Revisiting 5 of the biggest upsets in Euros history

It is the moment the plucky underdog prevails and, as has often been the case, when a major tournament ignites.

Jan Eriksson drew Sweden level before Tomas Brolin's late second sent them through as Group A winners. (Image Credit: Twitter)
By Arnab Mukherji | Jun 27, 2021 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

The Euros is considered one of the most popular football tournaments ever in the history of the game, with teams making their presence felt on the back of brilliant performances. Even the best can suffer a defeat and get knocked out due to the level of competition, which adds an edge to every contest. Mankind is constantly in search of inspiration and motivation at every stage, and there is no better booster than when David beats Goliath. The moment when the plucky underdog prevails over the stronger dominant force, is awaited by one and all adding an edge to the tournament. Here is a look at five such unfancied teams which went on to record a triumph in the history of the Euros, resulting in widespread praise and appreciation.

1) 1998 Group Stage: England 0-1 Republic of Ireland

Ireland were making their debut in the Euros, with England further recording their third appearance in the tournament. The former were spearheaded by Jack Charlton whose team had some heralded names in Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan, Kevin Sheedy, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge. However, England were expected to hold sway considering the presence of the likes of Bryan Robson, Peter Beardsley, Gary Lineker and John Barnes. Houghton helped the underdogs record a sixth-minute lead. They further managed to hold on till the final minute due to the heroics of goalkeeper Packie Bonner.

2) 1992 group stage: Sweden 2-1 England

The hosts had recorded a draw and a win, in comparison to two 0-0 stalemates for the latter. However, one certainly expected Graham Taylor’s side to switch gears against a team like Sweden. The same reflected on the pitch as well with David Platt putting them in front four minutes in. Sweden however surged ahead in front of their home fans, refusing to give up despite the pressure. Jan Eriksson helped them draw level before Tomas Brolin’s late second sent the Swedes through as Group A winners, further eliminating England.

3) 1992 final: Germany 0-2 Denmark

Denmark pulled off one of the greatest surprises in international football following their triumph in the 1992 edition of the Euros. The Danes defeated Germany by a 2-0 margin in the final of the tournament, following a stunning performance by legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. Goals in either half by John Jensen and Kim Vilfort helped the team emerge victorious following a strong start by the opposition.

“I think, beyond anything, it really sank in when we were in Copenhagen in the town hall for the celebrations with the rest of Denmark. That was unbelievable, truly unbelievable. At this point you’re thinking: ‘Christ, we actually did this, it’s not a dream.’ I don’t think we’d had many big results in the times before 1992. We’d had the odd one, but there wasn’t a mentality in sport that you could actually go out and say ‘we want to win this, this is our target’ because people would look at you,” said Schmeichel as quoted by UEFA’s official website.

4) 1996 group stage: Czech Republic 2-1 Italy

Czech Republic appeared to be facing an uphill struggle having been defeated by Germany in their group opener and up against the 1994 FIFA World Cup runners-up. While Pavel Nedved fired them ahead after five minutes, Enrico Chiesa soon equalised. The dismissal of Luigi Apollini just before the half-hour swung the balance back in the Czechs’ favour. Radek Bejbl helped restore the advantage with the team clinging on to a famous win.

5) 2016 round of 16: England 1-2 Iceland

Iceland pulled off one of the greatest results in their history, making a soaring comeback to defeat England in Nice and reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2016. The team went down early following a penalty by Wayne Rooney. The spot-kick awarded for Iceland keeper Hannes Halldorsson’s foul on Raheem Sterling who was returning back to action was exactly the start Roy Hodgson’s men craved. It was a fourth-minute goal pushing Iceland out of their relaxed state early. However, they made a fine turnaround following goals from centre-back Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. Sigurdsson scored only his second goal in 60 international matches, but it came when needed the most. The relief soon turned into extreme happiness as Gylfi Sigurdsson directed the ball towards Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, which soon found its way down to Sigthorsson.

The Nantes forward attempted to smash the ball from the edge of the box. While the shot was not the most vicious, it managed to make its way into goal under the outstretched left glove of Hart nonetheless. Iceland maintained their resolve and determination till the very end, sealing an extraordinary win. The team continued to defy the odds, showcasing an immense mentality along the way. They had the worst start imaginable, but their reply was immediate illustrating so well the mental strength the team has. The fairy tale continued to live on, sending a fine message to the underdogs of world football.

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