The 2022 FIFA World Cup has been an enthralling journey on the football pitch, thanks to an unpredictable environment that has left favorites in peril, while underdogs sport renewed belief and desire.
Nations without deep football history are causing upsets in Qatar, from the likes of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Japan, Ecuador, Cameroon, Tunisia, Croatia and others all achieving surprise results. They’ve been responsible for the early departures of perennial powers such as Brazil, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and others throughout the World Cup field.
Each new upset victory empowers the next underdog to achieve a result. Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu said his team’s victory over Spain was a “historic victory” which elevated his team to a “global standard,” while Morocco head coach Walid Regragui compared his semifinal participants to famous movie character Rocky Balboa.
Thanks to BetMGM, who provided Sporting News with data from across the tournament, we have a look at how underdogs have performed overall at the 2022 World Cup.
MORE: Biggest World Cup upsets across the history of the FIFA tournament
How have underdogs done at the 2022 World Cup?
At the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, underdogs have been sensational.
From the start of the group stage through the quarterfinals, 24 of 60 matches have featured upset results, with underdogs (determined by those with higher odds) earning either a draw or win. Exactly half of those have been victories for the underdog, while the other 12 resulted in draws.
The tournament has also featured a number of historic milestones. For the first time in World Cup history, three Asian teams reached the knockout stage, while Morocco became the first African country to reach the semifinal of a FIFA World Cup.
Additionally, Croatia, the smallest country in the World Cup field by population, has reached the semifinal of a World Cup for consecutive years, and an upset over Argentina would see them into a second straight final.
Morocco head coach Walid Regragui, who becomes the first African to coach in a World Cup semifinal, said after beating Portugal, “We are now becoming the team that everyone loves in this World Cup because we are showing that even if you don’t have as much talent and money then you can succeed.
“We have made our people and our continent so happy and proud. When you watch Rocky, you want to support Rocky Balboa and I think we are the Rocky of this World Cup. I think now the world is with Morocco.”
Draw to Croatia 🤝
Beat Belgium ✅
Beat Canada ✅
Beat Spain ✅
Beat Portugal ✅
Are Morocco having the best underdog run in World Cup history? pic.twitter.com/uwJzDRBdWE
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 11, 2022
What is the biggest upset at the 2022 World Cup?
The biggest underdog to achieve a result at the World Cup was Saudi Arabia, who entered their opening group stage match against Argentina as +1800 (18/1) underdogs but emerged with a 2-1 victory.
In fact, the victory is considered the biggest upset in World Cup history, according to BetMGM based on the pre-match odds, although sports betting does not exactly have the deepest history to pull from.
This will go down as the biggest upset in World Cup history. Saudi Arabia were +1800 to win the game before it started! #ARGKSA
— BetMGM 🦁 (@BetMGM) November 22, 2022
The next biggest result was Cameroon’s 1-0 win over Brazil to conclude group stage play, with the African nation downing the betting favorites despite entering as +1050 (21/2) underdogs. That victory for Cameroon surely won’t be diminished, although there is the understanding that it came against a “B team” for Brazil, with the South Americans having already qualified for the knockout stage by that point, causing head coach Tite to rotate nearly the entire starting lineup.
Japan took down two European powers in Spain and Germany through the group stage. The Samurai Blue sported +750 (15/2) odds against Germany to start Group E play, and were handed similarly inflated +775 (31/4) odds against Spain in the group finale.
In the knockout stage, there have been four upsets, with two coming at the hands of Morocco, against Iberian opponents. They achieved a draw with Spain in the Round of 16 as +550 (11/2) underdogs, ultimately knocking out the European side on penalties. The African nation then stunned Portugal in the quarterfinals as +450 (9/2) underdogs by a 1-0 score behind Youssef En-Nesyri’s goal.
Croatia’s quarterfinal draw with Brazil is also considered an upset result, with the two finishing scoreless after regulation. Later that same day, the Netherlands produced an upset by drawing level with Argentina, although the Dutch would end up falling in the subsequent penalty shootout.