Of course, an upset isn’t great for everyone involved; sportsbooks, bettors on the favorite’s side, and the opposing team’s fans are understandably not joyous about this kind of scenario. But for neutral fans, those betting on the underdog, and fans of the team, this is often a day that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
When selecting the greatest sports upsets of all time, we considered a variety of sports from across the world as well as the ones that went completely against the grain. The biggest sports upsets exist because very few will bet on the underdog winning, and these results hit bookmakers and bettors hard.
Here is our list of the biggest sports upsets of all time:
Chelsea wins 2012 UEFA Champions League Final
There are a few stadiums in the world that are as intimidating as the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Packed to the rafters with passionate and vocal fans, Chelsea took on a fiercely competitive Bayern Munich on their home turf. A frenzied first half of wonderful saves from both keepers was finally broken by Thomas Müller, only for Didier Drogba to equalize five minutes later. Peter Čech then saved a penalty from Arjen Robben to keep Chelsea in the game.
The final went down to penalties, in which Chelsea won 4-3. The bookmakers and many bettors and fans across the world looked on in disbelief as Chelsea took the title of UEFA Champions League winners for the first time in their history, in front of their opponent’s home fans.
North Carolina State beat Houston in 1983
The year was 1983 and Houston was in formidable form. Led by two up-and-coming NBA legends, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, they had torn across the country and were currently 31-2.
However, Sydney Lowe led the Wolfpack in a full-on assault late in the game, and Dereck Whittenburg’s alley-oop to Lorenzo Charles won the game and a national championship for North Carolina State, who won 54-52.
Greece wins 2004 Euros
When it came to the favorites for the Euro 2004 Championship, Greece was nowhere near the top with no star players and a defensive mindset. However, they went on one of the most memorable runs of form from a soccer team in history. They ran riot over France (who were the defending champions) and the Czech Republic in the knockout rounds. They then went on to beat Portugal in the final.
US Hockey beats Soviet Union
In 1980, the Winter Olympics took place at Lake Placid, in New York. The American National Ice Hockey Team was to take on one of the world’s best teams in the form of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union team was at their peak, with highly skilled, experienced players that had been winning trophies for years. In contrast, the American team was made up of unknown college players and others who didn’t come with much of a reputation. The win against the Soviet Union at Lake Placid will always be remembered as one of the country’s proudest sporting moments.
New York Jets beat Baltimore Colts
In 1969, Jets quarterback Joe Namath, famously promised that they were going to win the Super Bowl III by beating the Baltimore Colts. Despite his obvious confidence in his team, very few sports fans or bookies agreed. Almost everyone expected the Colts to brush the Jets aside, as they had done to most teams that season. The Jets went on to score 16 points for which the Colts simply had no answer.
A horse named Upset
When the horses lined up at the Sanford Memorial Stakes, in the early 1900s, there was very little expectation that a horse, that very few people knew, would take home the grand prize. With odds of 100-1, Upset, the aptly-named racing horse — streaked ahead to get his nose over the finish line before any of his vastly superior competitors, such as Man o’ War, who had never lost a race.
Leicester wins the Premier League
Now, this is the fairytale underdog story of the century. In 2016, Leicester City had just battled relegation from the UK’s Premier League soccer division in the season before. They had mammoth 5000-1 odds stacked against them to win the Premier League. Leicester was expected to finish at the very bottom of the elite league. The world watched in disbelief as the Premier League minnows successfully beat clubs hundreds of times richer and bigger than them. They successfully went on to be crowned champions.
Patriots fall to the NY Giants
In 2008, the New England Patriots had just finished off with a perfect season. Their 19-0 record took them into the Super Bowl XLII with full of confidence. The game started off as you’d imagine with the Patriots up by 12 points in Las Vegas. Then the unthinkable happened — a catch from David Tyree started a Giants drive in the dying moments of the fourth quarter. With just 35 seconds left on the clock, the Giants got the touchdown they had been praying for and took the cup against all odds.
Federer beaten by youth
Even if you know next to nothing about tennis, it’s likely you’ll know exactly who Roger Federer is. He is one of the best players to have ever graced the court. Between 2003 and 2009, he was in his prime and won a massive fourteen major tournaments in that time, including five US Opens and six Wimbledon titles. In 2009, he was expected to go all the way in the US Open, as he had done the year before. He made it through to the finals, in games, which seemed to barely trouble him. On the day of the final match, he was extraordinarily beaten by 20-year-old Argentinean Juan Martin del Potro, who has never gone on to win another major trophy.
Mike Tyson knocked out
There is no name that is as synonymous with heavyweight boxing as Mike Tyson. Tyson was a man who ran riot during his prime, with knockout after knockout bestowed upon his competitors. So on the night when he was pitted against Buster Douglas, most people saw it as a routine win for Tyson, and Douglas’ odds were at about 50-1. What no one saw coming was Buster Douglas surprising Tyson and knocking his lights out to win the world title. When considering the biggest upsets in sports history, this is undoubtedly one that will stay in the record charts for many years to come.
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