15 Most Surprising Underdog Teams in the History of World Cup

What is the best underdog team in the history of World Cup?

In the history of the World Cup tournament, there are always some underdogs or non-favored teams that created history. They shocked the world by advancing to the later round of the tournament or by defeating favorite countries. Not only that, these teams also showed captivating, memorable, and enjoyable performances.

In this article, I created a list of 15 countries that are considered weak, but they managed to create big surprises in the tournament. The examples of these teams are Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup, Croatia in the 1998 World Cup, and North Korea in the 1966 World Cup. Which one is the best among them?

15. The United States (1950)

United States was the most surprising team in the 1950 World Cup held in Brazil. The team was placed in a group with Spain, England, and Chile; and they managed to defeat England with a thin margin, 1-0. The only goal in the match was scored by Joe Gaetjens, a Haitian-born striker. The United States victory was a big surprise, considering the fact that England was one of the strongest football country at that moment. Unfortunately, the United States was eliminated in the first round of the tournament since it lost against the other two teams.

14. Algeria (1982)

Algeria was eliminated in the first round of the 1982 World Cup, but they managed to create a big surprise. Being led by Rabah Madjer, one of the best African footballers of all time, Algeria defeated West Germany 2-1 and Chile 3-2. Unfortunately in the final group standings, their goal differences were less compared to West Germany and Austria, although the three of the teams obtained the same points. Algeria finished third and could not advance to the next round.

13. East Germany (1974)

In contrast to its neighbor, West Germany, East Germany was definitely not a favorite team in the 1974 World Cup. Team did not have any star players, and they previously had never qualified to the European Championship or World Cup tournament. Surprisingly, East Germany managed to create surprises. They managed to top the Group 1 and defeated West Germany 1-0 in Hamburg. Unfortunately, the team was eliminated in the second round when it only ranked third in the Group A and failed to advance to the semifinals.

12. Czechoslovakia (1962)

Czechoslovakia national team who was not a favorite team successfully advanced to the final round in the 1962 World Cup held in Chile. Relied solely on its star player, Josef Masopust, the team made a surprise in the first round by beating Spain. They created another surprises by defeating the Soviet Union in the quarterfinals and Yugoslavia in the semifinal round. Unfortunately, in the final match, they lost against Brazil by the score of 3-1.

11. Bulgaria (1994)

As an underdog team Bulgarian showed brilliant, unpredictable performances in the 1994 World Cup. The team did not only manage to finish in fourth, but its striker, Hristo Stoickhov, also became the tournament's top scorer. Bulgarian started the tournament terribly when it was slaughtered by Nigeria with a score of 3-0. They managed to rise in the next two games after beating Argentina and Greece with convincing scores. The biggest surprise was made by the team in the quarterfinals when they defeated Germany with a score of 2-1.

10. Ghana (2010)

Had Luis Suarez did not commit a controversial handball, Ghana might create a history as the first African country to advance to the semi-finals rounds of the World Cup. Although it could not be regarded as a weak team, Ghana made some surprises in the 2010 World Cup tournament, including defeating Serbia by a score of 1-0. Led by Asamoah Gyan, they came close to semifinal rounds before being defeated by Uruguay through penalty shoot-out.

9. Turkey (2002)

Although they did not defeat any strong countries in the 2002 World Cup, the success of Turkey to finish third in this tournament could also be regarded as a surprise, due to the fact that they defeated two hosts of the tournament. In the tournament, Turkey definitely was not a favorite compared to other strong European teams such as England, Italy, and Spain.

Turkey's journey in the tournament was fairly smooth. They became runner-up in the first round of Group C, respectively defeating the host, Japan, in the second round and Senegal in the quarterfinal before being eliminated by Brazil in the semi-finals. In the third place match, they managed to beat another host South Korea, with a narrow margin, 3-2.

