The grounds where football's greatest underdog triumphs took place


When visiting football grounds around the world, it sometimes seems as though the historic matches that took place at them still resonate in the air. While considering New Jersey online casino free money, we think of the most stirring victories and the most crushing defeats. But perhaps most of all, we recall those matches where an underdog club suddenly rose to the challenge and snatched victory against all the odds.

These are special sites for the fans of those clubs. Sometimes, they never again experienced such a triumph, and visiting the grounds where that mythical match took place can become something of a pilgrimage. However, any football fan can appreciate the significance of these stories and the relationship with the grounds where they took place.

Old Trafford, Manchester

When Nottingham Forest won the league title in 1978, it seemed to come out of nowhere. Led by the legendary Brian Clough, Forest had only been promoted by the skin of their teeth in the previous year, escaping the Second Division by just one point and making third place. In fact, it was only an own goal by Millwall's Alan Moore, plus a run of bad luck by Bolton Wanderers, that got Forest into the First Division at all.

Once there, however, Forest seemed to lay waste to all before them, losing only four games all season. Another underdog made good was player Kenny Burns, who Clough had signed despite his reputation as a hard drinker and gambler. Moving Burns from center-forward to center-back, Clough turned him into the FWA's Footballer of the Year.

The league final, against reigning champions Liverpool, ended in a 0-0 draw at Wembley, so it was the replay, at Old Trafford, where Forest literally made history, with John Robertson scoring from the penalty area and taking them to a 1-0 win.

Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, Seville

The defining match at this Spanish stadium was surely the 1986 European Cup final between Barcelona and Romania's Steaua București. There's no prize for guessing which side was the underdog here: throughout the 80s, the Romanian club was routinely harassed by the country's secret police, and had nowhere near the budget or the resources of the great Spanish club.

Throughout the match, the two teams proved equal, resulting in the first goalless European Cup final in history. It went to penalties, and Romanian goalkeeper Helmuth Duckadam saved every one of Barça's four shots. When Marius Lăcătuș and Gavril Balint scored for Steaua, they became the first ever Eastern European club to win the cup.

Ullevi, Gothenburg

Denmark failed to qualify for Euro 92 but somehow ended up winning the event at this Swedish stadium. They got into the tournament after Yugoslavia were banned by a UN Security Council resolution arising from the bloody conflict ongoing in the country at the time. Denmark had come second to Yugoslavia in their group, and so were entered in their place with just 11 days' notice.

The Danes rose to the challenge, powering through to the semi-finals (also at Ullevi), where they defeated defending European champions the Netherlands in a penalty shootout. Perhaps the moment when Peter Schmeichel saved the penalty by Marco van Basten was the defining moment in this underdog story. However, Denmark's triumph was confirmed when they defeated world champions Germany 2-0, thanks to goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort.

Wembley Stadium, London

Of course, Wembley has been home to many memorable, game-changing matches. However, for sheer underdog wonder, few can match Sunderland's astonishing 1973 FA Cup victory. It was a miracle that the Second Division side even got to the final, let alone won. Their qualifying matches against Notts County, Reading and Manchester City had all been draws that had gone to a replay, and the club's last FA Cup win had been in 1937.

Nevertheless, before anyone knew what was going on, the Black Cats were beating Luton Town in the quarter-finals, and then Arsenal in the semis. Suddenly, they were up against 1970s footballing titans and defending champions Leeds United. Sunderland's Ian Porterfield scored the first goal after 30 minutes, and goalie Jimmy Montgomery brilliantly foiled all attempts from United to equalize. Some of his saves have been acknowledged as among the most stunning in football history, and Sunderland took the trophy after a 1-0 victory.

These are just a few of the great underdog stories associated with grounds around the world. There are surely many more to be uncovered, and knowing them always makes a visit more enjoyable. Be sure to do your research before embarking on your next trip.



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