Was Saudi win the biggest World Cup shock?

Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 victory over Argentina has been rated the biggest shock in World Cup history after the numbers were crunched by sports data specialists.

Data company Nielsen Gracenote says the win has even moved it ahead of the the previous biggest upset, the United States’ legendary win over England in 1950.

Using its ranking system and a complex formula that factors in team strength, location and history, Gracenote have rated the top 10 World Cup upsets.

1. Saudi Arabia 2 Argentina 1 (8.7% chance) 2022.

Ranked world No.51, Saudi Arabia were facing a team hoping to match the international record for unbeaten games – 37. Lionel Messi put Argentina ahead with a 10th-minute penalty but second-half goals by Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari secured the stunning upset.

2. United States 1-0 England (9.5% chance) 1950.

Debutants England were favourites to win the 1950 World Cup in Brazil while the Americans were a semi-professional squad. England dominated but lost to Joey Gaetjens’ first-half header, a result so improbable that newspapers in England could not believe the result sent by telegram.

3. Switzerland 1-0 Spain (10.3%) 2010.

European champions and World Cup favourites Spain had 22 shots to Switzerland’s six, but lost to a second half Gelson Fernandes goal. Spain recovered to go on and win the final three weeks later.

4. Algeria 2-1 West Germany (13.2%) 1982.

Algeria’s first World Cup match delivered their finest hour as Lakhdar Belloumi made the first goal and scored the winner against European powerhouses West Germany, who went on to lose to Italy in the final.

5. Ghana 2-0 Czech Republic (13.9%) 2006.

The Czech 2004 European Championship finalists were expected to go deep in the World Cup and opened with a 3-0 demolition of the United States, while Ghana, making their World Cup debut, had already lost to Italy but goals from Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari settled a fantastic match. 

6. Uruguay 2-1 Brazil (14.2%) 1950.

The only World Cup not to feature a final, effectively got one via this last group match, where Brazil needed only a draw on home soil to take the title. In front of almost 200,000 fans, Brazil were leading midway through the second half but Uruguay scored twice in 13 minutes through Pepe Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia.

7. South Korea 2-0 Germany (14.4%) 2018.

Defending champions Germany had already lost to Mexico but it was still a massive shock to see them beaten by South Korea, who needed a two-goal victory to have any chance of progressing. They got both goals in stoppage time through Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min but the other group result elsewhere eliminated them and Germany, who failed to progress from the group phase for the first time since 1938.

8. Wales 2-1 Hungary (16.2%) 1958.

On the downslope from their “Magnificent Magyars” peak of 1954, Hungary were still regarded as one of the best teams in the world but were shocked as Ivor Allchurch and Terry Medwin secured the comeback win for Wales.

9. Northern Ireland 1-0 Spain (16.5%) 1982.

Hosts Spain needed a draw to finish top of the group and progress to the easier second phase group but, despite dominating the match, Gerry Armstrong scored the most famous goal in his tiny country’s history.

10. Senegal 1-0 France (17.3%) 2002

France were world and European champions but in a memorable opening game, Papa Bouba Diop got the only goal as Senegal started a march all the way to the quarter-finals.