As former Tottenham and Chelsea forward Jimmy Greaves proclaimed, “It’s a funny old game”. That is precisely why so many of us have grown to love football. In its truest form football is not only about the thrills and spills of every kick, but the unpredictable. Whether it’s those last-minute winners or the goals just seconds after kick off, it is the unknown that grips people across the globe.
The drama of the ultimate giant killing act is laid bare in the game’s oldest competition, the FA Cup. Considered to be the granddaddy when it comes to knockout tournaments, the FA Cup is where fans can really experience the unexpected. It is the heart stopping Roy of the Rovers fantasy because in a one-off game, anything can happen.
Teams who trot out in several leagues below their opposition can actually overcome the odds and triumph. Take for example, 1987 FA Cup Winners, Coventry City. They have been involved in not one, but two of the biggest shockers of all time. Back in 1989 when a little known show called the Simpsons burst onto our screens, the Sky Blues were knocked out by non-league side Sutton United.
In addition to this, Coventry was knocked out of this seasons FA Cup in the first round. The victors this time were Worcester City who are some 100 league positions below them. However, the shocks don’t stop there.
The FIFA World Cup is the biggest stage of them all. Yet this spectacle has been prone to the odd shock or two down the years. In 2002, Senegal defeated France who were reigning champions at the time. It was an incredible start to the tournament in Korea and Japan, whilst Les Bleues were sent packing after the group stage.
At times, football is chaos where the predictable can sometimes turn into the unpredictable. Here are just some of the ultimate soccer shockers of all time.
15 15. Greece 1-0 Portugal, Euro 2004 Final
One of the most unexpected shocks came in the Euro 2004 Final which pitted outsiders Greece against the mighty host Portugal. The latter featured the likes of Real Madrid impresario Cristiano Ronaldo, who was managed by Brazilian Luis Felipe Scolari. This did not stop the Greeks from utilizing their incredible powers of defence which ensured they progressed to the final. The script seemed to be written as Portugal was the host nation and overwhelming favourite. Unfortunately, Greece spoiled the party thanks to a header from Angelos Charisteas which proved to be enough.
14 Wimbledon 1-0 Liverpool, 1988 FA Cup Final
Known as “The Crazy Gang” Wimbledon was ranked as outsiders for the 1988 FA Cup Final. Taking on Liverpool was certainly a big task, due to their wealth of talent. The Merseyside squad featured stalwarts from maverick goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar to defender Alan Hansen and England winger John Barnes. They had dominated the domestic scene for much of the 1970's and 80's. The bookmakers had this in favour of Liverpool all the way but they got this one wrong. A header from Lawrie Sanchez ensured Wimbledon went down in cup history as they beat the Reds 1-0.
13 Inverness CT 3-1 Celtic, Scottish Cup 2000
The Scottish Cup was the scene for this particular upset as Celtic took on Inverness Caledonian Thistle. At the time, the Hoops were 10 points behind their arch rival Glasgow Rangers in the race for the Scottish Premier League title. The part time side of Inverness swept the mighty Celtic aside and ran out as winners by three goals to one. After Barry Wilson and Paul Sheerin scored for the visitors, an own goal by Lubomir Moravcik sealed Celtic’s fate. Meanwhile, the press was all over it and conjured up one of the best headlines in sporting history themed around Mary Poppins, “Super Callie Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious.”
12 Southampton 1-0 Manchester United, FA Cup 1976
Striker Bobby Stokes went down in South Coast folklore after scoring the winning goal in the 1976 FA Cup Final for Southampton. Taking place at the iconic Wembley Stadium, the scene for all cup finals, the Saints took on Tommy Doherty’s Manchester United. Most believed United would sail through, but that strike from Stokes enabled he was to go down in history. As a result, the rich tapestry of the FA Cup was to be rewritten and to this day, fans talk about where they were.
11 Denmark 2-0 Germany, Euro '92 Final
The summer of 1992 was a very special for one European country as the unthinkable happened. Denmark entered Euro '92 through the back door at the eleventh hour. This was due to a war torn Yugoslavia who were supposed to be participating in the tournament. On the way to winning the Euros, Denmark overcame all the odds by not only defeating the Dutch in the semi-finals, but beating Germany in the final. This fairy tale story concluded in an incredible fashion with goals from former Arsenal midfielder John Jensen and Kim Vilfort.
10 Barnsley 1-0 Chelsea, FA Cup, 2008
Back in 2008, Chelsea was becoming a legitimate force with the millions of Russian owner Roman Abramovich. This quarter final tie lives long in the memory for all the wrong reasons, especially for hard-core Blues fans. They faced the little fancied championship side Barnsley at their ground, Oakwell. However, it was a header from Barnsley’s Kayode Odejayi that led the Tykes to victory. It guaranteed them a place in the last four for the first time in nearly a century.
