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The Biggest Upsets In The History Of Soccer

This has been the year of the underdog in soccer. From Leicester City in the Premier League to Wales and Iceland in Euro 2016, upsets have come to the fore. 

Soccer is the most democratic sport in the world. Once the players enter the pitch, there’s little the coach can do to upset the proceedings. The nature of the game lends itself to unpredictability — 90 minutes of continuous action where a single mistake or moment of genius can decide the game’s outcome. 

This is what makes the sport beautiful, what makes it worth watching. Regardless of the matchup or the current scoreline, there’s always a chance for a dramatic shift in the narrative.


The Biggest Upsets In Soccer 

#1: Greece 1 — 0 Portugal | UEFA Euro 2004 Final

Biggest upsets in soccer

Charisteas! Photo: @footballscrolls | Twitter

Going into UEFA Euro 2004, Greece were 150/1 outsiders to win the competition. Ultimately, their triumph would go down as one of the most unlikely major tournament victories of all time. 

Victories over Portugal in the group stage, France in the quarterfinals and the Czech Republic in the semifinals brought them face to face with the tournament hosts, Portugal, once again.

A 57th minute header from Greece’s Angelos Charisteas settled the game in favor of the Greeks. 

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel famously said, “ speaks for itself. It is amazing how football has managed to unite all Greeks, something that politics is unable to do.”

One Burmese bettor in Surrey, England, netted $607,000 by riding Greece throughout the tournament. 

#2: Leicester City 3 — 1 Manchester City | 2015-16 Premier League

Leicester City began the season as 5000/1 underdogs to capture the Premier League title. Leicester were officially confirmed champions on May 2nd, 2016, but the dream really became a reality on February 6th, 2016.

With 14 matches still to play, everyone suspected an eventual collapse from the Foxes. When they came up against City, twice champions in the last four years, and their expensively assembled squad of world-class players, many predicted that the time had come.

However, a brace from Robert Huth and one from Riyad Mahrez, put Leicester ahead 3-0 in the opening hour. A consolation 87th minute strike from City’s Sergio Aguero did little to stop Leicester celebrations.

#3: North Korea 1 — 0 Italy | 1966 FIFA World Cup group stage

Biggest upsets in soccer

"Great job! Your reward is to serve in the army." Photo: @Theleaguemag | Twitter

With Italy only needing a point to advance to the quarterfinals, they were probably guilty of underestimating their final group opponents, North Korea.

Not that they could’ve studied their opponents if they wanted to. Pak Doo-ik scored the winner in the 42nd minute. 

On returning to Pyongyang, Pak was promoted from corporal in the North Korean army to sergeant. No one knows how to reward their people quite like North Korea!

On returning to Italy, the Italian squad was met with a barrage of objects, fruits and vegetables.  

#4: USA 1 — England 0 | 1950 FIFA World Cup group stage

Biggest upsets in soccer

Let's all laugh at England! Photo: @CraigBirch_Star | Twitter

One June 29, 1950, the United States of America recorded one of the biggest shocks to ever take place at a FIFA World Cup.

The American team, consisting of semi-professional players, took on England, the great creators and purveyors of the world game. England’s team contained the likes of Alf Ramsey, Tom Finney and Billy Wright.

USA coach Bill Jeffrey told the press “we have no chance” and declared his players like “sheep ready to be slaughtered.” 

However, a 38th minute goal from Joe Gaetjens, who had been added to the roster just before the game, and fantastic play from goalkeeper Frank Borghi and forward John Souza saw the USA triumph 1-0.

Supposedly, English newspapers presumed the 1-0 scoreline that came through the wires was a typing error and reported that England had won 10-0 or 10-1.

#5: Denmark 2 — Germany 0 | UEFA Euro 1992 Final

Denmark only qualified for Euro 1992 by technicality — Yugoslavia had been disqualified as a result of the breakup of the country. That’s how favored Denmark were going into the tournament. 

Denmark shockingly advanced to the semifinals – the tournament field was only eight teams – after defeating France 2-1 in their final group game. 

In the semis they met tournament favorites the Netherlands. They defeated their golden generation and went on to play Germany in the final. Massively unfavored, Denmark won the match 2-0 through goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort. 

Follow me on Twitter: @ConmanFleming

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