If the Leicester City Premier League title win is proof of anything, it’s that football still has the ability to surprise you with a bit of magic.
When it comes to underdog stories the Euros has a long history of teams that upset the odds – the World Cup has never really been able to compete. The tournament has seen some shock winners and a few stories of unfancied nations triumphing in the face of adversity.
Here are five underdog stories that perfectly epitomise Sir Alex Ferguson’s “football, bloody hell” statement…
Greece – Euro 2004
The ultimate Euros story. Greece came into Euro 2014 having never won a match at a major tournament. Veteran German coach Otto Rehhagel masterminded this incredible story, taking Greece all the way from no hopers to tournament winners. Greece didn’t do it the pretty way. Rearguard defensive displays and 1-0 wins were the norm – but they did it, beating hosts Portugal (you guessed it 1-0) in the final to cement themselves in the history books.
Denmark – Euro 1992
12 years prior to Greece’s shock win, Denmark pulled off a similar trick in Sweden. They weren’t even supposed to be there – war and turmoil in Yugoslavia meant they were thrown out of the competition with Denmark the last-minute replacements. A team boasting Peter Schmeichel, John Jensen and Brian Laudrup went all the way beating Germany 2-0 in the final. Magic.
Czech Republic – Euro 96
They didn’t win it, but Czech Republic were heroic runners-up in Euro 96. A squad featuring Pavel Nedved, Patrick Berger, Karel Poborsky and Vladimir Smicer saw off Italy in the group stages and beat France in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to reach the final. England fans were backing the Czechs full-tilt, but in the end they lost to Germany thanks to an Oliver Bierhoff golden goal. So close!
Czechoslovakia – Euro 1976
Back when the Euros was only contested by four teams, Czechoslovakia emerged victorious in Yugoslavia by beating a West Germany (a result reserved two decades later at Euro 96). They won it on penalties thanks to a now-legendary decider from a man who’s since had a spot-kick technique named after him. Take a bow Antonin Panenka.
Republic of Ireland – Euro 1988
Jack Charlton’s men went into their group game with England in Euro 1988 as huge underdogs. This was their first appearance at the tournament, and a looping header from Ray Houghton gave them a shock win against their rivals in the group stages. In the end both teams bombed out of the tournament early, but Ireland could hold their heads high knowing they finished above England.