Famous draws for Albania and Malta, a shock loss for France and a stunning debut by the Faroe Islands feature in our look at ten of the biggest upsets in EURO qualifying.
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European football's lesser lights may rarely get a chance to shine in a final tournament, but there is plenty of history of them making a name for themselves in UEFA European Championship qualifying. UEFA.com looks back on ten of the biggest shocks.
Luxembourg 2-1 Netherlands (30/10/63)
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 tie – prevailed, Camille Dimmer scoring in each half, either side of Pieter 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.
Albania 0-0 West Germany (17/12/67)
Up against opponents who were FIFA World Cup runners-up the previous year, Albania were given little hope in Tirana. Indeed, Helmut Schön's men had the carrot of knowing victory would take them through to the 1968 UEFA European Championship, whereas the hosts were merely seeking a first point in preliminary round Group 4. They proceeded to earn a memorable draw. "It was such a big upset that we celebrated for a month, as though we had won the World Cup," said Albania No10 Panajot Pano.
Iceland 2-1 East Germany (05/06/75)
Iceland were slow to make an impression on EURO qualification, failing to record a win in the 1964 preliminaries and not entering the 1968 and 1972 editions. However, their first victory – which came less than a fortnight after drawing 0-0 with France – was worth the wait, Johannes Edvaldsson and Ásgeir Sigurvinsson scoring before Jürgen Pommerenke pulled one back. "We went to France and I said I'd quit if we lost," said coach Anthony Knapp. "The players looked at me like I was crazy and I probably was, but I knew I had to change their way of thinking." It evidently worked.
Malta 0-0 West Germany (25/02/79)
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 (12/09/90)
"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 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 (05/06/91)
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."
Italy 1-1 Lithuania (02/09/06)
Less than two months after being crowned world champions for a fourth time, Italy began their UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying bid with what looked a home banker. However, Lithuania captain Tomas Danilevičius gave the visitors a 21st-minute lead in Naples and a Filippo Inzaghi effort was required to earn Roberto Donadoni's troops a share of the spoils. "The team played brilliantly," said Danilevičius. "Maybe the Italians underestimated us, but we have shown our fans we can trouble even the toughest opponents."
Northern Ireland 3-2 Spain (06/09/06)
Though Spain were yet to hit the heights that would bring world and European glory, they were still packed to the brim with talent and, consequently, expected to make short shrift of Northern Ireland. 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 (17/10/07)
Liechtenstein have rarely found life easy in UEFA European Championship qualifying and this remains their biggest victory in the competition. They had won only once before in the competition before the 2006–08 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 (03/09/10)
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."