Saudi Arabia Win is Statistically the Biggest World Cup Shock Ever – Nielsen’s Gracenote

The win unseats the previously top-ranked shock from 1950 when the USA defeated England 1-0.

Image: Rhett Lewis (History of Soccer)

While the football world stood in awe watching Saudi Arabia’s upset win against Argentina at this year’s world cup, according to data released from Nielsen-owned sports data group Gracenote, the 2-1 victory is actually the biggest World Cup shock in history.

According to Gracenote which uses a proprietary football ranking system to identify the most shocking upsets over the course of the World Cup’s 92 years, Saudia Arabia’s win now sits atop the rankings.

Prior to World Cup 2022, the most surprising World Cup win ever according to Gracenote was the USA’s victory over England in 1950 with a 9.5% chance of victory for the US team but Saudi Arabia’s chance of victory today was estimated at 8.7% s


Gracenote has released a ranking of the greatest wins along with their summary of each of the matches.

Top 10 most shocking wins at World Cup

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

“Despite Argentina taking the lead and dominating the match, they were shocked by two Saudi Arabia goals in five minutes just after half-time. First Alsehri scored with a great finish after a through ball from midfield had put him in. Then Aldawsari gave Argentina the lead with a fantastic curling effort from just inside the box. Well over 45 minutes was played after the second Saudi Arabia goal but Argentina were unable to find a response and the greatest ever World Cup shock was a fact.”

2. USA 1-0 England (9.5% chance) World Cup 1950


“England was the favorite to win the 1950 World Cup in Brazil while the American team was a semi-professional squad with low expectations. Despite England’s dominance of the match, particularly in the first half, Joey Gaetjens’ header in the 38th minute won the game for the United States. It would be another 44 years before the US would win another match at the World Cup.”

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

“Like England 60 years earlier, Spain was the favorite to win the 2010 World Cup. Opponent Switzerland had beaten only South Korea and Togo at the World Cup since 1954. Spain had 22 shots to Switzerland’s six but a Gelson Fernandes goal in the 52nd minute clinched the upset for the Swiss. Unlike England in 1950 however, Spain managed to recover from the defeat and would go on to lift the FIFA World Cup trophy three weeks later.”

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

“Algeria’s first ever World Cup match delivered the team’s finest result to date. Lakhdar Belloumi provided the assist for his team’s first goal and scored the game winner against West Germany, one of the tournament favorites. Algeria failed to progress from the group despite this strong start though. Austria and West Germany would play out the result which put them both through to the next phase. West Germany would eventually reach the final that year but lose 3-1 to Italy.”

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

“After reaching the 2004 European Championship final and negotiating a relatively tough qualification for World Cup 2006, the Czech team was regarded as a dark horse at the 2006 World Cup. Ghana was making its World Cup debut and had already lost to Italy in a tough group. In this match though, the Ghanaians took the lead after only 70 seconds and went on to comfortably beat the Czechs, pulling off the fourth least likely result in World Cup history. Ghana qualified for the knockout phase where the team lost 3-0 to Brazil in the last 16.”

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

“While this match was part of a final group phase, it was effectively the World Cup final as the winner was guaranteed to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy. In fact, Brazil only needed to avoid defeat to be proclaimed as the world champion on home turf in this final match of the tournament. With 25 minutes remaining, Brazil looked set to do just that but Uruguay scored twice in 13 minutes to silence the audience of nearly 200,000. This result would haunt the country for more than 60 years, only to be replaced by another trauma from Brazil’s 7-1 home defeat by Germany eight years ago.”

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

“Despite losing to Mexico earlier in the tournament, a win for Germany against South Korea was enough to put the German team through to the knockout phase. South Korea had a slim chance of qualification but needed to win by two goals and hope that Mexico would prevail over Sweden. South Korea had previously beaten only Togo and Greece at a World Cup played outside of the team’s own country. The match was heading for a 0-0 draw when Kim Young-gwon scored four minutes into injury time. Two minutes later Son Heung-min scored the second but South Korea was still eliminated as Mexico had lost to Sweden. Germany failed to progress from the group phase for the first time since 1938.”

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

“Hungary was not the team from four years earlier when West Germany shocked the world by beating the “magnificent Magyars” in the 1954 World Cup final. However, Hungary was still regarded as one of the best teams in the world and was expected to successfully negotiate the group phase. After drawing 1-1 with Wales earlier, this was a play-off to decide which of the two teams progressed to the knockout stages. The Hungarian team took the lead in the 33rd minute when Tichy finished. Ten minutes after half-time, Ivor Allchurch volleyed in the equalizer before Terry Medwin scored the winner from a counter-attack with 14 minutes remaining.”

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

“Host nation Spain needed a draw to finish top of the group and progress to the easier second phase group containing France and Austria. Spain dominated possession in the match but had little penetration. Early in the second half, Northern Ireland striker Gerry Armstrong intercepted a misplaced Spanish pass on the right of his own half. Armstrong went on a long dribble and passed the ball to Billy Hamilton wide on the right who beat his man and whipped in a cross. Spanish goalkeeper Arconada misjudged the cross and palmed it straight to Armstrong who fired it into the almost empty net. Northern Ireland went through to the next stage along with Spain but neither progressed any further.’

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

“France was the reigning World and European champion whereas Senegal was making its debut in the competition. Many of Senegal’s players had come through youth systems in France and 21 of the team’s 23-man squad played for French clubs. Despite the fixture being the opening match of the World Cup, Senegal was not overawed by the occasion. The African team scored the only goal of the match when El-Hadji Diouf went on a run on the left wing and played a perfect low cross to Papa Bouba Diop to slide in the 30th minute. France eventually finished bottom of the group but Senegal progressed to the quarter-finals, still the equal best World Cup performance by an African country.”

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