In any sport, the fans love nothing more than a great underdog story. Football is no different and with the game constantly changing in the modern era; with the power of money now becoming greater than ever, the need for an underdog for the fans to root for is greater than ever. Down are of the greatest underdog teams in football history.
7. Iceland, Euro 2016
1 YEAR AGO TODAY: Iceland 🇮🇸 knocked England out of Euro 2016. 🙄 pic.twitter.com/LWY7VDOhfw
— SPORF (@Sporf) June 27, 2017
When Iceland were drawn in a group with highly fancied Portugal, and fellow underdogs Austria and Hungary at Euro 2016, few observers thought they could make it out of the blocks. Somehow, they escaped the group by beating the David Alaba-led Austria side.
That set up Iceland for a clash in the last 16 against England, one of the pre-tournament favourites, and surely they’d lose, right? Instead, in a classic underdog performance, Iceland managed to out-play, out-fight, and out-think the Premier League’s stars for the full 90 minutes, winning 2-1 despite conceding an early penalty.
The Icelandic underdogs finally came unstuck in the quarter-finals against hosts France, but not without a fight, scoring two against the French even after going 4-0 down. The side has since gone on to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
6. Monaco, 2016/17 Season
Kylian Mbappé's 2017:
Youngest UCL scorer for Monaco
Youngest UCL scorer in both QF legs
Youngest UCL SF scorer
Youngest UCL scorer for PSG pic.twitter.com/foLF7EEYAc
— Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle) October 9, 2017
The Champions League is usually the playground of the mega-rich; Europe’s most powerful clubs competing for its most coveted prize. The likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Juventus are the sort of teams who compete for it.
Since an injection of Qatari money, Paris St. Germain have wished to gain a spot at that table, but in 2016/17 it was another French side, Monaco, instead. And the French side showed some class.
They defeated Tottenham Hotspur twice and Bayer Leverkusen once to win the group and qualify for the knockout stages, where they went on to upset Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund before Juventus ended their dream in the semi-finals.
Monaco even won Ligue One, holding off the massive challenge of Paris St. Germain there too. With the team now being broken up entirely, Monaco’s 2016/17 side stands as a classic underdog story.
5. Cameroon, World Cup 1990
Cameroon striker Roger Milla celebrates with his teammates, 1990. pic.twitter.com/kkdIVfURNf
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) June 6, 2018
African sides have historically always been underdogs when it comes to the World Cup, and 1990’s tournament had perhaps the best side of African underdogs in the tournament’s history in the form of Cameroon.
Coming into the tournament, nobody had heard of Cameroon’s players, yet the side included a 38-year old forward named Roger Milla who’d come out of retirement at the behest of the country’s president.
Nobody gave them a hope in hell against reigning champions Argentina, led by Diego Maradona, in the first game of the tournament, but somehow the Africans pulled off the ultimate upset, beating the South Americans 1-0.
And despite losing their final group game to the Soviet Union, another two goals from Milla sent them past Colombia in the round of 16. The Cameroon dream was finally ended by England in the quarter-finals, but not before the African underdogs took the lead and gave Bobby Robson’s side the fright of their lives.
4. Greece, Euro 2004
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 31, 2016
With the likes of France, England, the Czech Republic and hosts Portugal looking incredibly strong going into Euro 2004, nobody considered Greece, a defensive side largely made up of journeymen, as contenders to win the tournament. Even after they defeated Portugal 2-1 in the tournament’s opening game, it didn’t mean a lot.
A draw with Spain and a loss to Russia was enough to put Greece into the quarter-finals, but their run looked to end there as they were faced with France, a side which contained two of the world’s best players in Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry.
But somehow the Greeks soaked up the pressure, and a header from Angelos Charisteas put them into the semi-finals. Another 1-0 upset over the Czechs, this time in extra-time, followed to put them in the final.
The side they’d face? Hosts Portugal. But try as they might, Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, and Luis Figo couldn’t break the Greek defence and another goal from Charisteas allowed the Greeks to pull off a wild upset.