As the British women’s football team pulled off a shock 1-0 victory over Brazil at Wembley on Tuesday, the writer can’t help but turn back the clock to some really great football matches in the past, where ‘David prevailed over Goliath!’
The matches that first come to mind are Senegal beating former colonial rulers France in the 2002 World cup opener and of course, the United States beating England in the 1950 World Cup.
1. Senegal beat France 1-0 (2002 World Cup) : Starting with the former first, as France were to play Senegal in their cup opener, the end result was already a foregone conclusion – a victory for France. But Papa Bouba Dioup and co. had other plans, as Dioup scored past Fabian Barthez at the half hour mark, to send a ‘Zidane-less’ France to a shock defeat. The defeat scuppered Frances’ chances of qualifying for the knockout phases (inspid performances against Uruguay and Denmark ensured that the French went home early) and turned Dioup and the Senegelese team into overnight stars (Senegal went on to reach the Quarters where they lost to a strong Turkish side).
2. USA beat England 1-0 (1950 World Cup) : USA have never won a Football World Cup. Forget winning the World Cup, half of America didn’t even know that a sport called as ‘Soccer’ even existed (though now times have changed and the USA play ‘Soccer’ along with their regular doses of NFL and NBA!) England, with the legendary Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney in their ranks, would have laughed their socks off at the mention of even a goal conceeded, let alone an upset, to the Americans, who consisted of ‘part-time’ players in their ranks (dishwashers and school teachers included!) But the unthinkable happened as the Americans put up a valiant show and won thanks to a 38th minute Joe Gaetjens goal. But after this historic result, the USA next played in the World Cup after 40 long years (1990), whereas England exited the 1950 tournament early after the shocker.
3. North Korea beat Italy 1-0 (1966 World Cup) : Italy has been struck by the ‘Korean jinx’, not once but twice in World Cup Football. In 1966, Italy were to face the ‘unknown’ North Korean side in their Group fixture, and were expected to thrash them by a dozen goals. But the dimunitive Koreans ran rings around the much fancied Italian side and pulled off the biggest win their country’s sporting history, as Pak Doo-ik scored the winner to send the Koreans through to the next round and Italy crashing out of the tournament.
4. South Korea beat Italy 2-1 (2002 World Cup) : Circa 2002, Italy were to face the other Korea, South Korea in their last-16 fixture at Daejeon. Trailing to an early Christian Vieri goal, the Koreans launched an astonishing comeback, and equalised through a last gasp goal from Seol Ki-Hyeon. From then on, it was Korea all the way, as Francesco Totti was sent off in extra time for the Italians and Ahn Jung Hwan scored the ‘Golden Goal’ to send the entire nation in raptures. After beating Italy, Korea beat another heavyweight Spain in the Quarter Finals, before losing to Germany in the SemiFinals.
The other memorable upsets include Greeces’ Euro 2004 miracle victory over Portugal and a Roger Milla inspired Cameroon beating Argentina in the 1990 World Cup, but the writer feels the above mentioned matches surely deserve good mention.