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From Ireland to Greece: EURO's biggest shocks

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 13.14CET
The underdog is not just there to make up the numbers. looks at a selection of the biggest shocks in UEFA European Championship final tournament history.

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Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 13.14CET

From Ireland to Greece: EURO's biggest shocks

The underdog is not just there to make up the numbers. looks at a selection of the biggest shocks in UEFA European Championship final tournament history.

When David beats Goliath. It is the moment when the plucky underdog prevails and, as has often been the case, when a major tournament ignites. looks at a selection of underdogs who have pulled off a scalp and shocked the big boys on the UEFA European Championship stage.

1988 group stage: England 0-1 Republic of Ireland
This was Ireland's finals debut and although it was only England's third appearance, the script was not meant to read like this. Jack Charlton had heralded names of his own – Ronnie Whelan, Paul McGrath, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge – but the likes of Bryan Robson, Peter Beardsley, Gary Lineker and John Barnes were expected to be too strong. Houghton put the underdogs into a sixth-minute lead, however, and they survived an England barrage thereafter thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Packie Bonner.

1992 group stage: Sweden 2-1 England
The hosts may already have had a draw and a win to their name compared to England's two 0-0 stalemates, but Graham Taylor's side were expected to move up the necessary gears here. When David Platt put them in front just four minutes in, it seemed a formality. Sweden, still on the crest of a wave in front of their home support, were not knocked off course, however. Jan Eriksson drew them level and Tomas Brolin's late second sent the Swedes through as Group A winners, and eliminated England.

1992 final: Germany 0-2 Denmark
The culmination of a fairy-tale story to delight football romantics. Denmark did not qualify for EURO '92 but, just two weeks before the start, replaced Yugoslavia in Sweden; a month later they were European champions. It was not all plain sailing – they had a solitary point from their first two games – but goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort, and Peter Schmeichel's customary obstinance, ensured the unlikeliest of successes.

1996 group stage: Czech Republic 2-1 Italy
Defeated by Germany in their Group A opener and up against the 1994 FIFA World Cup runners-up, the Czech Republic looked to be facing an uphill struggle. That gradient looked to have lessened when Pavel Nedvěd put them in front on five minutes, however, and although Enrico Chiesa soon equalised, the dismissal of Luigi Apollini just before the half-hour swung the balance back in the Czechs' favour. Radek Bejbl restored their lead and this time they clung on – the start of a remarkable run all the way to the final.

2004 group stage: Latvia 0-0 Germany
Never before in a major tournament, Latvia could scarcely have asked for a tougher initiation in Group D: the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic. They started with a 2-1 reverse against Karel Brückner's charges and then came Germany – three-time European and three-time world champions, no less. Doughty, organised and disciplined, Latvia resisted everything that was thrown at them and even went close to an astonishing win when Māris Verpakovskis raced clear just before half-time.

2004 final: Portugal 0-1 Greece
Every bit as unexpected as Denmark's feat 12 years earlier. On home soil and with their golden generation of Luís Figo and Rui Costa nearing the end of their careers, Deco and Ricardo Carvalho at their peaks, and Cristiano Ronaldo bursting on to the scene, the stage was set for Portugal. Greece, though, had been the tournament giant-killers – starting with a 2-1 win against Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side in the tournament opener – and repeated the trick in the final thanks to Angelos Charisteas' header.

Last updated: 10/02/14 15.12CET

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