Thus far, Euro 2016 has delivered plenty of shocks: the group-topping outings from Hungary and Wales; Ireland’s victory over Italy; Ivan Perisic’s hair. But the tournament may well be remembered for the heroic fashion in which the minnows of Iceland unceremoniously dumped fellow islanders England out of the competition with a very surprising (but fully deserved) Round of 16 win.
See where that ranks in KICK’s Top 5 European Championships shockers…
5. France 1-4 Holland, 2008 Group Stage
When it comes to tournaments, France appear to have two default settings: total domination or hilarious capitulation.
Les Blues finished rock-bottom of their group at the 2010 World Cup after some embarrassing in-fighting tore the camp apart—and they achieved exactly the same finishing spot at Euro 2008.
The French were World Cup finalists two years previously, but Raymond Domenech’s fortunes crashed harder than British currency when it came to the tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
They drew their opener against an underwhelming Romania side and formally booked their tickets home when Italy beat them in a replay of the aforementioned World Cup final in their last game, but the biggest shock of the campaign surely came in their second match against the Netherlands.
The Dutch took only nine minutes to open the scoring through Dirk Kurt and France—featuring such luminaries as Gregory Coupet, Willy Sagnol and Sidney Govou—rarely had an answer.
Wesley Sneijder made it 4-1 in injury time, marking France’s biggest ever defeat at a European Championships (the previous biggest loss was a 2-0 defeat by Czechoslovakia in the inaugural tournament in 1960).
As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, Domenech used his post-match interview following their exit from the tournament to propose to his girlfriend, a French TV reporter. She did not say yes.
4. Sweden 2-1 England, 1992 Group Stage
If you thought expectation was high on England these days, it doesn’t compare to the early 1990s. At Italia ’90, the Three Lions missed out on a matchup with (a very beatable) Argentina in the final thanks to a dreaded penalty shootout with the equally dreaded Germans.
Going into Euro 92 with a similar squad, big things were expected of Graham Taylor’s side. However, they were sent home in their final group stage match after a pretty shocking defeat by hosts Sweden.
England went into the game on the back of 0-0 draws with eventual winners Denmark (more on them very shortly) and France. For a guaranteed place in the semi-finals of the eight-team tournament, the side captained by Gary Lineker simply needed to beat the Scandinavians. On paper, that seemed easy enough.
When David Platt put England ahead after just four minutes, victory seemed inevitable. Yet the Swedes were geed up enough by the 30,000-strong home crowd in Solna enough to equalize shortly after the break. Ten minutes later, Taylor made the baffling decision to substitute captain and star striker Gary Lineker, who could only watch from the bench as Tomas Brolin converted the winner with eight minutes left on the clock.
Taylor was sacked and England sunk into such a funk that they failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
3. England 1-2 Iceland, 2016 Round of 16
It took a reasonable amount of restraint to only include two England performances in this list: the completely unexpected loss to Ireland in their tournament debut in 1988 certainly deserves an honorable mention.
England hadn’t looked like world beaters in the group stages of Euro 2016 and some decisions from manager Roy Hodgson seemed debatable (putting Harry Kane on corners; using Wayne Rooney in midfield; using Jack Wilshere in any capacity). However, the Three Lions had created plenty of scoring chances and there were plenty of positives to be drawn as they set up a Round of 16 clash with the minnows of Iceland—which certainly seemed like a preferable option to bogey team Portugal.
It looked like a quarter-final meeting with France was in the books when Rooney converted a penalty after just four minutes, but the lead lasted less than two minutes, as Ragnar Sigurdsson found the equalizer.
Kolbeinn Sigthórsson then exploited the butter smeared all over Joe Hart’s gloves to put Iceland in the lead, which they would hold onto for 70 minutes without much of an issue.
As if you need any reminding, Iceland has a similar population size to Charleston. They have less registered soccer players than the smallest US state, Rhode Island.
This was the biggest win in Iceland’s history—and yet another shameful chapter of underachievement for the Big Book of England Disappointments.
2. Germany 0-2 Denmark, 1992 Final
England’s aforementioned shocker against the Swedes was far from the biggest bombshell dropped at the 1992 tournament.
Denmark failed to qualify for the tournament, but with less than a week to go before it started, Yugoslavia were disqualified due to the breakup of their country and subsequent civil unrest. So, the Danes were called up in their place, meaning they had to frantically assemble a squad to compete against a group featuring hosts Sweden and the behemoths of England and France.
A month later, they were champions, having pulled off one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition.
Denmark drew their first match with England and lost to Sweden in their second, earning a place in the semi-finals only through a surprising victory over France that sent Les Blues home.
They then proceeded to play out a thrilling 2-2 draw with the Netherlands that went in their favor during a shootout, at which point they earned a daunting matchup with Germany.
Those of you who have been paying attention will note that Germany don’t often lose in tournament finals, but they were stunned when they couldn’t find a way past Peter Schmeichel (who had joined Manchester United the previous year), while John Jensen and Kim Vilfort found the net.
It was a monumental win for the Scandinavian minnows, who were only playing in their third ever major tournament—and they hadn’t even qualified for it!
“We didn’t have the best players, but we had the best team,” said Vilfort, echoing a sentiment that might help Italy to progress in the current iteration of the tournament.
1. Portugal 0-1 Greece, 2004 Final
In 2004, the stars were aligned for Portugal to win their first ever major tournament. They had reached the semis of the previous Euros, they had World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari at the helm, they had home advantage and a roster that included talents like Luis Figo, Deco and a promising youngster named Cristiano Ronaldo.
But, somehow, they conspired against themselves to lose the final to huge outsiders Greece.
The unfashionable Greeks seemed about as likely to reach the latter stages as Leicester to win the Premier League. Only tournament newcomers Latvia were given longer odds. However, the team coached by Otto Rehhagel—who famously lead Kaiserslautern to the Bundesliga title in one of the biggest shocks in German football history—beat Portugal in the tournament opener and proceeded to draw with Spain to reach the knockout stages.
Their ugly-but-effective counter attacking style took them past reigning champions France in the quarters and then the Czech Republic in the semis. Surely they wouldn’t be able to grind out a win against the hosts at their own party?
Welp, against all odds, a solitary goal from Angelos Charisteas was enough to give Portugal a Greek Tragedy of their own, leaving Cristiano in floods of tears and fans all around the world scratching their heads in disbelief.
Which other Euro shocks should have made the cut? Let me know in the comments and on the social medias!