Biggest EURO qualifying shocks: Surprise wins for the likes of Belarus, Kosovo, Liechtenstein and Northern Ireland
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands and Greece have celebrated EURO glory but they have also tasted bitter defeats in qualifying.
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European football's lesser lights may rarely get a chance to shine in a final tournament, but they have made a name for themselves in EURO qualifying on numerous occasions.
After Scotland's stunning defeat of Spain on Tuesday, UEFA.com looks back on ten of the biggest shocks in previous campaigns.
Luxembourg 2-1 Netherlands (30/10/1963)
Level at 1-1 after the first round first leg in Amsterdam, this return match in Rotterdam was widely expected to go the way of the Oranje. However, a Luxembourg team spearheaded by perhaps the country's finest player Louis Pilot – in their first UEFA European Championship qualifying tie – prevailed, Camille Dimmer scoring in each half, either side of Piet Kruiver's equaliser. "The Netherlands are not at their best at the moment and we had the will to win," said Luxembourg goalkeeper Nico Schmitt.
Malta 0-0 West Germany (25/02/1979)
The West German team that took to the field in Gzira included stellar names such as Sepp Maier and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. The hosts, though, would not be moved and gained what would prove their only point of qualifying. "At the end of the match, instead of swapping shirts with a German player I decided to keep mine in honour of our memorable display," said Malta goalkeeper Charles Sciberras. The visitors bounced back, though, winning the return fixture 8-0 before lifting the trophy in Italy the next year.
Faroe Islands 1-0 Austria (12/09/1990)
"We believed it would be possible and we wanted it to be possible. That's why it was possible!" Those were the words of captain Jóannes Jakobsen after a result that remains one of the most famous in the Faroe Islands' history – and to think it came in their very first competitive outing. Torkil Nielsen was the hero, finding the net just after the hour.
Wales 1-0 Germany (05/06/1991)
Though Wales had a number of talented players like Neville Southall, Ian Rush and Mark Hughes, few backed them to trouble the world champions. However, Berti Vogts's side were reduced to ten men when Thomas Berthold was dismissed on the hour and Terry Yorath's team pounced through Rush six minutes later. "We were written off by everybody," said Gary Speed. "It was a result that shocked the football world."
Northern Ireland 3-2 Spain (06/09/2006)
Spain would taste European and world glory over the next four years but that road to the top hit a major bump against a Northern Ireland outfit they were expected to make short shrift of. Luis Aragonés's side were twice ahead – through Xavi Hernández and David Villa – but David Healy equalised on each occasion before completing his country's first hat-trick in 15 years and, with it, a famous triumph. "We showed our character more than anything tonight and that should be a lesson for everybody," said Healy. "We wanted to put a bit of pride back in the Northern Ireland jersey."
Liechtenstein 3-0 Iceland (17/10/2007)
Liechtenstein have rarely found life easy in EURO qualifying and this remains their biggest victory in the competition. They had won only once before in the competition before the 2008 campaign, yet made light work of Iceland courtesy of two goals from Thomas Beck and one from Mario Frick. "It's a great feeling and I am personally very happy, but happier still for the team," said Beck.
France 0-1 Belarus (03/09/2010)
Despite entering the game on the back of three defeats – and a woeful World Cup – France were tipped to get back on track in Laurent Blanc's first competitive match in charge. Indeed, they dominated proceedings but could not find a breakthrough and were made to pay with four minutes left when Sergei Kislyak capped a sensational display. "It was a huge pleasure to beat France at their own ground," said Kislyak. "It was the first time in my life I'd seen so many fans, almost 80,000."
Portugal 0-1 Albania (07/09/2014)
Denmark and Serbia were expected to jostle for qualification alongside Paulo Bento's Portugal but Albania put the cat among the pigeons on the opening night of Group I qualifying action thanks to Bekim Balaj's brilliant 52nd-minute volley in Aveiro. "It was a striker's goal, the shot was pure instinct," said the goalscorer. "We got three points in Portugal [which] maybe nobody expected." The game proved the making of both teams – Albania qualified for the finals for the first time, while Portugal ended up winning UEFA EURO 2016.
Greece 0-1 Faroe Islands (14/11/2014)
The Faroes had barely caused a ripple on the international stage in the 24 years following that victory over Austria and they were not expected to make waves against a team containing several players from their 2004 EURO-winning squad. Claudio Ranieri's men were second best throughout, Orestis Karnezis keeping the hosts on terms before Jóan Edmundsson swept in the 61st-minute winner. "Up until 3 or 4 years ago, the Faroe Islands were just a physical team. This victory will echo around the world," said coach Lars Olsen, whose side would also win the return and finish above Greece in the group.
Kosovo 2-1 Czech Republic (07/09/2019)
Kosovo had taken just one point from ten games in their first qualification campaign – for the 2018 World Cup – so a first home win in a EURO qualifier appeared unlikely despite a 3-2 victory in Bulgaria in their previous outing. Patrick Schick looked to have set the Czechs on their way to a routine win but Vedat Muriqi quickly levelled and Mërgim Vojvoda caught the visitors sleeping at a corner midway through the second half to send the crowd in Pristina ecstatic. "We had a dream that we could beat Czech Republic," said coach Bernard Challandes. "It was an incredible result."