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Argentina landed its first World Cup success since 1986 with a penalty shoot-out victory over France in a pulsating 2022 FIFA World Cup final. It was a final involving some of the world’s best players, including Argentine icon, Lionel Messi, and French sensation, Kylian Mbappe.

Fortunately for Messi and Argentina, the script was in their favour. Messi landed his first World Cup triumph in his final World Cup appearance. However, it’s a far cry from their opening group game encounter. It all started so badly for Argentina in this year’s competition, when they suffered one of the biggest bad beats in the tournament’s history.

A bad beat is also one of the most common phrases to describe an underdog winning at the poker tables. A bad beat sees a player that is heavily favoured to win a hand go on to lose it by a cruel twist of fate. It usually happens when the underdog catches the one remaining card in the deck available to win the hand. Bad beats occur in all kinds of sports, especially football, and they aren’t immune from happening on the biggest stage of all – the FIFA World Cup.
Below, we explore five of the biggest headline-grabbing bad beats in the history of the competition.

Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia (2022)

Let’s begin by talking about the most recent bad beat, Argentina’s group stage loss to Saudi Arabia. Argentina and talisman Lionel Messi went into their opening Group C clash with their Middle Eastern opponents ranked outside the top 50 of FIFA’s world rankings. Everything looked to be going to the script when Messi scored a tenth-minute penalty kick to break the deadlock. However, the Argentines squandered multiple chances to double their lead before the half time interval.

They were made to pay for this as the Saudis continued to press high in the second period in search of a way back into the contest. A crazy five-minute period saw Saudi Arabia strike twice to take a shock lead. The Saudis defended doggedly in the closing stages to see out a statement win, giving Argentina an uphill struggle to qualify for the knockout stages, which we now know they managed with ease.

USA 1-0 England (1950)

One of the biggest World Cup shocks of all time came in 1950 when the relatively unknown Americans managed to snatch an unlikely 1-0 victory over England. This was an English team containing some of the iconic names of English football, including Billy Wright, Tom Finney and Stan Mortensen.

On the contrary, the US team consisted of several semi-professionals. The Daily Express described the final score as the “lowest ever [result] for British sport”. Many newspaper editors were so stunned by the scoreline that they believed the 1-0 result was a typo and should have been 10-0 to England.

Argentina 0-1 Cameroon (1990)

The Italia 90 World Cup was one of the most romantic and extraordinary in living memory. It was a World Cup oozing with headlines for the media and it all started with the Argentines once again. Argentina locked horns with Cameroon in their opening group stage game. Having suffered internal disarray that almost culminated in the manager’s exit, the Cameroonians were not expected to pull up any trees.
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Despite the disastrous preparation for Italia 90, Cameroon somehow pulled out a narrow win over the Argentines. A relatively tame header from Francois Omam-Biyik found its way beyond Nery Pumpido and the rest is history.

Italy 0-1 North Korea (1966)

The 1966 World Cup rolled into England with significant fanfare and a weight of expectation. England would eventually win the Jules Rimet trophy on home soil, but not before some staggering results in the tournament along the way. None more so than North Korea’s humbling of Italy.

Italy had already suffered one disappointing loss at the hands of the USSR. They went into the contest with North Korea needing the victory to qualify. However, Pak Doo-ik’s first half strike was enough to dump the underwhelming Italians out.

Senegal 1-0 France (2002)

The French went into the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea as defending world champions. Their team consisted of world-class players throughout its spine. However, they were without the injured Zinedine Zidane for their first group stage game with Senegal in 2002. The Senegalese side consisted largely of players that had competed in their own Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 divisions.

France succumbed to a scruffy Papa Bouba Diop goal as the hard-working Senegalese rattled the French cage. France were off the boil to such an extent that they would eventually bow out at the group stage without even scoring a single goal.