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Dublin: 0°C Friday 4 December 2020

Power ranking the 11 biggest upsets in the history of international football

Ireland’s draw with Liechtenstein and more stunning results.

Updated at 21.12

CAPE VERDE CONTINUED their impressive rise in international football last night with a 2-0 win in Portugal.

For a country with a population of just 500,000, they have been very impressive in recent times — also qualifying for the 2015 African Cup of Nations and eventually exiting the competition despite not losing a game.

With their famous victory in mind, we’ve decided to look back on some more of international football’s biggest upsets…

11. Norway 2-1 England

Source: alkie1hibs/YouTube

Yes, England still qualified for the 1982 World Cup, while Norway finished bottom of the group, but it shouldn’t detract from the team’s achievement, with the scenes at the end, and in particular, Bjørge Lillelien’s famous “your boys took one hell of a beating” commentary summing up the euphoria of the occasion.

10. Argentina 0-1 Cameroon

Source: ratpackmanreturns/YouTube

Though this result may not seem like that big a shock in a modern context, Argentina were the reigning world champions at the time and had vastly more World Cup experience than their African opponents.

9. South Korea 2-1 Italy

Source: sp1873/YouTube

Home advantage is obviously a big plus in football, but no one expected South Korea to do so well at the 2002 World Cup, reaching the semi-finals after beating Italy and Spain among others.

8. Liechtenstein 0-0 Ireland

Source: sp1873/YouTube

The beginning of the end for the Jack Charlton regime, a team of experienced Irish internationals somehow couldn’t find a way past the minnows of Liechtenstein.

7. Brazil 1-2 Uruguay

Source: KINGofSOCCERhistory/YouTube

As bad as the recent 7-1 loss to Germany was, this game was arguably even more painful — no one expected Brazil to lose in the decisive match on their home turf against a Uruguay team that weren’t particularly highly rated at the time.

6. USA 1-0 England 

Source: 1986soccerman/YouTube

The match where the inventors of the game famously got taught a less by the supposed rookies, the US also repeated the trick in 1993.

5. Senegal 1-0 France

Source: fenear555/YouTube

Many expected then-holders France to win the 2002 World Cup, while no one thought they’d slip up against Senegal. Papa Bouba Diop and co had other ideas.

4. Spain 0-1 Northern Ireland

Source: World Football Cup/YouTube

A famous Gerry Armstrong goal ensured the most famous victory in Northern Ireland’s history, beating Spain on their own turf in the 1982 World Cup.

3. Denmark winning Euro 92

Source: Daniel Muffe/YouTube

A wildcard entry into the tournament after Yugoslavia were disqualified, even though they boasted the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Brian Laudrup and John Jensen in their team, the Danes were highly unfancied before the tournament began.

2. North Korea 1-0 Italy

Source: 1986soccerman/YouTube

Memorably revisited by Fantasy Football, North Korea beating Italy was the undisputed shock of the 1966 World Cup, after Park Doo-Ik scored the only goal of the game. The underdogs did have the advantage of an extra man for some of the game however, as Giacomo Bulgarelli went off injured (yes, there were no subs back then).

1. Greece winning Euro 2004

Source: spin3bust3r/YouTube

It’s hard to single out one specific victory, but safe to say Greece deserved their unexpected triumph at Euro 2004, beating Portugal (twice) and France among others along the way.

What do you think are the biggest upsets in international football history? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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