9 Cameroon 1-0 Argentina, 1990 FIFA World Cup
Italia '90 grabbed attention for a host of reasons. From Claudio Cannigia’s locks to Paul Gascoigne’s tears, this tournament was set to be memorable for another major shock. This came in the very first game where defending champion Argentina came up against the Lions of Cameroon. It was surprisingly the latter who roared to victory when Francois Oman Biyik headed past the Argentinean shot stopper Nery Pumpido. Remember, the Argentines had an array of talent on the field which also included the legendary Diego Armando Maradona.
8 Rubin Kazan 2-1 Barcelona, Champions League, 2009
European champions Barcelona ran into a wall, losing at the Camp Nou to Russian side Rubin Kazan. The Spaniards had a glittering team which had swept everyone away in Europe and included Lionel Messi as well as midfield maestro Andres Iniesta. Rubin Kazan took the lead after just two minutes but back came Barcelona with an equalizer from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It was left to the Russians to finish the unlikeliest of scripts with a winner from Gokdeniz Karadeniz.
7 York City 3-0 Manchester United, League Cup 1995
It was the second round of the League Cup when minnows York City came up against the might of Manchester United. Bearing in mind that the United starting line-up contained a fresh faced David Beckham and Ryan Giggs; this should have been a walk in the park. Nevertheless the Red Devils underestimated their opposition as a brace from Paul Barnes and one from Tony Barras sent Alex Ferguson’s United crashing out.
6 South Korea 2-1 Italy, FIFA 2002 World Cup, 2002
Korea and Japan played host to the 2002 FIFA World Cup which led to one of the biggest shocks in recent time. In the knockout phase of the tournament, South Korea faced the European powerhouse of Italy. There seemed to be only one possible winner. But some dodgy refereeing and Korean determination enabled South Korea to come out on top. The game was taken to extra time thanks to Seol Ki-Hyeon who levelled the scored in the dying seconds. It was left to Ahn Jung-Hwang who scored in additional time to send a nation into a frenzy.
5 Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United, FA Cup Third Round Replay, 1972
Football nostalgia brings up muddy pitches and even muddier shirts. This was true in the case of the following score line. Having taken Newcastle United to a replay, non-league Hereford certainly upset the apple cart in this tie. Playing in the Southern League, they knocked out the Magpies on a quagmire of a pitch surrounded by scenes of utter jubilation at their Edgar Street ground. Ronnie Radford, who was a part time carpenter struck a shot which is arguably the most played clip in football shock history.
4 Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal, FA Cup Third Round, 1992
A mismatch on paper in every sense of the word, Wrexham faced Arsenal on a cold winter day back in 1992. The play was as squalid as the weather conditions, but this did not detract from one of the finest cup upsets in history. In spite of the gulf in stature, namely 90 places between both sides, it was down to two heroes from Wrexham to win the game. Former Manchester United player Mickey Thomas and a Steve Watkin shot this little Welsh club to fame in a 2-1 win for Wrexham.
3 North Korea 1-0 Italy, FIFA 1966 World Cup, 1966
The place was Ayresome Park, home to Middlesbrough Football Club. The scene was to be an upset which no one saw as North Korea played Italy at the 1966 FIFA World Cup. Taking place in England, fans saw a major shock with North Korea making their first proper appearance in the tournament. The Italians were outdone by a single strike from North Korea’s Doo-Ik Pak just before half time. That 41st minute goal is a painful lesson for the Azzuri who are still reminded of this match.
2 Liverpool 3-3 A.C Milan (3-2 PK), UEFA Champions League Final, 2005
Celebrating its 50th year of competition, the UEFA Champions League Final gave spectators a real treat for its denouement. The comeback of all comebacks took place as Liverpool trailed 3-0 at half time to Italian giants A.C Milan. Arguably one of the finest Milan sides to grace the hallowed turf, the squad included stars such as Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Kaka. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez had to change things quickly as Liverpool somehow clawed the score line back to 3-3. Liverpool scored three times in an astonishing seven-minute period through Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso. After extra time could not separate the sides, it went down to the dreaded penalty shootout. With Liverpool ahead 3-2, Milan's Andriy Shevchenko stepped up. His resulting spot kick miss ensured one of the greatest football comebacks in history.
1 Germany 7-1 Brazil, FIFA 2014 World Cup Semi Final
A nation mourned after the German destruction of Brazil in this year’s World Cup semi-final. It was men versus boys on the pitch as the German machine steamrolled the host nation by an astonishing seven goals to one. There were simply no words to describe what took place on the field as the Brazilians self-destructed. The Germans were up 5-0 with less than a half hour played and things got worse in the second half. Two goals from Chelsea winger Andre Schürrle capped off what was Brazil’s largest ever defeat in the World Cup.
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