What are the 5 biggest shocks in European Championship history?
We have already brought you our top 5 best teams in Euro history, so in that same vein, a similar list comes your way.
In this article, we’ll go through the five biggest shocks ever witnessed at a European Championship.
I am sure most of you can guess at least one or two that are shoo-ins on this list, so let’s get started…
5) Iceland beat England at Euro 2016
Was this England’s lowest moment in international history?
In 2016, England were dumped out of Euro 2016 by Scandivanian minnows Iceland.
Iceland stunned the Three Lions with a 2-1 win in Nice, knocking Roy Hodgson’s men out in the round of 16.
Wayne Rooney scored for England after only 4 minutes, but 120 seconds later Ragnar Sigurdsson levelled the score. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson bagged the eventual winner in the 18th minute.
Iceland’s triumph left a scar on England that remains until this day.
After the match, Alan Shearer labelled it the “worst performance ever seen by an England team, ever.”
Meanwhile, match-winner Sigurdsson told the press: “(England) thought this would be a walk in the park.” It wasn’t.
4) Portugal’s Euro 2016 triumph
Given some of the players that have called Portugal their home, it was always surprising that Spain’s smaller Iberian brother never won a major international honor before 2016. Names like Eusebio, Luis Figo, Manuel Rui Costa, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s have represented Portugal to critical acclaim.
It was not until 1996 that Portugal became regular contestants at the Euro, but since then they have featured in six straight with Euro 2020 making it seven on the spin. But it was the nature of Portugal’s success in 2016 that made it so special.
Much like Lionel Messi, who has yet to win a major trophy for Argentina, Cristiano Ronaldo was in danger of claiming the same unfortunate legacy to what has otherwise been a brilliant footballing career. But with a nation on his shoulders, and a bright young Renato Sanches in the engine room, Portugal’ almost failed to get out their group following three draws from three games.
Yet, after Portugal squeezed through into the knockout stages, the team transformed. Ultimately, Portugal beat France in the final in extra time thanks to a goal from Eder.
It was their first-ever major honor; a tally they hope to add to this summer.
3) Czechoslovakia shocks in ‘76
It had been 16 years since Czechoslovakia had qualified for the Euro after placing third in the first ever instalment of the tournament.
Similar luck had befallen the Bohemian nation at the World Cup, where despite their runner-up performance at the 1962 tournament, they failed to qualify for two of three tournaments during the same period, while never making it out of the group in 1970.
1976 took everyone for a spin, including the Czechs. After topping a qualifying group that included England and Portugal, they then bested perennial power Soviet Union in the quarterfinals before dispatching the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the finals tournament.
A date with giants West Germany, who came into ‘76 as Euro and World Cup holders and heavy favorites to repeat their Euro success. But Czechoslovakia stood in their way, won the final 5-3 on penalties after a spirited 2-2 draw, and stopped the Germans from being the only side to win three Euros in a row (they would go on to win in 1980).
A third-place finish in 1980 would end a period of considerable success for a nation that no longer exists on the map.
2) Danish Dynamite at Euro ‘92
Three Euros, three first-time winners.
The period between 1984 and 1992 saw France, the Netherlands, and Denmark lift the first international trophies in their history. Two of those nations have never repeated the feat since, with the Danes being one of them. But 1992 would be a storybook moment in Danish footballing lore, and a hopeful benchmark that the current national side can look to replicate this summer across the continent.
With the vaunted Laudrup brothers (Brian, and Michael) guiding Denmark from the front, and the iconic Peter Schmeichel ever-so-staunch between the posts, the Danes nearly did not even feature if it was not for Yugoslavia being banned from the tournament after they beat the Danes in their qualifying group.
Taking their chance with both hands, they would finish runner-up in their group behind host nation Sweden before toppling holders the Netherlands in the semi-finals on penalties, and then blanking giants Germany in the final by a 2-0 scoreline.
Denmark have never come close to achieving the same success again.
1) Greece and the memorable summer of 2004
Greece have only qualified for seven of a combined thirty-seven international tournaments across their history between the Euro and World Cup, while reaching the knockout stage in just three of those appearances. Never considered a footballing nation of prominence, 2004 is truly up there as legendary status in football lore.
On the back of regular scorelines that can be more attributed to the famous fan chant of “1-nil to the Arsenal,” Greece defeated hosts Portugal in the tournament’s first group stage match and then earned a draw against Spain soon after.
Despite losing the penultimate group match against Russia, their higher goal tally than Spain saw them reach the knockout stage. What would transpire after that shocked not just Europe, but the football’s global audience.
Led by German manager Otto Rehhagel, Greece would go on to beat France, and the Czech Republic by 1-0 margins.
A rematch against Portugal, who they defeated on the first day of play in Porto, would culminate on a final day in Lisbon with the same result; a Greek victory. Celebrations could be heard lasting long into the night from Athens to Astoria.
It was one of the biggest shocks – if not the biggest shock – in football history. And the sport will forever be the better for it.