Saudi Arabia's Victory Over Argentina is World Cup's Hugest Shock in History
Saudi Arabia's Victory Over Argentina is World Cup's Hugest Shock in History. Photo: FIFA

Statistically – and for many Lionel Messi fans, emotionally – Saudi Arabia’s win today over Argentina in Qatar is the most unexpected and biggest World Cup shock ever. Data company Nielsen Gracenot has rated Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 victory in Al Rayyan, Qatar, as statistically the biggest shock in World Cup history since the United States beat England in 1950.

Using its proprietary ranking system and a complex formula that factors in team strength, location and history, Gracenote said that 51st-ranked Saudi’s chance of beating an Argentine side which has been on a winning streak, unbeaten in 36 internationals was 8.7%.

In fact, Argentina had entered their Group C opening match hoping – and probably expecting – to win it and match the international record for unbeaten games, which is 37. Things had looked promising for Argentina with Messi’s penalty in the tenth minute, putting Argentina ahead, but it didn’t last long before their streak was ended in stunning fashion at the 2022 World Cup.

Bloomberg noted: “Itโ€™s a deflating start to Messiโ€™s quest to win the one major title that has eluded him.”


Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al Owais was crowned Player of the Match, after he pulled off FIVE saves against the South American team.

Praise for the surprise win has also been heaped on the Saudi Arabian team’s legendary French coach, Herve Renard, who coached Zambia to win the 2012 Africa Cup of Nation and the Ivory Coast to win the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Some of the more famous upsets in history, such as North Korea beating Italy in 1966 and Cameroon beating then-holders Argentina in the opening match of 1990 did not make Gracenote’s top 10 – with both outsiders being better sides than widely considered.

Both of those went on to reach the quarter-finals as an indicator that they were better teams than thought at the time.

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