Five of the best Euro Qualifier upsets
From Cyprus beating Bosnia to Iceland nullifying the Netherlands and Poland pipping Germany for the first time in their history, we’ve already been treated to a fair few upsets in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. With another round upon us, and with the potential for more giant-killings, we take a look back at five of the most surprising results in European Championship qualification history…
Portugal 0 – 1 Albania – 07.09.2014
A lesson in complacency here. Despite having arguably the best player on the planet at their disposal, the Portuguese felt so assured of victory over the Balkan minnows, especially at home, that they fielded an under-strength side, minus the talents of one Cristiano Ronaldo. Slavia Prague striker Bekim Bala finished a smart volley on the turn, earning the Albanians all three points and making their opponents turn as scarlet as their shirts.
Malta 0 – 0 West Germany – 25.2.1979
Despite having a population less than half the size of Birmingham, the Maltese held the footballing superpower that was West Germany to a goalless draw on a parched pitch. An inspired defensive performance kept the likes of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Fischer at bay, ensuring a result that would become additionally impressive in retrospect as the Germans went on to lift the Euro 1980 trophy.
Faroe Islands 1 – 0 Austria – 12.9.1990
Malta’s population of just over 400,000 may be tiny by most standards, but it’s positively gargantuan compared with the 49,000 that live in the archipelagos of the Faroe Islands. That this was their first ever competitive fixture makes the end result all the more remarkable, especially as Austrian striker Toni Polster had cockily predicted a 10-0 landslide win for the away side. While Torkil Nielsen got the winning goal, fish factory forklift driver and Faroese goalkeeper Jens Martin Knudsen was the hero on the day, stopping all and sundry that rained down on his goalmouth.
Wales 2 – 1 Italy – 16.10.2002
The current Welsh side currently carry the mantle of ending the nation’s qualifying voodoo, but you have to look more than a decade back to find the last time they had a squad that threatened to break this duck. They were massive underdogs against an Italy side that contained many from the squad that had finished runners up at Euro 2000 – including Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon. Goals from Simon Davies and Alessandro Del Piero had the teams level pegging, when Craig Bellamy ran free of the Italian’s famous defence at the 70th
minute mark and coolly slotted home the winner.
Northern Ireland 3 – 2 Spain – 6.9.2006
Though they didn’t quite reach the playoffs, Northern Ireland’s valiant qualification attempt for Euro 2008 was an arguably even great feat. While Wales had the likes of Ryan Giggs and Bellamy amongst a generally talented core, Northern Ireland’s standout player was David Healy. The striker played his heart out during that campaign, notching up 13 goals along the way – making him the all-time record goalscorer during a European Championship qualification campaign – and his finest outing in a green shirt came on a Wednesday night at Windsor Park against the side that would eventually go on to win Euro 2008. The Spanish twice put themselves ahead, and twice they were pulled level by Healy equalisers. With 80 minutes on the clock, Northern Ireland would probably have been happy with a point, when a lofted through ball saw Healy slip past the last man. He proceeded to hit a delicious first time lofted volley from 25 yards out, beating Iker Casillas all ends up and completing his hat-trick. Follow @SportingIndex
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