From Ireland to Iceland: EURO's biggest shocks
Monday, June 27, 2016
As Iceland sensationally reach the quarter-finals, we thumb the EURO finals' history books for a selection of the biggest shocks. England, we discover, have been on the receiving end before.
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When David beats Goliath. It is the moment the plucky underdog prevails and, as has often been the case, when a major tournament ignites. EURO2016.com looks at a selection of unfancied sides who have shocked the big boys on the EURO stage – England, felled by Iceland on Monday, have previous.
1988 group stage: England 0-1 Republic of Ireland
This was Ireland's finals debut and though it was only England's third tournament appearance, the script was not meant to read like this. Jack Charlton's team had some heralded names – Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan, Kevin Sheedy, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge – but Bryan Robson, Peter Beardsley, Gary Lineker and John Barnes and company were expected to hold sway. Houghton headed 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 with England's two 0-0 stalemates, but it was anticipated that Graham Taylor's side would move up the necessary gears here. When David Platt put them in front 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 though. Jan Eriksson drew them level and Tomas Brolin's late second sent the Swedes through as Group A winners, also eliminating England.
1992 final: Germany 0-2 Denmark
The culmination of a fairy-tale story to delight football romantics. Denmark had not qualified for EURO '92, but just two weeks before it kicked off they replaced Yugoslavia in Sweden; a month later they were European champions. While it was not all plain sailing – they claimed a solitary point from their first two games – goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort, and Peter Schmeichel's customary obstinacy, ensured the unlikeliest of successes.
1996 group stage: Czech Republic 2-1 Italy
Defeated by Germany in their group opener and up against the 1994 FIFA World Cup runners-up, the Czech Republic appeared to be facing an uphill struggle. That gradient looked to have lessened when Pavel Nedvěd fired them ahead on five minutes, however, and though 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 advantage 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 their group: the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic. They began 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 victory when Māris Verpakovskis raced clear moments before half-time.
2004 final: Portugal 0-1 Greece
A triumph every bit as unexpected as Denmark's feat 12 years before. On home soil and with the 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 onto the scene, Portugal were seemingly champions-elect. Greece, though, had been the tournament giant-killers – starting with a 2-1 win against Luiz Felipe Scolari's men in the championship opener – and repeated the trick in the final through Angelos Charisteas's header.
2016 round of 16: England 1-2 Iceland
Stung by Wayne Rooney's penalty after just four minutes, Iceland may have looked to the uninitiated as if they were heading for defeat. Those who had watched their tenacious group stage displays knew otherwise, however, and the debutants were back on level terms through Ragnar Sigurdsson less than 120 seconds later. Kolbeinn Sigthórsson then beat Joe Hart to set up a remarkable win – remarkable most of all for how comfortably they saw out the rest of the match.