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Biggest upsets in the history of the European Championship

Football and sport, in general, is the environment where huge success comes along with even bigger & much more hurtful upsets, especially at the big stage like World Cup or European Championship. In the light of the Euro 2020 craze, let us take a look at the biggest ever upsets in the history of Euro competitions.

biggest euro upsets guide


Like it or not, football has been the biggest sport around for years. With hundreds of top-class club competitions & international tournaments, football fans around the world have plenty of opportunities to show love & support to their favourite sides. While there is nothing close to that special feeling of your team clinching the win, old school, as well as young football fans, know well that bitter feeling of your side falling short of that desired result. Thus, in the light of the biggest international European football event, let us talk about the biggest upsets ever that happened at the European Championship tournaments.

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The Irish Luck

Back in the day, when football was only gaining its global recognition, Euro 1988 was featuring only 8 nations, comparing to 24 at Euro 2020. While there were fewer countries on the continent, qualify for such a big competition wasn’t an easy task. Seasoned football fans who’ve been following football for a couple of decades now should find this very Euro tournament quite surprising due to multiple big football nations like Yugoslavia, Portugal & France missing the cut. However, it wasn’t for big players to miss the cut but rather for some underdogs to qualify, and moreover, make quite a run, to call Euro 1988 an interesting one. One of such countries was the Republic of Ireland, which made it out from the challenging Group 7, topping such opponents like Bulgaria, Belgium, Scotland & Luxembourg! Giving their fans such a spectacular run, nobody was really giving them a chance to make it further in the tournament. Heading into their first Euro 1988 matchup against neighbouring England, the Irish were priced at 51.00 (50/1) on the outrights markets. Being such a longshoteveryone saw the game to go only one way. According to the leading online bookmakers, Ireland was given the odds of 29.00 (28/1) to beat England. Surprisingly, Ray Houghton put his team ahead with the fourth-minute goal, which appeared to be the only goal of the match. Thanks to the great defensive team effort & exceptional goalkeeping from Packie Bonner, Ireland managed to keep the clean sheet & went on to win the match.


The unexpected winner

Before we would tell you about one of the biggest international surprise triumphs, let us tell you about the Denmark team & their road to the trophy at Euro 1992. While not even qualified, Denmark was called up late to replace Yugoslavia due to the internal war outbreak. Filling up the empty spot, Danes were not favoured by the majority of the leading betting operators and were only given the odds of 21.00 (20/1) in the again eight-team tournament. However, having quite a solid squad, featuring some big names like Brian Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel, Henrik Larsen and John Jensen, appeared to be enough to overcome France & England and qualify from a tough group. The dumpy road to the surprising trophy continued for Denmark throughout the knockout stage as well. The Danes had to face the Netherland in the semi-finals, who they beat on penalties after a 2:2 draw and stunned Germany two to nill in the final matchup to lift that well-deserved European Championship trophy. What a run, wasn’t it?

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The biggest international surprise

The story of the biggest international underdog champions took place during Euro 2004. The words of Otto Rehhagel, who was in charge of the Greece team, aged quite well after he reflected on the promising form of his squad after the 2002 World Cup loss to England. Many took them as just the way to keep the morale of the team up. Nobody, at that time, could’ve thought about Greece lifting the major international trophy before the Three Lions side, which in fact went on to happen.


Despite being considered as a huge underdog, Greece managed to qualify for Euro 2004 in fabulous fashion, winning six of their 8 group matches & coming out ahead of Spain! Scoring a total of just eight goals, Greece was priced at 151.00 (150/1) on the outrights market and were largely overlooked as a potential contender. The shocking performance started with a 2:1 win over the tournament favourites - Portugal, and was quickly followed by the 1:1 draw against Spain & a 2:1 victory against the Russian side to clinch the quarter-final spot. Unfortunately, it was not enough for football fans & punters to change their minds about Greece’s freak-ish performance. In the face of all the doubters, Greece entered the knockout stage as somewhat considerable contenders, beating France and the Czech Republic one to nill. Once again, experts showed Greece no love heading into the final against Portugal, who was expected to make its opening day revenge. Apparently, Portuguese vengeance was not enough to break well-organised Greece, and a stunning winner from the corner by Angelo Charisteas made Greece the biggest underdog champion in international football history!

