Football has many tales of plucky underdogs succeeding against all the odds. Here are 3 of the greatest ever.
Greece win Euro 2004!
Greece’s 2004 European victory in Portugal is still hardly believable 17 years on! It was a triumph of organisation and determination, over the skill and flair that many of their rivals had in abundance. At the time, Greece had only participated in 2 major competitions and hadn’t even won a match before.
That was a record that was broken immediately, as Greece emerged victorious from the opening game against Portugal. They then just about escaped from their group by edging out Spain on goals scored.
In their quarter-final, Greece stunned France 1-0, courtesy of a goal from Angelos Charisteas. After that, the Greeks had to face a Czech Republic side, who were a fantastic team at the time. However, defender Traianos Dellas finished off the semi-final with the only silver goal ever in a major competitive match.
In the final, Greece faced a Portugal side who were playing on home soil and were massive favourites. However, as with the rest of the tournament, this proved to be of little consequence to the Greeks. Charisteas was again the hero, as his headed goal in the 57th minute sank Portugal in Lisbon and the entire football world looked on in disbelief.
Zambia win the Africa Cup of Nations – 2012
In 1993 a Zambian military plane crashed into the Atlantic, killing all 25 passengers and 5 crew members. That plane was carrying the Zambian national football team. The fatal crash occurred just 500 metres from the city of Libreville in Gabon, so when the Africa Cup of Nations was held in the same country in 2012, naturally Zambian players’ thoughts were with those that represented Zambia before and died so tragically.
An unfancied Zambia team, managed by charismatic French manager Herve Renard topped their group, before wins against Sudan and Ghana, without conceding a goal, propelled them to the final, where they met the highly-rated Ivory Coast.
In the final, Didier Drogba missed a penalty in normal time for Ivory Coast, and eventually, the game went to a penalty shootout. Further penalty misses in the shootout from Kolo Toure and Gervinho handed the Africa Cup of nations to Zambia, who celebrated wildly. In the midst of the celebrations was Kalusha Bwalya, who is considered to be the greatest Zambian player of all time and who only escaped death in 1993 because he decided to make his own way back to PSV Eindhoven in Holland, where he played his football at the time.
Leicester City win The Premier League – 2015/16
Is there a greater Cinderella story in football than this? The fact that it was over an entire season and not in a cup competition surely elevates Leicester’s finest ever achievement above all others.
Leicester City started season 2015/16 as one of the favourites for relegation, after narrowly avoiding it the year before. At the start of the campaign, the bookies had them at 5000-1 to lift the title! However, they lost just 3 league games in what was described as a “fairytale” and the “most unlikely triumph in the history of team sport”.
Manager Claudio Ranieri had previously managed a host of prestigious European clubs but had never won a major title. That was to change in dramatic fashion in 2016, as Ranieri had the knack of getting the very best from a team that didn’t boast any household names. At least not at the time, but the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyadh Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, and Kaspar Schmeichel are now as famous as almost anyone in the Premier League.
When Tottenham drew 2-2 with Chelsea on the 2nd of May 2016, Leicester’s victory was confirmed and the greatest Cinderella story of all time had actually happened!