World Cup Shocks - and Why Football Loves an Underdog

First contested in 1930, football’s World Cup represents the pinnacle of the sport at an international level. The first-ever tournament was hosted and won by Uruguay, who overcame South American rivals Argentina in the final.

Since then, eight different teams have won the tournament - and it’s Brazil who have been the most successful nation, lifting the trophy on five separate occasions. But, in this article, we won’t be talking about the trophy lifts – we’ll instead be focusing on the World Cup’s true underdog stories.

Every game has an underdog

Like many sports, football is a game of favourites and outsiders, with neutrals often buying their ticket or tuning in hoping that they will witness an upset. A good indicator of the favourites, which are always the teams most likely to win, can be found in betting odds; which typically lean heavily towards the team with the best players and in the hottest form.

For example, in the latest football betting odds, reigning Premier League champions Liverpool are rated as slight underdogs to retain their title, with Manchester City, who finished second this year, rated as the most likely to lift the trophy. These odds are calculated by experts from all over the world and are a voice of authority in sports. There are, however, starry-eyed dreamers who dare to put their faith in the underdogs.

While Liverpool and others will fancy their chances of defying the odds, true underdog status is reserved for those teams whose odds are much bigger. Leicester’s Premier League title win in 2016 perhaps the most famous example, with the Foxes listed at 5,000 to 1 to win with some bookmakers at the start of the season.

2014 – Brazil 1 Germany 7

This article is for delving into the most famous World Cup shocks. There are perhaps none bigger than this match in 2014, which saw Germany humiliate Brazil on their own turf at the tournament’s semi-final stage.

Incredibly, the visitors led 5-0 at half-time, including four goals scored in seven mesmerising minutes. Although the Brazilians were able to stem the tide somewhat in the second period, it remains one of the most odds-shattering results in World Cup history. This was a particularly shocking result as Brazil are international football’s most successful team.

2002 – Senegal 1 France 0

Holders France headed into the 2002 tournament, held in Japan and South Korea, well-fancied to challenge for the trophy again. They’d also won the European Championship two years earlier and were expected to breeze past Senegal in their first game of the campaign.

The African nation had other ideas and produced a heroic performance to record one of the greatest wins in their history. The goal came from Papa Bouba Diop and, though France searched desperately for an equalizer, Senegal were able to stand firm.

1990 – Cameroon 1 Argentina 0

The final game on our list also features an African nation beating the reigning champions, and the score line, once again, was 1-0. The man to find the back of the net for the underdogs was Francois Omam-Biyik and the result left the South American side in turmoil.

Perhaps even more surprising is that Cameroon managed the upset with fewer players, having seen two men sent off over the course of the 90 minutes. However, despite the setback, Argentina would recover to reach the Final, where they were beaten by West Germany.

In each of these matches, the odds have been turned on their head, either in terms of the winning team’s identity or the margin of victory. While shocks are never easy to predict, these matches will perhaps provide a little inspiration to punters as we prepare for a new season and look ahead to 2022’s World Cup.

After all, where’s the fun in just betting on the favourite?