Netherlands were the favourites to beat Denmark last evening, but once again we were reminded that football is not played on paper. Martin Krohn-Dehli scored the only goal of the match in the first half, which helped the Danes upset the Dutch in the first match of Group B. Here, we have decided to look at the top 10 European Championship Upsets.
10. PORTUGAL 0-1 GREECE (FINAL, 2004)
Still reeling from their opening-match defeat to Greece, the UEFA EURO 2004 final provided hosts Portugal with the opportunity for some long-overdue silverware, plus a chance for revenge.They didn’t get either. Before Angelos Charisteas’ 57th-minute headed goal. Portugal remained fairly muted. An attacking onslaught led by Cristiano Ronaldo followed, but to no avail. Portugal had become the first hosts to lose a final and 80-1 no hopes Greece were European champions.
9. FRANCE 4-5 YUGOSLAVIA (SEMI-FINAL, 1960)
Considered one of the great European Championship matches of all time, this nine-goal thriller between France and Yugoslavia will endure in the annals of footballing folklore. A confident, pulsating French side (without Kopa, Fontaine or Piantoni) looked in the little danger of an upset, racing into a 4-2 lead by the 62nd minute. But a 75th-minute goal from Tomislav Knez and a late brace from Drazen Jerkovic sealed a hugely unlikely comeback, sending thousands of host-nation fans home speechless.
8. SOVIET UNION 2-0 ITALY (SEMI-FINAL, 1988)
The Soviets had rather fortuitously beaten the Dutch in the group phase, but Valeri Lobanovsky’s well-drilled troops were still considered an unknown quantity and were not expected to match the skill and artistry of the Azzurri. They did so and then some, with a mixture of teamwork and brutality. Some crunching early tackles asserted their authority and a double-whammy in the second half put pad to Italian dreams. Lobanovsky’s men would stride on.
7. ENGLAND 0-1 IRELAND (GROUP STAGE, 1988)
A humiliating start to what turned into a tournament to forget for Bobby Robson and England in 1988 as they lost their first group game to age-old rivals the Republic of Ireland. For an Irish side not accustomed to much recognition let alone success on the international stage, the game was made doubly significat. After only six minutes, Ray Houghton sent the Irish faithful into delirium by putting the ball in the English net and their defence thereafter sealed an upset that would go down in the history books.
6. CZECH REPUBLIC 0-0 FRANCE (CZECH WIN ON PENS) (SEMI-FINAL, 1996)
While the nature of a penalty shoot-out has taight us that any dog can have its day, this victory for the Czech Republic was not down to a few lucky spot-kicks; rather a succession of fantastic performances and subsequent upsets that saw them scalp not only the French, but the Portuguese and the Italians before them. Though they would later lose the final to Germany, UEFA EURO 1996 ensured the Czech Republic had the world’s attention again.
5. ENGLAND 4-1 NETHERLANDS (GROUP STAGES, 1996)
All four teams in Group A could have qualified before the last round of games, but Terry Venables’ team didn’t play with the kind of nerves one might associate with an England side performing under pressure. Apart from a converted Shearer penalty, the game remained fairly even until England took control of the midfield in the second half, scoring three brilliantly crafted goals in 10 minutes in front of an ecstatic Wembley crowd. Kluivert’s consolation denied the Scots a place in the last eight.
4. ENGLAND 0-1 YUGOSLAVIA (SEMI-FINAL, 1968)
Arrogant world champions England were up against an inexperienced yet committed, Yugoslav outfit in the semi-finals of the 1968 European Championships, but felt the need to play a friendly against West Germany in Hanover four days before. It cost them dear. They conceded in the last five minutes of the match and the bullying tactics of the young Yugoslavs became too much for Alan Mullery, who lashed out and became the first England player to be sent off in international football.
3. CZECH REPUBLIC 0-1 (AET) GREECE (SEMI-FINAL, 2004)
The second instalment of 2004 Greece upsets in which they reached their first final courtesy of the first ‘silver goal’. Surviving an early barrage from the Czech Republic, the Greeks again grew in stature, forcing the game into extra time.Against the visbly tiring Czechs, and with seconds left of the first half, Traianos Dellas lost his marker to glance in a header at the near post. There wasn’t even time for Pierluigi Collina to restart before he blew for half-time, signalling a Greece victory.
2. GERMANY 0-2 DENMARK (FINAL, 1992)
Denmark failed to qualify for the UEFA EURO 1992, but after Yugoslavia’s disqualification for the ongoing atrocities in their country, the Danes took their place, a matter of days before kick-off. A functional Danish outfil bore little in the way of comparison to their dazzling Michael Laudrup-led counterparts of 1984 and 1986, but they shocked the continent in the semis, when Peter Schmeichel saved a penalty from Marco van Basten, and then again in the final, containing and then muting the mighty Germans.
1. FRANCE 0-1 GREECE (QUARTER-FINALS, 2004)
Despite remaining unbeaten and overcoming a tricky Group B, the French had been less than convincing in the run-up to their quarter-final with Greece – but this was Greece, right? Even an average France performance would swipe them aside. Wrong. The more the Vieira-less French dithered in Lisbon the more Otto Rehhagel’s Greece gained confidence and a second-half headed winner from Angelos Charisteas eventually spelled the end of a golden era for Les Bleus.