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Football

The top 10 most jaw-dropping moments in World Cup history as Argentina stunned by Saudi Arabia

Chris Byfield

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The top 10 most jaw-dropping moments in World Cup history as Argentina stunned by Saudi Arabia

Lionel Messi’s Argentina were subjected to a stunning 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia today, a result that will go down as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina arrived in Qatar among the favourites and on the back of a 36-game unbeaten run that included winning the 2021 Copa America. When seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi converted a first-half penalty, an Argentina win seemed a formality.

But Saudi Arabia flipped the game on its head, levelling through Saleh Al Shehri and then going ahead just ten minutes later through Salem Al Dawsari.

The result is truly stunning - only Ghana of the 32 nations at the World Cup rank lower than the Green Falcons.

Here are ten more jaw-dropping World Cup moments.

Zinedine Zidane headbutts Marco Materazzi (2006)

Zinedine Zidane, one of the greatest players in football history, stunned the world when he headbutted Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final.

Zidane had already impacted the game, having netted an audacious Panenka penalty. The game was in extra time when Materazzi made a derogatory comment about the French midfielder's sister.

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In response, Zidane planted a headbutt in Materazzi’s chest and was sent off. It was the star’s last-ever act on a football pitch.

Italy went on to win the penalty shoot-out and lift the World Cup.

West Germany vs Austria (1982)

West Germany and Austria realised that a 1-0 win for the West Germans was a result that was suitable for all parties. It would see both teams qualify from Group 2 and eliminate a plucky Algeria side that had shocked Germany with a 2-1 win in the opening game.

After Horst Hrubesch's opener in the 11th minute, the two teams essentially passed the ball sideways until the final whistle.

This game was subsequently dubbed the Disgrace of Gijon, or the Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón (the Non-Aggression Pact of Gijon).

Hungary vs Germany (1954)

Two weeks before the 1954 World Cup final Hungary, whose team boasted Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis, and Nandor Hidegkuti, demolished West Germany 8-3.

Hungary were the best team of their generation, but a series of unfortunate events - a Puskas injury; a village fair outside their hotel that had disrupted Hungary's sleep - lead to an enormous upset.

Zidane in the World Cup final
Zidane in the World Cup final

Hungary went 2-0 up inside eight minutes, only for the Germans to level after 18 minutes. Then, with six minutes remaining West Germany scored a winner. The famous Hungary side would never win a major trophy.

Years later, a study claimed that ‘vitamins’ issued to the Germans contained the methamphetamine Pervitin… which likely helped ​​Die Mannschaft get over the line.

Schumacher vs Battiston (1982)

Harald ‘Toni’ Schumacher’s 'collision’ with Patrick Battiston in the semi-final of the 1982 World Cup, is one of the most aggressive acts witnessed on a football pitch.

The on-rushing keeper leapt into the air, twisted, and collided with the Frenchman's face.

Battiston fell unconscious, required oxygen on the pitch, and ultimately lost two teeth. The referee awarded Schumacher a goal-kick.

Argentina vs Cameroon (1990)

Cameroon stunned World Cup holders Argentina 1-0 in the opening match of Italia ‘90 at the San Siro, despite having both Andre Kana-Biyik and Benjamin Massing having been sent off

Francois Omam-Biyik's second-half header was enough to secure the win over Diego Maradona’s side against all odds.

Brazil vs Uruguay (1950)

Brazil’s World Cup final defeat to Uruguay was a tragedy that some would rank far above A Seleção’s devastating 7-1 defeat to Germany in 2014.

Brazil, who were hosts, believed their victory was such a formality that a Rio newspaper printed a photo of the team saying “These are the world champions” before the final even kicked off.

Friaça gave Brazil the lead before Uruguay came back through Juan Alberto Schiaffino. Then in the closing stages, Alcides Ghiggia saw his shot creep under goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa and ultimately seal an unlikely Uruguay win.

Barbosa, who at the time was considered one of the greatest keepers in the world, was haunted by the result for the rest of his life and was considered a bad luck charm in Brazil for decades.

USA vs England (1950)

England arrived in Brazil for the 1950 World Cup as one of the favourites to win the tournament. The Three Lions, who boasted the likes of Stan Mortensen, Tom Finney, Billy Wright and Roy Bentley, were expected to breeze past their transatlantic cousins.

Indeed, the US team was a rag-tag bunch of amateurs and semi-professionals. But Joe Gaetjens, a Haiti-born accounting student who also washed dishes in a Brooklyn restaurant, scored the only goal of the game.

Maradona against Colombia
Maradona against Colombia

The story goes that the result was such a shock that some newspapers assumed the wire report of a 1-0 final score was a typo, and instead reported that England had run out as 10-0 winners.

Chile vs Italy (1962)

Chile won 2-0, but the result was very much an afterthought. This game was one of the most eventful in history for all the wrong reasons. The first sending-off came after 12 minutes. Naturally, Giorgio Ferrini initially refused to leave the pitch,

Then, Leonel Sanchez broke the nose of Italy captain Humberto Maschio, before swinging at Mario David, who was then sent off for retaliating. It was one of the most aggressive matches in World Cup history - but strangely there were only two red cards.

Andres Escobar’s death (1994)

Columbia were much fancied before the 1994 World Cup, but were eliminated in the first round, partly because Andres Escobar scored an extremely unlucky own goal against hosts the US.

Upon the team’s return, Escobar was provoked by a group of men in a Medellin nightclub but chose to go home rather than react.

But while sitting in his car, the defender was approached by three men and shot six times.

Humberto Castro Munoz, who was linked to a drug cartel, confessed to Escobar's murder which was widely believed to be a response to his World Cup own goal.

The Hand of God (1986)

England fans of all ages know this story. Maradona, the world’s best player, standing at a diminutive 5ft5 went to compete for a cross with England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Miraculously, Maradona got there first and looped his ‘header’ into the goal.

In reality, the diminutive star had knocked the ball in with his hand - an act later referred to as the Hand of God.

Of course, moments later Maradona scored the greatest goal in World Cup history, weaving past the whole England team (including Shilton) and tapping into an empty net.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Argentina, Colombia, Diego Maradona, Football, Germany, Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane, Football World Cup

Chris Byfield
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