10 Greatest World Cup Underdog Stories

Will we see any underdogs going the distance this summer?

Senegal's Papa Bouba Diop celebrates scoring against France
Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

Part of the fun of any big sporting event is rooting for the underdog. We all know who the big teams and the favourites are, but it can be so satisfying to see an overlooked or underestimated side come out of nowhere and surprise everyone.

Going into this summer’s World Cup, everyone knows that a team like Brazil or Germany or Spain is probably going to walk away with the trophy, but many fans are eager to see if any of the underdog teams like Iceland, Egypt, Peru, or Panama could spring some surprises along the way.

Nobody wants to watch games where the favourites win every single time. There’s something intangibly exciting about seeing a low-rated team beat the odds and enjoy a fairy tale run, especially in a competition like the World Cup.

Football fans have seen plenty of great underdog stories over the years. Many teams went into past tournaments as total minnows, with fans and analysts alike doubting they’d pick up a single point, but those teams showed a lot of heart and a lot of talent to shock the world and carve their names into World Cup history.

10. New Zealand (2010)

New Zealand didn't even get out of the group stage in 2010, but they still had a hugely successful World Cup for such a small nation. The All Whites were making only their second ever appearance at a World Cup and had no well-known players to speak of, apart from Blackburn defender Ryan Nelsen.

The team found themselves in a tricky group containing Italy, Paraguay, and Slovakia. They weren't expected to win a single game, and they didn't, but they didn't lose a single game either! In fact, they were the only team at the tournament to go undefeated. Even the winners, Spain, lost their first match to Switzerland.

In their opening group game against Slovakia, New Zealand defended well but were losing 1-0 until the very last minute when Winston Reid scored to tie up the game. Against Italy, New Zealand opened the scoring early through Shane Smeltz. They were pegged back, but held out for a 1-1 result. The final game against Paraguay ended 0-0, with New Zealand finishing in third spot of their group, just 1 point behind Slovakia and 1 point ahead of the 2006 World Champions, Italy. After the tournament, the team released a DVD called 'Undefeated'. Seriously!


Mike Pedley hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.