The Biggest Upsets in European Championship History

Germany 0-2 Denmark 1992 (Final)

In what is arguably the most extraordinary feat in international football’s history, Denmark won the 1992 European Championships.

The Dane’s qualified for the 1992 tournament as a result of Yugoslavia being disqualified due to the breakup and warfare in the country. Their run to the final had already seen them qualify from a group including France and England, which in itself was a huge upset, and then a semi-final win on penalties against the Netherlands put this story in the history books within itself. 

They met Germany in the final, who were massive favourites, boasting the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Matthias Sammer, and Andrea Brehme. The Germans had the best chance of the opening exchanges, with Sammer failing to convert a one on one against Peter Schmeichel. Despite Germany having the chance to take the lead, Arsenal's John Jensen opened the scoring for Denmark in the 18th minute with a thunderous strike from a cutback by Kim Vilfort.

After setting up the first, Vilfort wrapped up the trophy in the 78th minute with a goal of his own after taking the ball through Brehme and Thomas Helmer and finishing smartly into the bottom corner past the helpless Bodor Illgnar in the Germany goal. 

Denmark's Euro win is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in football history. It is made all the more impressive when considering the Danes were without arguably their best player ever in Michael Laudrup, who didn't play due to differences between head coach Richard Moller Neilson.

The story from start to finish is just incredible.

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Portugal 0-1 Greece 2004 (Final)

Another final entry is the 2004 one which saw hosts Portugal face off against unlikely finalist Greece in Lisbon. The Portuguese, of course, went into the game as heavy favourites possessing the likes of Deco, Luis Figo, Pauleta, and a young Cristiano Ronaldo in their team all on home soil.

Despite being favourites, Portugal knew that they had a tough task against the team who coincidentally, beat them in the opening game of the tournament 2-1. The Greeks had already beaten France in the quarters (1-0) and had gained a reputation for being notoriously hard to beat under the stewardship of Bundesliga veteran manager Otto Rehhagel.

Early exchanges in the game saw Greece retract into a disciplined shape that often saw them have 10 men camped on their penalty area's edge. A fine save from Antonios Nikopolidis denied Miguel's low drive after 13 minutes, but apart from that, it was a rare moment of danger for the Greek rearguard to deal with in the first half.

It was 12 minutes into the second half that saw Greece break the deadlock with their only shot on target in the entire game as a towering header from Angelos Charisteas via a corner saw the Greeks take the lead to leave Portugal stunned. With over half an hour to play, though, Portugal had their chances, one in particular from a 19-year-old Ronaldo, who skied over Nikopolidis's goal from just eight yards out.

Despite a late deflected strike from Figo going agonisingly wide for Portugal, Greece did the unthinkable and beat one of the favourites on home soil and overcame the 150/1 odds to win the trophy.

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England 1-2 Iceland 2016 (Round of 16)

Roy Hodgson's England were heavy favourites to progress against Iceland when they met at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille in the last 16 of Euro 2016. 

Despite getting off to the best possible start through Three Lions legend Wayne Rooney from the penalty spot after four minutes, England soon discovered that Iceland would not go down without a fight. Just two minutes after Rooney's opener, Iceland hit back through their trademark long throw, which caused disarray in the England penalty area, with Ragnor Sigurdsson bundling home from close range. 

England's miserable start was intensified in the 18th minute as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's shot squirmed through Joe Hart's hands. Despite Roy Hodgson ringing the changes, England failed to find a way through a resolute Iceland backline that stood strong for the match's duration. 

The final whistle compounded England's awful Euro 2016 and the worst defeat in the country's history since losing to the USA in the 1950 World Cup. On the other hand, Iceland went on to face France in their best-ever international campaign.

Germany 0-0 Latvia 2004 (Group Stage)

Rarely does a game that ends in draw end up on a list of upsets, but the sheer scale of this one gives it a place on the list. The Germans were World Cup finalists just two years prior, with a squad made up of stars such as Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack, and Miroslav Klose.

Despite the German team being filled with quality, Latvia, to their credit, had their chances, and despite defending deep, could have beat one of the favourites for the 2004 Euros. The Latvians even had the highlight of the match when Maris Verpakovskis went on a lung-busting run only to be denied by goalkeeping legend, Kahn. In the thick of the action all afternoon in Porto, the striker was also denied a penalty on two occasions by English referee Mike Riley.

Despite Klose having the best opportunity of the game, Latvia managed to hold out for their first-ever tournament point amidst Germany's embarrassing performance. That would eventually result in them crashing out of the group stage on just two points.


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Czech Republic 2-1 Italy 1996 (Group Stage)

The Czech Republic had only been a team for two years when they headed into Euro 1996. Drawn in a group with two of the favourites in Italy and Germany, their stay in England for the tournament was expected to be a short one.
Then Italian manager Arrigo Sacchi benched most of his best players for the tie, including Alessandro Del Piero and Gianfranco Zola, such was his confidence of getting a result. But after just five minutes, the Italian gaffer may have started to regret his decision after a brilliant Karel Poborsky's ball-found 23-year-old Pavel Nedved to score his first international goal.

Despite the Czech Republic opening the scoring, Italy quickly fired back just 13 minutes later through a goal from Chiesa, who finished off a swift counter-attack assisted by Diego Fuser.

In a game-changing moment, Italy were reduced to 10 men after just half an hour when defender Luigi Appolloni saw red after a second yellow for going through the back of striker Pavel Kuka. This shifted the balance of the game in favour of the Czech Republic, with them retaking the lead on 35 minutes through Bejbl, who finished nicely with a volley from a Kuka cross, giving this country a famous win.

Czech Republic finished the group in second place ahead of Italy and behind Germany, the team that they would face in the final, however, they would lose to Bert Vogts Germany 2-1 at Wembley.

By Harry Charlwood


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