Thu 06 October 2022 | 16:30

Best underdog teams in the history of FIFA World Cup

There is nothing more appealing than watching a team from well down the global pecking order defying the expectations and making history at a major tournament. Keep reading to find out more about the best underdog winners in the history of the FIFA World Cup.

The FIFA World Cup is the most lucrative and prestigious tournament in the world of football all around the globe that happens every 4 years in which 32 nations we'll select their most elite players to represent their country in the World Cup.

Ever since its first campaign in 1930, the FIFA World Cup has been making fans incredible memories. Genuinely, the trophy has been handed to known teams like Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, and France.

Nevertheless, the tournaments never cease to surprise football fans with less known countries that gather around a team that makes every football fan love them.

Today we are going to name six of these so-called

underdog teams

that at the beginning of each tournament we're less likely to perform well but during the tournament, they surprised everyone with their amazing performances.

Greatest Underdog Stories in World Football History:

The FIFA World Cup has seen many of these underdog teams so far and ahead of Qatar 2022, we put the spotlight on some of them.

Czechoslovakia – 1962

The first

underdog team in the FIFA World Cup

is Czechoslovakia. Before the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992, which separated the country into two different parts, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Czechoslovakia team managed to reach the final of the World Cup in two different campaigns; one in 1934 and another one in 1962.

The 1962 World Cup started with 16 teams divided into four groups and Czechoslovakia what spotted in group 3 along with the defending champions Brazil, Mexico, and Spain.

The first sign of Czechoslovakia being a strong team came out in their second group match when they managed to stop mighty Brazil at 0-0 after the 90-minute.

Thanks to this tie result, they managed to qualify for The Knockout stage even after their defeat against Mexico in the third match of the group stage.

The team's most recognized player at the time was probably their goalkeeper, Villiam Schrojf, and their striker, Adolf Scherer. Schrojf managed to give a fantastic performance in the quarterfinals against hungry, which at the time had some of the most talented strikers in the world.

Their speedy players, as well as the Czechoslovakian unique style of defense, helped the team to win with the smallest margin, 1-0, and qualify for the semi-finals.

There, they faced Yugoslavia. The first half was rather boring with teams trying to have as much possession as possible and reach the opponent's third half. The second half, however, was a whole nother game.

Czechoslovakia scored early in the second half but Yugoslavia managed to tie the game in the 70 minutes and while both teams seemed to be level, it was Adolf Sheeran that is scored two goals after the 80th minute to secure Czechoslovakia's spot in the final match.

On June 17th, 1962 Brazil and Czechoslovakia faced together in Santiago stadium in Chile to play the 1962 FIFA World Cup final match. It was their second meet in the same tournament and Brazil, having not won the first one was there to take revenge, even though they lost their best player, Pele, to injury.

Czechoslovakia opened the game with an early goal in the 15th minute but it was the wrath of Brazil that came with it. Even though the Czechoslovakians fought hard, they lost the game 3-1 and Brazil was crowned the world champion once again.

Poland – 1982

Another

underdog team in the history of the FIFA World Cup

is Poland. The 1982 FIFA World Cup was held in Spain including 24 teams from six confederations in 17 menus. Poland, which was in its “golden era”, was drawn into Group 1 with Italy, Cameroon, and Peru.

The first two games were consecutive 0–0 draws with Italy and Cameroon, but the final group game of the first round ended in a 5–1 win for Poland, meaning they would advance to the second round as group winners with 4 points.

In the second group stage, they were fortunate enough to avoid facing powerful teams like West Germany, Brazil, or Italy as they faced the Soviet Union and Belgium in Group A.

In the first game of the second round, Poland beat Belgium 3–0 with a hat-trick from Boniek securing a classic performance in the match.

Poland find the game with the Soviet Union which meant that both of the teams had three points by the end of their second game but thanks to a better goal difference, Poland was able to go through the semi-finals, where they had some meat Italy once again.

Despite their draw in the first game of the tournament, in the semi-finals, Italy was able to beat Poland 2-0 at Camp Nou in front of 50,000 attendance. Regarding their amazing performance throughout the tournament, they were applauded by the audience after the game.

After losing the semi-final game they had to play the third-place match against France, who are beaten after the penalties to West Germany. Poland was able to pull off another miracle and beat France 3-2 to complete their Majestic tournament.

Sweden – 1994

Sweden was also among the best

underdog teams in the history of the FIFA World Cup

. They entered the tournament as one of the least powerful teams in Europe but as the tournament went forward, their opponent's fear as well as the fans' enthusiasm to watch Sweden play, both increased. Sweden was placed in Group B with Brazil, Cameroon, and Russia.

They tied their first match against Sweden, thanks to a late goal from Martin Dahlin. In the next game against Russia in Detroit, Russia was handed an early penalty and made it 1–0.

Sweden managed to come back, with a penalty goal from Tomas Brolin and two goals from Martin Dahlin, with the result being 3–1. Surprisingly, they were able to stop the most powerful team in the tournament and the eventual Champions, Brazil in the last group stage match.

Luckily for Sweden, they had to face another surprising qualification, Saudi Arabia. Sweden won 3–1 after two goals from Kennet Andersson and one from Martin Dahlin.

Sweden, then, had to face Romania which somehow managed to eliminate Argentina 3-2, in the quarterfinals. It was a game to remember for all Sweden football fans.

