Top 10 biggest upsets in sports history: Best underdog wins

Top 10 biggest upsets in sports history: Best underdog wins

Kenneth Mwenda
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:18 PM

The biggest upsets in sports history have occurred in the murkiest circumstances, leaving fans captivated by the outcomes. It is inevitable that upsets will occur, especially in sports, and the best part is that they almost always happen unexpectedly. These are some of the greatest sporting moments in history for the fan with no club loyalty, and more so for supporters of some teams who still look forward to these occasions every day.

Top 10 biggest upsets in sports history? Best underdog wins
Top 10 biggest upsets in sports history? Best underdog wins. Photo: Lintao Zhang, Richard Gordon/Icon Sportswire & Nigel French - EMPICS (modified by the author)
Source: Getty Images

All competitive sports from around the world are considered while choosing the most significant sports upsets of all time and the ones that went utterly against the norm. Because so few people bet on the underdog winning, the biggest sporting often upsets significantly and adversely affects bookmakers and bettors.

The best underdog wins in the sporting history of the world

The underdogs defeating the big teams has never happened in sporting history, but on rare occasions, the unexpected happens, and the coin flips to the other side. Some of these tragic occurrences continue to haunt the supporters of the team that was hurt, making them wish they would never again have to go through something so distressing. Ranking the biggest upsets in sports history are listed in the sporting events below.

10. Greece wins 2004 Euros

Best underdog wins
Greece lifts the trophy after securing a win over Portugal during the UEFA Euro 2004 Final match between Portugal and Greece at the Luz Stadium on July 4, 2004. Photo: Professional Sport/Popperfoto
Source: Getty Images

Greece was far from the top of the list of favourites for the Euro 2004 Championship due to a lack of star players and a defensive attitude. Otto Rehaggel's team edged over Spain to place second behind the Portuguese in the group stage by outscoring the Spanish group.

In the knockout rounds, they ran riot over the Czech Republic and France, the reigning champions. Greece won their first major tournament with a 1-0 fairytale victory over Portugal thanks to a goal from Angelos Charisteas, capping up one of the most remarkable streaks of play by a soccer team in history.

9. 20-year-old Juan Martin beat Roger Federer

upsets in sports history
Roger Federer reacts after losing the point during the Semifinal match against Juan Martin del Potro at Qizhong Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Shanghai, China. Photo by Lintao Zhang
Source: Getty Images

Roger Federer intended to win his sixth consecutive US Open championship in New York. Still, things did not go according to plan when the tall Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, the No. 6 seed, managed to upset the then-world No. 1. Federer entered this match as a clear favourite, and none could have predicted that he would lose.

Del Potro forced the winner to play five sets before taking the fifth 6-2. Federer's post-tournament results were also not good, as he only managed to capture one Slam championship. Given that Juan defeated Federer and never won another major title, this result has never ceased to amaze the fans.

8. Senegal vs France (2002)

biggest upsets in sports history
Illustration Team during the World Cup match between France and Senegal in World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea on 31th May 2002. Photo: Eric Renard / Onze / Icon Sport
Source: Getty Images

Senegal knew they would be playing the hosts and current European champions France in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup, their first-ever appearance on the world's most significant international stage. Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram, and Fabien Barthez were the Frenchmen in the starting lineup. Despite the absence of Zinedine Zidane due to injury, the club should still have been capable of defeating a side whose sole notable player was a youthful El-Hadji Diouf.

Instead, France struggled to get into a rhythm, and after 30 minutes, Papa Bouba Diop, subsequently of Fulham and Portsmouth, scrambled in the game's lone goal. Senegal reached the round of eight while France was eliminated in the group stage, tying an African record.

7. Liverpool vs Milan in a Champions League final (2005)

Famous upsets in sports
Captain Steven Gerrard of Liverpool lifts the trophy at the ceremony following the UEFA Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool on May 25, 2005 in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Etsuo Hara
Source: Getty Images

Liverpool needed Luis Garcia's "ghost goal" in a tense match against Chelsea, incredible defence from Chelsea, and a lot of luck to advance to the Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005. It was widely anticipated that Milan, who had players like Andriy Shevchenko, Kaka, and Clarence Seedorf, would have an easy time of it. Few were astonished when the Rossoneri left the field with a three-goal lead at halftime since everyone assumed they had finished cruising to their seventh European Championship.

Legend has it that at the half, a stirring rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" could be heard in the Liverpool locker room, and the Reds quickly began to battle back. The game entered extra time after scoring three goals in the final six minutes, and Jerzy Dudek emerged victorious in the ensuing penalty shootout.

6. US Hockey beats Soviet Union

Olympic sport upset
Vladimir Myshkin and Viacheslav Fetisov of the Soviet Union defend Neal Broten of USA during the XIII Olympic Winter Games in February of 1980 in Lake Placid, New York. Photo: Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

The 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York, and the Soviet Union, one of the strongest teams in the world, was scheduled to play the American National Ice Hockey Team. The Soviet Union team was at its best, with highly skilled, seasoned players, and had been winning medals for years.

