The Greatest Ever FIFA World Cup Comebacks

The FIFA World Cup in Qatar has already offered some incredible comebacks, such as Cameroon’s quick double against Serbia to pull back a 3-1 lead, and most shockingly Saudi Arabia’s second-half assault on Argentina to steal all of the points on matchday one.

Comebacks are not a rarity in World Cups, they have happened often in the past either ignited by complacency or huge momentum switches. They have come at the early stages and also in the latter stages where history and records have been made. But which were the greatest throughout the history of the tournament?

Portugal vs North Korea (1966 Quarter-Final)


In the year England won their first-ever World Cup on home territory, Portugal claimed the headlines earlier in the knockout stages led by the star player at the tournament Eusebio.  North Korea provided a shock simply in reaching the quarter-final stage as they surprisingly knocked out Italy in the round of 16.

Portugal found themselves two down in around 20 minutes of the game as the North Koreans played at a tempo even one of the most stunning Portugal sides ever could not match. Goals courtesy of Yang Sung-Kook and Li Dong-Woon meant that they went into the half-time break with a seemingly comfortable lead largely due to their fast attacking transitions that caught the Portugal defense high up the pitch.

Soon after the restart a third was added and a huge upset then seemed probable, but Eusebio is one of the greatest players to ever play the game and he had other ideas. Before the half hour mark, he pulled one back, and by the 59th minute, he had four goals and Portugal miraculously led. Jose Augusto added a fifth with 10 minutes to go, but in truth, the game was already over, the North Koreans could not fight back again after such a cruel collapse.

No player has since for Portugal made a similar level of impact on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo may be the greater player overall, but he has never produced that level of magic for his country.

However, Ronaldo’s Portugal was one of the favorites at this year’s tournament in Qatar to lift the World Cup trophy for the first time ever where they are offered at +1200 on

Some Ronaldo magic is reminiscent of Eusebio’s performances in 1966 will surely be needed if they are to beat huge nations such as Brazil and France, and would perhaps on the international level put his achievements above the great Eusebio in Portuguese hearts.

West Germany vs France (1982 Semi-Final)


The occasion in the last four of the World Cup of 1982 turned out to be a landmark event for many reasons. An incredible comeback was involved as well as the first-ever World Cup penalty shootout.

West Germany initially took the lead within the opening 20 minutes through Pierre Littbarski before a Michel Platini penalty canceled it out shortly after. The game remained incredibly tense and end-to-end football continued until extra time eventually arrived.

Within eight minutes of the first half of the extra half-hour, France found themselves 3-1 up as defender Marius Tresor scored an unorthodox volleyed effort from outside the box before playmaker Alain Giresse crafted a goal of his own to surely dump the West Germans out of the tie.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge responded within minutes and a rejuvenated side continued to put pressure on the French defense after the break they again reaped the rewards for their failure to accept defeat when Klaus Fischer brought them to level with one of the most spectacular goals ever seen at a World Cup, a hugely impressive bicycle kick – a type of finish he was renowned for during his career, as evidenced at fischer-turns-70-mr-bicycle-kick-still-knows-goal.

The World Cup’s first-ever penalty shootout tie-breaker was required as the two sides closed out the game conservatively, with both wary of the attacking qualities the other was capable of. Horst Hrubesch converted the winner for West Germany, and in doing so become the iconic bearer of the title of the first-ever player to score the winning goal in a World Cup shootout.

Belgium vs Japan (2018 Round of 16)


A much more recent tie which most could recall from memory was in the World Cup in Russia in 2018 when an underdog Japan side looked set to upset one of the tournament favorites Belgium, and dump them out in the last 16. Belgium was frustrated in the first half as they were unable to break Japan down.

In the second half, Japan came out of the blocks quickly and scored two goals following quick breakaway opportunities. Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui scored the goals and

superstars such as Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard faced the prospect of an embarrassing defeat.

In one of his greatest international performances, Kevin de Bruyne managed to lift his side and he began carrying them further and further up the pitch with his ability to break the lines via his passing range and his dribbling abilities.

Jan Vertonghen began Belgium’s fightback with just over 20 minutes to play, and within five minutes they were level, as de Bruyne’s willingness to sit deeper and dictate the play kept  Japan penned in their own defensive third and under constant pressure. Eden Hazard eventually found the head of Marouane Fellaini who made no mistake in drawing his nation level from close range.

Japan seemed to be able to settle for the closing stages and stalled Belgium’s momentum  before one final counter-attack chance remained for Belgium, of which de Bruyne led the  pack before laying the ball out wide to Thomas Meunier who squared for Nacer Chadli to complete the comeback and cruelly send the Asian side home from the World Cup as seen at

Kevin de Bruyne did not record a single-goal contribution in the tie but he was the beating heart of his team and he drove them to the tempo and rhythm required to fight their way back into the tie. It was one of the greatest performances ever by a player to not score or assist in a  World Cup game.

Overall there have been many dramatic comebacks in the World Cup, preventing upsets,  forcing penalty shootouts, and involving incredible individual performances, perhaps there could be more entertaining fightbacks in Qatar and beyond.