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Ranking the U.S. Upset of Spain

  • Reuters, Thursday, June 25, 2009 2:30 PM
"We all know about the U.S. beating England back in the World Cup in 1950 but this result, in the semifinals of a major FIFA competition watched by millions around the world, has to rank right up there among the greatest upsets of all time," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard told reporters. "On Sunday we thought we were going home, now we are heading into the final. No one gave us a chance on Sunday, no one thought we could turn it around, but you have to believe."

FIFA's own website posed the question: "Is this the greatest upset ever in a FIFA competition?" It left the answer open, but the result ranks alongside North Korea's 1-0 win over Italy in the 1966 World Cup finals, Cameroon's 1-0 win over defending world champions Argentina in the opening match of the 1990 World Cup and Senegal's 1-0 victory over defending world champions France in the 2002 World Cup finals. Two successive World Cup finals also produced huge shocks. In 1950 Brazil was odds-on favorites to beat Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro to become world champion for the first time but lost, 2-1. Four years later Hungary's "Magic Magyars," who had not lost for more than four years, met West Germany in the final, a few weeks after beating it 8-3 in the group stage. Hungary, one of the greatest teams ever assembled in world soccer, led 2-0 early in the game but ended up being beaten 3-2.

This is not the first time Spain has been the victims of a major upset. It lost 3-2 to Nigeria in the 1998 World Cup in Nantes after Nigeria scored two late goals. The USA upset surpasses that one in magnitude, however, as Spain is currently No. 1 in FIFA's world rankings, had been unbeaten for nearly three years and 35 matches and had won 15 games in a row. The USA, meanwhile, wants to prove that the upset wasn't exactly a fluke. "It might not be the last upset here either," Howard said. "If we can beat the world-ranked No. 1 side, what can we do against Brazil or South Africa?"

 

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