8. Nigeria (1994)

Nigeria appearances in the 1994 World Cup were really entertaining. This team was filled by many players highly talented players such as Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George, and Rashidi Yekini. They even managed to emerge as the group winner in the first round, ahead of Bulgaria, Argentina, and Greece. In the second round, they almost eliminated Italy, leading the match by 1-0 through a goal netted by Emmanuel Amuneke. Unfortunately, the two goals from Roberto Baggio, one in the 88th minute and another one in extra-time sent the Green Eagles out of the tournament.

7. Morocco (1986)

In addition to Maradona's hand of God goal, another most surprising thing in the 1986 World Cup was the brilliant performance from Morocco national team. The country topped the first round in the Group F, obtaining four points from two draws against England and Poland and a victory against Portugal. In the second half, they forced West Germany to work very hard before being eliminated from the tournament by Lothar Matthaus' goal in the 87th minute.

6. Saudi Arabia (1994)

The 1994 World Cup was full of surprises. In addition to the unexpected performances from Nigeria and Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia also became an underdog team who played brilliantly. They made advanced to the second round after convincingly defeating Morocco and Belgium in the group stage. Although they were eliminated by Sweden by the score of 3-1, Saudi Arabia managed to prove that Asian football simply could not be underestimated. In this tournament, some players of Saudi Arabia such as Sami Al-Jaber, Saeed Al-Owairan, and Fuad Amin were greatly praised due to their brilliant forms.

5. Senegal (2002)

Football world was in uproar when Senegal defeated the defending champions, France, in the opening match of 2002 World Cup. The greatness of Bruno Metsu's squad continued as they managed to qualify to the second round with a status as the runners-up of Group A. In the second round, they made another surprise by beating Sweden 2-1. Senegal even almost reached the semi-finals, unfortunately they lost 1-0 against Turkey. The only goal in the match was scored by Ilhan Mansız in the extra-time.

4. Croatia (1998)

Although Croatia squad in the 1998 World Cup was filled by talented footballer such as Zvonimir Boban and Davor Suker, no one imagined they would advance to the semifinals. Advancing to the second round with a status as the runner-up of Group H, Croatia made a big surprise when they defeated Germany in the quarterfinals with a convincing score, 3-0. They even almost eliminated France in the semifinal, if only Lilian Thuram did not score two goals to save the hosts. At the end of the tournament, Croatia finished third and their striker, Suker, was awarded the Golden Shoe.

3. North Korea (1966)

Not only shocking, North Korea performances in the 1966 World Cup managed to embarrass the whole Italy football team. The team performed brilliantly in the first round, unexpectedly beat Italy 1-0 through a goal scored by Pak Doo-ik. They advanced to the quarterfinals with as the runner-up of the group. North Korean team almost qualified for the semifinals when they gained a 3-0 lead over Portugal. Unfortunately, the excellent performance of Eusebio who scored four goals in the match successfully reverse the condition, helping Portugal eliminate North Korea with a score of 5-3.

2. South Korea (2002)

Although they were the host of the tournament, the success of South Korea in reaching the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup was a big surprise. The team was considered an underdog when they play against powerful countries such as Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Surprisingly, South Korea managed to defeat all of those countries dramatically, before being eliminated by Germany in the semifinal round with a score of 1-0. Some players such as Lee Won-jae, Ahn Jung-Hwan, and Park Ji-sung were regarded as the benefactors of South Korea's brilliant performances in the tournament.

1. Cameroon (1990)

Cameroon presents very attractive performances in the 1990 World Cup. They started the tournament by defeating the defending champion Argentina with a score of 1-0 in the opening match. This team created another surprises by earning victories against Romania and Colombia. In the quarterfinals, they almost showed brilliant forms and almost eliminated England from the tournament, before being defeated by the score 2-3. Cameroon's star of the tournament was definitely Roger Milla, a 38-year striker who scored four goals in the tournament. Not only that, Milla is even regarded as the best African player ever to play in the World Cup.

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