This year’s Champions League, especially fairytale of Ajax Amsterdam, shows us that believing in underdogs is worth a try. The best thing about upsets in sports is that they occur when you least expect them. It’s their biggest charm. In this article we submit our subjective list of the most memorable David vs Goliath moments of all-time.
The Miracle on Ice
Do you believe in miracles? You should, because in sports they really do happen. The greatest of them happened on ice. It was in the height of the Cold War, an atmosphere of distrust between the United States and Soviet Union. Two countries met then on the hockey rink, in the first round of medal round of Lake Placid’s Winter Olympic Games in 1980.
The Soviets were a hot tip. They’ve won the gold medal in six of the seven previous Winter Olympics. The team was built of ice hockey’s stars used to winning gold medals. The Americans, on the other hand, were made up exclusively of amateur players (this was before NHL players represented the US in the Olympics). Team USA - led by head coach Herb Brooks - was as well the youngest one in both the Olympic tournament and national team history.
The game ended with completely unexpected 4-3 US victory and legendary line “Do you believe in miracles? YES” of CBS’ sportscaster Al Michaels. Americans clinched the golden medal after defeating Finland in the final but the game against Soviet Union, that became known as the "Miracle on Ice", hit the headlines. In 1999 Sports Illustrated named the "Miracle on Ice" the top sports moment of the 20th century.
This story is on the top of almost every list with biggest sports upsets of all-time. Business Insider even wrote that “it seems hard to believe anything could ever surpass it in future”. Hard to argue.
Greek tragedy (for the rest of Europe)
The year 2004 was full of the unbelievable moments in football. FC Porto, led by coaching rising star Jose Mourinho, upset the whole Europe and won that year’s Champions League but even bigger story happened a month later.
Saying that Greece was an underdog at that tournament is still an understatement. Having only ever qualified for two major tournaments (where they won zero games), being without a single star player in their ranks, Greeks were supposed to return home as quickly as they arrived to Portugal. Prior to the tournament, they had odds of 150-1 and landed in a group with Portugal (hosts), Spain and Russia. They managed to surpass group’s rivals and it has started their path to the final. During a stunning run, Greece defeated reigning champs France and fans-favorite Czech Republic in the knockout stages to meet Portugal again, this time in the final. Greek tragedy for the hosts and the rest of Europe fulfilled by Angelos Charisteas’ goal which gave Otto Rehhagel’s side golden medals.
Greeks conceded no goals in KO stages and were criticized for playing unattractive, defensive football, yet there was no discussion that was a winning football. Rehhagel’s boys proved that great spirit, hard work, willingness and trust in your teammates you can overcome everything. Especially the odds.
Down goes Tyson
It was supposed to be the “Tyson is Back” fight. By 1990, Mike Tyson held a record of 37 professional fights with 37 wins, including 11 KO’s and 26 TKO’s. Tyson was then a real beast and it seemed that there was no boxer on earth who could face him. “Iron Mike” was supposed to hit the international scene with the fight against James “Buster” Douglas. The life, however, brought him kind of reverse scenario.
Douglas was so unfancied by bookmakers that only one casino in Las Vegas decided to take bets on the fight, offering 42-1 on underdog. The drama of this fight was even bigger, considering that Douglas lost his mother three weeks beforehand. It didn’t however stop him from going down in history. “Buster” surprised Tyson with relentless, tough boxing which helped him knocked out undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in 10th.
On 11th February 1990 history of boxing has been made. On this day Tyson, one of the most dangerous boxers of all time, went down on canvas for the first time in his career and never really returned to his best afterwards.
Karma comes around for Warriors
It was in the spring of 2007. The Dallas Mavericks were the best team in the whole league and in and in the 1st round of Western Conference’s playoffs they come up to meet the Golden State Warriors. Mavericks had everything to become the champions of the world. The were fresh after franchise-record regular season with 67 wins and 15 losses. Dirk Nowitki was named the MVP and hoped to take revenge for 2006’s failure in the NBA Finals when Mavs lost 4-2 to Miami Heat. Although, before Dallas’ dreams of Larry O'Brien trophy ignite for good, all of the sudden they extinguish. Everything due to the effort of Dubs who just two weeks later came really close to missing the knockout phase. Though the things looked way different in playoffs. Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and Jason Richardson led the Warriors to a 4-2 win. Adding to the drama of this series: Golden State’s home crowd was completely electric. This team, the first in the NBA’s history that have won best-of-seven series, carried away the whole basketball world and embodied the power of the ““We Believe”” chip.