On the other hand, the American squad was made up of unproven college players and other players who did not have excellent reputations. One of the nation's proudest sporting moments will always be the victory over the Soviet Union at Lake Placid.

5. Chelsea wins the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final

Dates of biggest upsets in sports history
Fernando Torres celebrates as Chelsea lift the Champions League trophy Champions League Final the Fussball Arena München on May 19, 2012 in Munich, Germany. Photo: Ian MacNicol
Source: Getty Images

The Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, is one of only a few venues in the world that can be as daunting. Chelsea faced an intensely competitive Bayern Munich on their home field, and the stadium was packed to the rafters with enthusiastic and noisy supporters.

During a contentious first half, both goalkeepers made stunning saves until Muller scored the game's first goal, only to be stopped five minutes later by Didier Drogba. Arjen Robben's subsequent penalty attempt was saved by Peter Cech, keeping Chelsea in the contest.

Chelsea prevailed 4-3 on penalties in the decisive round of the contest. As Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League for the first time in its history, bookies, bettors, and fans worldwide watched in shock.

4. Wigan vs Manchester City in an FA Cup final (2013)

Biggest upsrts in sports history
Wigan Players lift the FA Cup and celebrate after Wigan's victory in The FA Cup between Manchester City & Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium in London, UK on May 11th 2013. Photo: MI News
Source: Getty Images

When Manchester City faced Premier League underdog Wigan in the 2013 FA Cup final, they had already conceded the league title to rivals Manchester United. However, there was still only meant to be one winner under the Wembley arches. There could be no comparison between the budgets of the two clubs, with Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and David Silva all lining up for City.

However, as is sometimes the case in the FA Cup, Wigan's enthusiasm and drive prevailed on this particular day. Throughout the 90 minutes, City struggled to get going and could only stay in the game because Wigan did not take advantage of their opportunities. Fortunately, the Latics did not suffer the consequences, as Ben Watson's game-winning goal in stoppage time ultimately materialized.

3. Buster Douglas beats Mike Tyson (1990)

the greatest upsets in sports history?
Mike Tyson (R) lands a punch to the nose of opponent Buster Mathis Jr. during the second round at the Spectrum in Philadelphia 16 December. Photo: Timothy A. CLARY
Source: Getty Images

Tyson was on fire during his heyday, giving his opponents knockout after knockout. Most observers predicted Tyson would easily defeat Buster Douglas that evening, and the odds against Douglas were over 50-1.

Nobody anticipated Buster Douglas to come out of nowhere and knock Tyson out cold to win the world championship. Despite having a 42-to-1 chance of winning the match, Buster Douglas was defeated with just one stroke from his first opponent.

2. Argentina vs Saudi Arabia in the World Cup (2022)

What were Saudi odds to beat Argentina?
Leonel Messi challenges Saudi players during the 2022 FIFA World Cup group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, Qatar. Photo: Richard Gordon/Icon Sportswire
Source: Getty Images

After the encounter between the two nations, practically all football enthusiasts kept asking themselves, "What were Saudi odds to beat Argentina?" Lionel Messi's quest to finally win the World Cup was the topic of conversation leading up to this Group C opening, and a victory over Saudi Arabia was presumptively expected. Despite Argentina's three goals being disallowed for offside and Messi's early penalty, the underdogs competed admirably and completely changed the game in the second half.

Salman Al-Faraj restored parity before Saudi Arabia's skipper Salem Al-Dawsari gave his team the lead moments later, sending jaws dropping worldwide. Argentina struggled mightily but ultimately failed to equalize as Saudi Arabia pulled off what is likely ranking the biggest World Cup upset of the twenty-first century.

1. Leicester wins the Premier League

Greatest upset in sports history
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri and Wes Morgan lift the trophy as the team celebrate winning the Barclays Premier League, at the King Power Stadium, Leicester. Photo: Nigel French - EMPICS
Source: Getty Images

In 2014–15, Leicester narrowly escaped being dropped to the Championship by winning seven of their final nine games and pulling off one of the Premier League's most incredible escapes. In the summer, Nigel Pearson was replaced as manager by Claudio Ranieri, and the team performed an even greater miracle in 2015–16.

The Premier League underdogs defeated clubs that were hundreds of times wealthier and more prominent than they were as the entire world watched in shock. They succeeded in winning the Premier League title that year.

When considering the dates of the biggest upsets in sports history, the above instances will undoubtedly stay in the record charts and top the list for many years to come. It is safe to argue that underdog stories, in which a team or individual can come from nowhere to win and pull off a significant upset when no one had given them a chance, make sports as exciting as they are.

Read also: A list of all NFL teams in alphabetical order and their logos.

Sportsbrief has published an article about all the National Football League (NFL) teams in alphabetical order and their logos. The league has a number of great teams and has long been the best sport in the United States. The NFL is made up of 32 teams divided into two conferences of 16 each. Each conference is divided into four divisions, each with four clubs.

Kenneth Mwenda photo
Kenneth Mwenda
Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. At Sportsbrief, he contributes to writing biographies and listicles.