Top Five European Underdog Stories

An underdog story captures the hearts and minds of football fans every year.

Whether it’s a small-town club defying the odds on the European stage or a semi-professional outfit producing a series of shock results in their domestic cup competition.

This article will dive deep into the archives of European Football and will produce for you five times where an underdog has shocked the continental stage.

Barcelona 1-2 Dundee United – 1986/87

Dundee United shocked the European stage in 1986, after inflicting defeat onto Terry Venables Barcelona. However, this was not the only time the Tangerines beat the Catalans, as in all four encounters, the Scottish side has emerged victorious!

APOEL Nicosia 1 Lyon 0 (agg 1-1, 4-3 on pens): Dionissis ...

For a club the size of APOEL Nicosia, just making it into the Champions League group stages is a great achievement. But back in the 2011/12 season, the Cypriot side went even better and made it all the way to the quarter-finals to face European giants and the all-time Champions League title record holders Real Madrid. In the round of 16, Nicosia overcame their biggest test in the tournament as the Yellows defeated French side Lyon 4-3 on penalties after the clubs couldn’t be separated after 210 minutes of football.

They would be comfortably beaten by Madrid but did manage to score twice at the Bernabeu. Facing one of the world’s biggest clubs in a game of that magnitude having made it through three qualifying rounds, a group stage, and then knocking out Lyon in the round of 16 should be recognized as one of the great Champions League stories of recent times.

Athlone Town 0-0 AC Milan

Athlone Town, a team currently languishing in the Irish second division, once welcomed Italian giants AC Milan to St. Mel’s Park, and were one penalty kick away from producing one of the greatest shocks on the European stage of all time. The fixture caught the eye of fans all round the world, with many eager to see how the Town would fare against Milan.

It was Athlone’s first venture into European football and not surprisingly a huge crowd of over 10,000 packed into St Mel’s to see them take on a Milan side in their first-leg encounter. Ironically, it was a Milan outfit that included future Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni as part of the coaching staff.

The League of Ireland side certainly held their own against their Serie A opponents on that Wednesday afternoon half a century ago, gaining a creditable 0-0 draw. Indeed, it could have been so much better as the Town’s John Minnock had his penalty saved by Milan goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi. Athlone were defeated in Italy 3-0, but they certainly could hold their heads high.

KÍ Klaksvík 3-3 Häcken (4-3 PS win for KI)

Have you ever heard of a Faroese side before? I certainly hadn’t heard of one up until this year when semi-professional KI Klaksvik produced 2 outstanding wins in the Champions League qualifying stages, triumphing over Hungarian champions Ferencvaros and Swedish champions Hacken.

After a massive 3-0 victory away to Ferencvaros, KI was matched up against Hacken in the Champions League second qualifying round. The Faroese side had no expectations heading into this one, feeling that a victory over the Swedish side might be a step too far.

Klaksvik went in front early, but the Black and Yellow army took no time to equalise. After the interval, Hacken burst out of the blocks and got in front through Tunisian international Amor Layouni. Klaksvik were in trouble, as the Swedish side could have easily doubled their lead soon after Hacken’s second.

A moment of magic was needed, and Fredrick produced just that from 35 yards out. Nothing more notable happened in the 90, so the entertaining spectacle went to extra time. The two sides both netted in the added period, so after 120 minutes, the two sides couldn’t be separated.

KI was victorious in the shootout, and the jubilant scenes that followed the victory tell you exactly what a massive shock this was. The small-town club from the Faroe Islands had achieved the impossible and entered the third round of the Champions League qualifiers.

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