brilliant free kick from Hristo Stoichkov levelled proceedings and Bulgaria’s confidence soared from there. Then, the unthinkable happened, as Yordan Letchkov’s sensational diving header past Bodo Illgner gave Bulgaria a remarkable victory.
Bulgaria lost their Semi Final to Italy, killing off their hopes of a surprise World Cup triumph, but they will fondly remember the day they humbled World Champions Germany for many years to come.
France 0-1 Senegal – Korea/Japan 2002
Another opening game between a defending champion and emerging African nation that didn’t go according to the script.
France were without the injured talisman Zinedine Zidane, but still boasted a formidable team with the likes of Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Youri Djorkaeff to call upon. Senegal, on the other hand, were making their World Cup debut and were written off as the Group A whipping boys before a ball was kicked.
The Senegalese were determined to prove the critics wrong and took the lead when great running by El Hadji Diouf and cutback led to a scramble in the six yard box, and the loose ball being swept home by Papa Bouba Diop. A stunned France rallied but couldn’t get past a well organised Senegal defence and the Africans held on for a famous victory.
France never recovered and went out in the first round without scoring a goal, whilst Senegal reached the Quarter Finals in their only World Cup to date.
South Korea 2-1 Italy – Korea/Japan 2002
One of the co-hosts South Korea had gone into the World Cup having never won a single match in their previous 14 attempts before they defeated Poland and Portugal in the group stages. In the last sixteen, a more formidable opponent in Italy stood in their way.
The Euro 2000 finalists, and one of the pre-tournament favourites, took an expected lead through Christian Vieri, after Korean striker Ahn Jung Hwan had a penalty saved by Gianluigi Buffon. Seoul Ki-Hyeon then equalised for the hosts a few minutes from time before Vieri missed the sitter of the tournament in injury time.
Francesco Totti then received a controversial second booking for an alleged dive, reducing the Italians to ten men. Their misery was compounded when Ahn Jung Hwan redeemed himself from his missed penalty to head home the golden goal in extra time to take South Korea into the Quarter Finals.
Italian side Perugia took out their own revenge on Ahn Jung Hwan by terminating his contract at the end of the tournament!
Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica – Brazil 2014
The Uruguayans were hot favourites going into their opening game having finished fourth in the 2010 event and boasted a formidable front trio of Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Edison Cavani. Even though Suarez missed this game through injury, they were still expected to dispose of the Costa Ricans and set themselves up for another successful World Cup.
It was all looking good when Cavani netted a first half penalty. The second half was a different story, however, as Costa Rica produced a stunning performance to turn the game on its head. Joel Campbell’s sweetly struck shot levelled the match before a header from Duarte put the underdogs in front. Urena’s neatly taken late finish secured the three points and Uruguay’s misery was compounded when Pereira received a straight red for a petulant swipe at Campbell.
Costa Rica then produced another shock by defeating Italy 1-0 to win the group and were a penalty shootout away from the Semi Finals, their best World Cup performance to date.