With Leicester City charging towards the Premier League title, it is surely only a matter of time before they pull off one of the greatest shocks in football history. But will it be the biggest? Who are the other football teams to have caused similar upsets in the past?
Greece shock the superpowers of Europe
On the international stage football upsets are even greater. With players under the limelight and huge pressure during international tournaments, every unexpected result is that much bigger.
It was Greece who caused shockwaves around Europe during 2004. Enormous underdogs before the tournament and lacking a player with any real star talent, the Greeks barely stood a chance. Through a series of work-man-like performances which ground out results, Greece found themselves playing hosts Portugal in the final. They had used tactical discipline, fanatical commitment and supreme fitness levels to get themselves there.
Despite having already beaten the hosts once, Greece were still at underwhelming odds to win the tournament. Coach Otto Rehhagel had the Greeks drilled to play a certain way and after scoring from their first corner of the game, they were able to contain the attacking talents of Luis Figo, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Uruguay win the World Cup in Brazil
In 1950 Brazil had the privilege of hosting their first World Cup and as a football mad nation were favourites to claim the title. The tournament had a different format at that time, which was a round-robin style, seeing every team play each other for points.
Uruguay were a fantastic team at the time and were one of the favourites to win. But Brazil had begun to play their trademark attacking football, full of flair and creativity. They demolished Spain 6-1, Sweden 7-1 and easily dispatched of Mexico with a 4-0 victory. The Brazilians had been on fire. The final game of the tournament saw Brazil only needing to take a point against their bitter rivals Uruguay. Going in at half-time 1-0 up and with 100,000 fans behind them, they looked home and dry. But the Uruguayans had other ideas. They staged a remarkable comeback beating Brazil 2-1 at the Maracanã and claimed their second World Cup.
Despite an early set back, Brazil have gone on to be the most successful nation at the World Cup winning the title five times, and having seen some of the greatest footballers to ever grace the planet when putting on the yellow shirt. The win was Uruguay’s second World Cup victory having already claimed the glory in 1930, although they have failed to win the tournament since. But the nation has gone on to be the most successful team in the Copa America.
Second division Sunderland are part of FA Cup magic
At 250-1 pre-tournament, Sunderland were just pleased to be a part of the FA Cup. No second division side had won the tournament for 42 years. But in 1973 that all changed.
The Black Cats, upset all the odds and caused one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history. It was a major achievement reaching the final itself and they were barely given a chance against an all-conquering Leeds side which boasted no-fewer than eleven internationals. However, it was Ian Portfield who claimed the winner, heading in a Dave Watson corner.
Sunderland had to be thankful for Jim Montgomery who was in-between the sticks at the time. He made a string of outstanding stops, which saw an incredible double save, first parrying away Trevor Cherry and then showing great athleticism to deny Peter Lorimer,tipping his shot onto the underside of the cross bar.
This incredible upset really set alight the magic of the FA Cup and just showed what the tournament is really all about. It is has been an inspiration for the so called ‘smaller teams’ that get thrown in at the third round.
Steaua Bucharest go for European glory
Despite Barcelona being the all dominating force of football that they currently are, it has not always been that way. In 1986 the Catalonians were aiming for their first major European honour and were big favourites to claim the title over Romanians Steaua Bucharest.
Barcelona had knocked out defending champions Juventus in the quarter finals and an upset looked improbable. With the talents of Francisco Carrasco, Barca thought they had already won it. But Steaua Bucharest thought very differently. The Romanians set up very defensively in Seville and looked to shut out Barcelona. Although not what some might consider ‘good football’ the tactic worked and the game was forced to penalties. Helmuth Duckadam was in goal for Bucharest and managed to keep out four of the Barcelona spot-kicks and was later dubbed ‘The Hero of Seville‘. Steaua Bucharest were champions of Europe.
One of Eastern Europe’s greatest triumphs in football. It is hard to see another team replicating something similar in the modern era.