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  • Betting Against The Odds: The Underdog Journeys That Shook Euro Fans

Betting against the odds: The underdog journeys that shook Euro fans

The past decade has gifted us with numerous iconic underdog narratives in football. These underdogs have defied expectations and inspired generations with their remarkable feats on the pitch.

As we eagerly anticipate the next chapter of footballing history, one cannot help but marvel at the enduring allure of the beautiful game and the indomitable spirit of those who dare to dream.

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With that said, which tales stand out as the most significant over these ten years? This article will delve into our selection of the most notable underdog stories from the past decade, each leaving an indelible mark on the sport.’

 

Albania

Albania entered the tournament as one of its five debutantes, but their initial performance in Group A left much to be desired.

After conceding a goal within the first five minutes of their opening match against Switzerland and suffering a costly red card to their captain, Lorik Cana, in the first half, expectations for their campaign seemed bleak.

However, in the second half, the team displayed glimpses of promise, holding Switzerland at bay and ending with a respectable 1-0 scoreline.

Facing the formidable host nation France, Albania's lack of talent was evident, yet they managed to stifle players like Olivier Giroud and Anthony Martial for the full 90 minutes, only conceding two goals in stoppage time.

Their breakthrough came in the match against Romania, with Armando Sadiku netting Albania's first-ever goal in a major tournament, securing a 1-0 victory and solidifying their position as the third-best team in Group A.

Although Albania fell short of advancing to the Round of 16 as one of the top four third-place teams, the players were honoured with diplomatic passports, symbolising their status as national heroes.

 

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, grouped with the reigning world champions Germany and a formidable Poland side led by Robert Lewandowski, faced slim odds of making a mark in their debut European Championship appearance.

Despite a narrow 1-0 loss to Poland in their inaugural match, Northern Ireland displayed resilience, keeping the scoreline tight.

Their fortunes shifted in the subsequent encounter against Ukraine, with goals from Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn securing a crucial three points and positioning them favourably to progress as a third-place finisher.

Although they succumbed to another narrow 1-0 defeat against Germany, Northern Ireland's determined performance earned them a spot in the Round of 16, marking a historic achievement in their first tournament appearance.

Their impact extended beyond the pitch, with the emergence of the unofficial anthem of EURO 2016, "Will Grigg's on Fire," which soared to number seven on iTunes UK's Top 100 chart during the event.

Despite Will Grigg not seeing any game time, his name echoed worldwide, even capturing the admiration of Germany's Mats Hummels, who expressed a desire for his jersey after their encounter.

 

Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland entered Euro 2016 with modest expectations, having been labelled the weakest team in the previous European Championships four years prior.

Placed in a challenging group alongside European and world champions Italy, formidable contenders Belgium, and a Sweden side featuring Zlatan Ibrahimović, the odds seemed stacked against them.

Despite this, they secured a draw against Sweden, courtesy of a goal from the talented "Irish Messi," Wes Hoolahan.

Although they suffered a convincing 3-0 defeat to Belgium, their fortunes took a turn when they faced Italy, who had already secured the group's top spot.

Against a weakened Italian side, Robbie Brady's 85th-minute strike sealed a dramatic victory, propelling Ireland into the next round and reversing their fate from four years prior.

Their journey ended in Round 16 at the hands of host nation France, despite Brady converting an early penalty.

However, the lasting impression of Ireland's Euro 2016 campaign lies not only in their on-field performances but also in the unwavering support of their remarkable fans.

Their passionate chants and spirit endeared them to spectators, earning them the prestigious Medal of the City of Paris as a testament to their impact.

 

Iceland

Iceland emerged as one of the 2016 tournament's endearing stories, representing the smallest population among all competing teams at the European Championships.

Making their debut on the grand stage of a major competition, they kicked off their journey with a commendable 1-1 draw against Portugal. In this match, their goalkeeper, Hannes Halldórsson, renowned for directing Eurovision music videos, successfully thwarted Cristiano Ronaldo.

Maintaining their resilience, Iceland secured another 1-1 draw against the surprise Group F champions, Hungary.

Their group stage concluded with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Austria, sealed by a late goal from Arnór Traustason, igniting euphoria back home and prompting ecstatic reactions from Icelandic commentators.

Continuing their fairytale run, Iceland defied expectations by overcoming an early deficit to defeat England, capturing global attention with their tenacity.

Despite their valiant efforts, they eventually bowed out to France in the quarterfinals.

Yet, their captivating performance left fans longing for the return of their iconic Viking Chant, perhaps to be witnessed once more at the World Cup in Russia two years later.

 

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