Karma has turned away from the Warriors only nine years later. This time things turned upside down. In the year of 2016 Dubs were highly favored against Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals after tremendous and historical regular season that they ended with best-of-all-time record 73-9, breaking the 1995–96 Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls record of 72–10 . Nevertheless, playoffs once again had their own rules. The Golden State jumped to a 3-1 lead that they somehow managed to blow as the first team in NBA’s history. Cavaliers bounced back, won three remaining games and clinched the series at rival’s homeground, defeating Warriors 93:89 in Game 7. This series had everything: drama, unbelievable plot twist and heroic stunt of LeBron James. The King, named the MVP of the NBA Finals, delivered to home state of Ohio the first and probably the only championship in his career.
The Foxes’ “5000 to 1” dream
At the start of the season 2015-2016, William Hill and Ladbrokes offered odds of 5000 to one for Leicester City becoming the Premier League’s champions. The team from King Power Stadium finished previous season at 14th place and there were no indications that side led by Italian eccentric coach Claudio Ranieri could pull out that kind of miracle. Yet it happened and it was not a moment of rival’s weakness that bring The Foxes to the top.
It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a smile of fate. It was 38 rounds of weekly-rivalry in the hardest, most competitive domestic competition in Europe that end up with the biggest upsets in Premier League’s history. For city of Leicester it was like a daydream, for William Hill it was like a nightmare. Mind-blowing 5000 to 1 odds cost the nation’s bookmakers a record payout of £25 million!
When Ronda Rousey came against Holly Holm at UFC195, the world of combat sports turned completely upside-down. Ronda was then a household name, really unstoppable force in women’s UFC and was seen by many as the greatest female athlete of all-time. Before the Holm’s matchup she finished her last three rivals in 24, 16 and 14 seconds. Amazing series of American was ended by Holm, former boxing world-champion.
The pair clashed in November 2015, everyone expected that Holm would become another of Ronda’s victims. Reality was completely different as Holm completely outclassed fans and bookmakers favorite. Rousey was embarrassed by rival who simply ducked out of the way. Holm knocked Rousey out with a high kick to the neck early in the 2nd round and suddenly Rousey's three-year supremacy in UFC come to and end.
Ronda’s story is kind of similar to Mike Tyson’s. After upset from the hands of Halm she has never really made it back on top in MMA. For her this defeat was the beginning of the end.
“The Siberian Tiger” fell down
Prior to facing Rulon Gardner at 2000’s Summer Olympics, Russian super heavyweight wrestler Alexander Karelin hadn’t surrendered a single point in the last ten years. He entered this Olympics on a 13-year win streak and had never lost an international wrestling match before. “The Siberian Tiger” won three consecutive gold medals at previous Olympics and had at that time seven conscecutive world titles. He was and is still considered as the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time.
Karelin might be the best athlete that this sport has ever seen but Sydney’s final didn’t belong to him. It belonged to Gardner, a 29-year-old farm boy from Wyoming, who wasn’t even a medal-contender. Gardner scored a single point in the second round, got the 1-0 lead that he held for the rest of the match. The first point that Karelin allowed in six years led to the first loss of his international career. Yep, first and only loss of his international career.
The Cherry Blossoms defining expectations
South Africa entered the Rugby World Cup in 2015 as title favorites. At the tournament opener they have faced Japanese. Asians were thrown to the wolves, odds on them were as high as 80 to 1, which only very few people - madmen or incurable optimists - were likely to have backed.
Logic had prompted that nothing bad could have happened to former world champions. The Cherry Blossoms, however, cocked a snook at everyone and pulled off the biggest upset in the history of rugby. Bravous effort for the full 80 minutes of play could have given Japanese a draw but they didn't stop and it was Karne Hesketh's try in the final minute of the game that gave them their historic 34-32 win at the Brighton Community Stadium.
In the end South Africans got promoted to the knockout stage and finished the World Cup with bronze medals. However, it was the effort from Japanese that will be remembered forever. They have defined odds and all expectations. Probably even their own.
Super-Super Bowl XLII
It was a night that was supposed to cap off New England Patriots’ perfect 2007-2008 season. If the Patriots had won against New York Giants in Super Bowl, they would have ended the season undefeated. The run, however, lasted 18 wins instead of ideal 19 victories. Super Bowl XLII became an instant classic. The most memorable play from this game came when David Tyree made a miraculous 32-yard catch and pinned the ball with one hand against his helmet. This play, known as the “Helmet Catch”, set up the game-winning touchdown from final’s MVP Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress. Giants pulled out a 17-14 upset in the final seconds and broke rival’s hearts. The 19-0 shirts were already printed and ready to go for the Patriots, but this time life brought them a bitter pill to swallow.
As 2007’s Warriors proved, sometimes it is worth believing in miracles. They really do happen. You can look for and bet on another big sports upsets among OneHash’s betting offer.