After Sweden had scored late in the second half, Romania managed to equalize in the dying minutes of the match, sending it into extra time. Romania's Florin Răducioiu, who scored the first goal for Romania, scored his second of the day to take Romania ahead in the 101st minute.

But with five minutes left, Kennet Andersson scored with a header to make it level at 2–2. The penalty shoot-out began with a miss from Håkan Mild of Sweden, but Thomas Ravelli managed to save two penalties from Daniel Prodan and Miodrag Belodedici, giving Sweden the win and making himself a hero. Sweden advanced to the semi-finals, where they were to face Brazil in Los Angeles.

They faced Brazil once again in the semi-finals but this time Brazil did not let them slide and one with a late gold from Romario after a Sweden player was sent off.

After the game, the fans quoted that Sweden lost the game but won their hearts. Sweden completed their Incredible Journey with a 4-0 win against Bulgaria which place Sweden in third place in the tournament.

Turkey – 2002

Probably the most surprising team on the list of the best

underdog teams in the history of the FIFA World Cup

is Turkey. The majority of the team were players in their 30s and none of them were playing for any known European Club that's what they did in the 2002 World Cup was something beyond impossible.

The Turkish team started the 2002 World Cup with a 2–1 defeat while seeing two of their players sent off, against eventual winners Brazil.

After a tie in the second game against Costa Rica, everyone thought that this would be the end of the line for them in the tournament but a 3-0 win against Chine in their last game in the group stage, with the help of Brazil’s big win against Costa Rica, saw the Turks in the knockout stage as the second team in Group C, before Costa Rica only due to better goal difference.

Turkey then faced one of the host teams Japan in the second round, winning 1–0, thanks to Ümit Davala’s early goal in the 12th minute. The Turkish team continued their astonishing run, as they beat Senegal 1–0 on a golden goal to book their place in the semi-finals. İlhan Mansız scored only 4 minutes into the extra time and secured the win.

A 1–0 defeat against eventual tournament winners Brazil in the semi-final match forced them to play the third-place match, and a bronze medal was won after a 3–2 victory over the other co-hosts, South Korea.

Uruguay – 2010

Uruguay was among the greatest underdog teams in the history of the FIFA World Cup. They were one of the biggest names in the World Cup in the first years of the tournament, winning it two times in 1930 and 1950.

After that, however, Uruguay went into a drought of not even going past the round of 16 for more than 30 years, from 1974 to 2006.

Considering they did not even qualify for the World Cup in 2006, in 2010, a new generation of footballers, led by

Luis Suárez

, Diego Forlán, and

Edinson Cavani

, formed a team considered to be Uruguay's best in the last four decades, catching international attention as one the underdog teams in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Uruguay opened the tournament with a goalless draw against France, followed by defeats of the host team, South Africa, 3–0, and Mexico 1–0, respectively. They ended their group stage, finishing at the top of their group with seven points, in front of Mexico.

The two teams were previously considered to be eliminated due to the presence of France as the strongest team and South Africa as the host team.

In the second round, they played South Korea, defeating them 2–1 with star striker Luis Suárez scoring a brace and earning Uruguay a spot in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1970. Their next game was against another underdog team, Ghana, and what a game it was for football fans.

The match finished 1–1, forcing the game into extra time. Both sides had their chances at the extra time but Suárez blocked the ball with his hand in the penalty area, earning Suárez a red card and earning Uruguay universal scorn.

Ghana striker

Asamoah Gyan

missed the subsequent penalty, forcing the game to go into penalties where Uruguay would win 4–2, sending them into the last four.

They played the Netherlands in the semi-finals but were beaten 3–2. For the third-place match, they played Germany, again losing 3–2. This placed Uruguay in fourth place for the tournament, their best result in 40 years. Diego Forlan was awarded the Player of The Tournament.

Croatia – 2018

Croatia was one of the most prominent underdog teams in the history of the FIFA World Cup. They hardly made it to the World Cup second pot after having the tiniest of advantages against Denmark.

Although Croatia was never considered to be a threat before the tournament, their group match performances changed everyone's perspective on the team.

Croatia started their World Cup campaign with a 2–0 victory over Nigeria, following it with another 3–0 victory over the previous finalist, Argentina.

Croatia then defeated Iceland to top the group, marking their best-ever performance in the group stages of the World Cup (3 wins in 3 matches, scoring 7 goals, and conceding only one goal).

They were one of the three teams that finished the group stage with the most possible points alongside Belgium and Uruguay.

Playing Denmark in the round of 16, Croatia prevailed in a penalty shoot-out after goalkeeper Danijel Subašić saved three penalties, equaling the record for most penalties saved in a match.

This was the team's first-ever successful penalty shoot-out. In the quarter-finals, Croatia drew 2–2 with hosts Russia and advanced after another penalty shoot-out. This made them the first team since 1990 to win two consecutive penalty shoot-outs at the World Cup.

Playing England in the semi-finals, Croatia equalized once more to force their third consecutive extra time, equaling another record for most extra time matches at the tournament.

Mario Mandžukić eventually scored as Croatia won 2–1 making them the second-smallest country by population to reach a World Cup final (after Uruguay in 1930).

After a heroic run, the Croatian team was beaten by France in the final match 4-2. Croatia’s performances, however, turned them to be one of the proudest losers in the history of World Cup finals and one of the greatest

underdog teams in football history

.

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