The Golden Boot thief

Surprising performances at the Euros were not only team efforts. In fact, there were cases of individual performances that defeated all the odds. One of such cases took place on the Golden Boot market during Euro 2004. No, it was not someone from the Greek squad, considering the fact Greece took the defence-first approach. Surprisingly to everyone, it was Milan Baros of the offensive-minded Czech Republic. Despite the talented squad featuring Pavel Nedved, Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky, Karel Poborsky, and Milan Baros, non of the Czech players were listed among the top-scoring favourites.


Heading into the tournament shortly after the ankle injury and the record of only 2 goals in 18 games, Liverpool’s striker, Milan Baros, was not listed among the prominent Premier League scorers, such as Thierry Henry, Michael Owen & Ruud van Nistelrooy, playing in the tournament. Being far from its peak form, Baros started netting goals from the very first moments of the tournament. He managed to open his account in the first matchup against Latvia, then added another one during the thrilling 3:2 win over the Netherlands, and recorded his third goal during the win against Germany, which made his side the Group D winners. Later on, Baros managed to add two quick goals to his record in a 3:0 victory over Denmark. Unfortunately, it was it for Baros & the Czech team since their attacking power was not enough to get past the aforementioned Greece. Nevertheless, it was enough for the striker to remain the top goalscorer of the tournament & claim the Golden Boot prize!

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The English stunner

The England national football team might be one of the unluckiest ones on the international stage. Having won no European Championship knockout away games (at that moment), England was set to bring the end to that unfortunate streak.


Going a bit back, England flawlessly qualified for the tournament, winning 10 of their matches. They entered the tournament as quite the favourites, however, couldn’t provide a similar performance during the group stage, where they recorder two draws against Russian & Slovakia, and one win against Wales. While things did not look so rosy, England headed into the knockouts facing Iceland, who were new to the European tournament. Prior to that match, the Three Lions were priced at 11.00 (10/1) to lift the trophy; however, their outright odds were slashed to 9.50 (17/2) right before the kickoff. What is more, top online bookmakers were pricing England at 1.18 (2/11) to beat Iceland. On the other hand, underdogs were listed at the odds of 15.00 (14/1) to get the W. Short short price for England winning the match only shortened after the fourth-minute penalty goal by Wayne Rooney. It all seemed to be going the English way even after Iceland came back on the level terms. The struggle continued, and Iceland scored another one, recording one of the biggest upset wins at the Euros!

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The debutant makes history

While the case of Greece winning Euro 2004 will remain the undoubtful leader among the biggest European Championship surprises, we should not forget about the Wales team during Euro 2016. It was Wales’ debut campaign at the European football tournament, where they received the odds of 81.00 (80/1) to win it all. Featuring such stars as Gareth Bale & Aaron Ramsey, Wales advanced into the knockouts as Group B leaders after losing 2:1 against England and winning 2:1 and 3:0 against Slovakia and Russia, respectively. After that, Wales had to face neighbouring Northern Ireland in the Round of 16, which they advanced after the 1:0 victory. It looked like the end of the journey for the Welsh side, facing the star-stacked Belgium in the quarter-final. One of the leading online bookmakers, 888sport, was favouring Belgium to win at 1.80 (4/5) while offering Wales at the odds of 5.00 (4/1). Despite Belgium taking an early lead with the 13th-minute goal by Radja Nainggolan, Wales was not giving up and levelled in the 30th minute and added two more in the 55th & 85th minute of the match. This win helped Wales to become the first-ever country to make the semi-finals in their first appearance at the Euros. Unfortunately, it was the last win for Wales, as their impressive run was stopped by Portugal, who later went on to win the entire tournament.

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Who are you backing this year? Should we expect any upsets & surprises to add to this list? Let us know if we have missed any down in the comments below. If you would like to check out the best Euro 2020 offers from the most reliable online bookmakers on the market, please click here to check out our exclusive list of special bonuses & promotional offers.

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