Football is one of the sports that is full of surprises, and sometimes the underdog could come out on top in the most unexpected way and win the game against the elites.
These upsets are the stuff of legend and are often talked about for years to come. From World Cup games to a local derby, to league games, UEFA Champions League nights, and Europa League games, there have been some incredible upsets in football history.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the ten biggest upsets in football history, analyzing the games and the teams involved, and exploring how the underdogs managed to overcome the odds and emerge victorious.
So get ready to relive some of the most memorable moments in football history and discover how these underdogs made their mark on the sport forever.
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1. Greece’s Euro 2004 win
First on our list of biggest upsets in soccer history is the Greece Euro 2004 win.
The Greece national football team’s stunning victory in the 2004 UEFA European Championship, held in Portugal, is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in the history of international football.
Greece was not considered a serious contender for the title, and they were given odds of 150-1 to win the tournament by bookmakers.
However, defying all the odds, Greece went ahead to win the competition, defeating some of the biggest teams in Europe along the way.
Some of the teams they defeated en route to the finals are – Portugal, Russia, held Spain to a goalless draw, France, Czech Republic, and later on defeated Portugal once more in a fully packed stadium in Lisbon.
2. Denmark’s Euro 1992 win
Despite being not originally scheduled to compete in the Euro 1992, Denmark still went ahead to cause one of the biggest upsets in football history and get one of their major trophies in football history.
The story began with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting disintegration of Yugoslavia, which meant that Yugoslavia could no longer compete in the tournament. Denmark, which had finished second in their qualifying group, was invited to take Yugoslavia’s place as the highest-ranking team among those who failed to qualify.
En route to the final, they played against England, France, and Sweden, defeating both England and France and losing against Sweden.
In the knockout stage, they defeated the Netherlands, who were also the favorites, before having a crunch final against 1990 World Cup winners, Germany, a match which Denmark won 2-0 thanks to goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort.
3. The United States’ 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup:
In a match officiated by Italian referee, Generoso Dattilo at Estádio Independência in Brazil, the United States national team pulled off when of the greatest upsets in world cup history.
What even made the match more surprising was that the United States team consisted of a hurriedly compiled list of semi-professional players.
Mere looking at the fixture, one could see that the English team was the clear favorite, as they had Mathew Stanley who was then, one of the best football players in the world.
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However, the “semi-professionals” went ahead to shock the English team, who were making their world cup debut by defeating them 1-0 thanks to a first-half goal by Gaetjens.
4. North Korea’s 1-0 win over Italy in the 1966 World Cup
North Korea vs Italy clash remains one of the most exciting games that ever happened during the 1966 world cup.
The World Cup was a momentous occasion for football fans around the world, as the best teams from across the globe gathered in England to compete for the sport’s ultimate prize.
During the group stage, Italy fell to a frustrating 1-0 loss to one of the competition’s underdogs, North Korea, thanks to a 42-minute goal from Pak Doo-ik.
The Italians tried their possible best to score an equalizer and turn the game in their favor but were deeply frustrated by the resolute North Korean defense.
And although the Asian team did not proceed to the knockout stage, they managed to mark their name in football and world cup history.
5. Senegal’s 1-0 win over France in the 2002 World Cup
The 2002 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Korea and Japan saw a major upset in the group stages when Senegal defeated the reigning champions, France. It was a historic moment for Senegal as they had never before qualified for the World Cup and were considered to be the underdogs against the star-studded French team.
The match was played on May 31, 2002, at the Seoul World Cup Stadium in South Korea.
And it began with France dominating possession, but Senegal’s defense held strong and prevented any clear goal-scoring opportunities for the French. In the 30th minute, Senegal was awarded a free-kick just outside the box, and Bouba Diop capitalized on it, scoring the first goal of the match with a powerful strike.
However, France tried to fight back but found it difficult to break through Senegal’s well-organized defense. In the 64th minute, France was reduced to ten men when their defender, Desailly, received his second yellow card and was sent off.
Senegal took advantage of the situation and continued to press forward, creating several chances but failing to convert them into goals.
As the match approached its conclusion, France desperately searched for an equalizer, but Senegal’s defense held strong. In the end, Senegal emerged victorious with a 1-0 scoreline, causing one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
6. Cameroon’s 1990 World Cup run
Not until Morocco made Africa’s greatest world cup run, by reaching the 2022 world cup semi-finals after defeating Portugal 1-0 at the Al Thumama Stadium, Doha. Cameroon’s 1990 world cup run remained Africa’s greatest world cup run.
The Indomitable Lion’s exploits in the 1990 World Cup held in Italy started with a 1-0 win against Argentina, in the group stage after the South American team had beaten them 1-0 in the 1986 world cup campaign.
They were drawn against Argentina, Romania, and the Soviet Union the group. The team needed a draw against the Soviet Union to win the group after they had defeated Argentina and Romania.
They played a 0-0 draw and then went ahead to play against Columbia, who was also the competition’s favorite, they played against England in the Quarterfinals, who eventually defeated them 3-2 thanks to a dying minutes penalty.
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7. Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final:
Seventh on our list of biggest upsets in Soccer is the 1999 UEFA Champions League final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich is widely considered one of the greatest comebacks in the history of football. he
The match was played on May 26, 1999, at the Camp Nou Stadium, now known as the Spoetify Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, and saw Manchester United snatch a dramatic 2-1 victory from the jaws of defeat against the German giants.
The game started in a scrappy fashion, with both sides struggling to create any clear-cut chances.
However, Bayern Munich started to take control of the game as the first half progressed, and they took a deserved lead in the 6th minute of stoppage time, with Mario Basler scoring their first and only goal of the game.
The second half started with Manchester United pushing forward in search of an equalizer. However, their efforts were thwarted by the German defense, which held firm for most of the second half.
In the 90th minute of the game, the English club was awarded a corner kick, a corner that led to the equalizer via Manchester Uniteds Teddy Sheringham.
Just two minutes later, in stoppage time, Manchester United won another corner kick. This time, David Beckham swung the ball into the box, and it was met by fellow substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who flicked the ball into the roof of the net, thereby completing the remarkable comeback and upsetting the Bayern supporters.
8. Leicester City’s Premier League win
Asides from some heavy defeats such as Liverpool’s 7-0 defeat to Aston Villa at Villa Park, Leicester City’s premier league win in the 2015-2016 season has remained one of the biggest upsets in the English Premier League and soccer.
The club, which had narrowly avoided relegation the previous season, defied all odds to clinch the title, beating traditional powerhouses like Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United and having bookmaker odds of 5000-1 to win the league.
The Foxes had appointed Claudio Ranieri as their manager, and at the beginning of the season, were already up on the league via an unbeaten run of six games, including a win over Stoke City and a draw against Arsenal.
With Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater, and N’golo Kante emerging as key players, the Foxes looked unstoppable and via a Chelsea vs Tottenham draw, were able to seal their title win with 2 games to spare.
9. Liverpool’s Champions League Final Comeback Against AC Milan
Arguably one of the best and most entertaining UEFA Champions League final nights, Liverpool managed to stun Ancelotti’s AC Milan thanks to three second-half goals.
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The 2005 UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan, played on May 25, 2005, at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, was later decided on penalties despite AC Milan taking a 3-0 first-half lead, and emerging the cup favorites.
Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo both scored for AC Milan, while Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer, and Xabi Alonso were on the scoresheet for the red Merseyside club.
For the penalty shootout, Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was the hero, making two crucial saves to deny Milan and secure the trophy for Liverpool, giving the Reds their fifth UEFA Champions League title.
10. Morocco 2022 World Cup Run
Unarguably Africa’s best world cup run in World Cup history, beating the record set by Cameron, Morocco had their best world cup run in history during the 2022 world cup run.
The Atlas Lions were unbeaten in their group games despite being edged against competition favorites, Belgium and Croatia.
Starting with a 1-2 win against Canada, Morocco went ahead to beat Belgium 2-0 and played a goalless draw against Croatia, thereby setting up a Round of 16 clash with Spain.
Against Spain, Morroco played a goalless draw with the La Furia Roja. However, they knocked out Spain via penalties, and therefore, set up a quarterfinal against Portugal, who they defeated 1-0.
In the Semifinals, Morocco got their first loss of the tournament, a loss that will knock them out. There were defeated 2-0 by France, who were also the competition favorites and the then World Cup holders.
Morocco became the first African team to get fourth place in the World Cup and nobody saw the feat coming.