Greece wins Euro 2004 with a 1-0 victory over Portugal; Leicester City overcomes all odds (5000:1) and wins the Premier League in 2016; Denmark beats Germany in the Euro 1992 Final. These are but a few of the greatest upsets in the history of football.
A game flooded by billions of dollars and monopolized by a few teams has a habit of surprising us, every once in a while. Most people cannot fathom how a team can overcome all odds to defeat the world’s best and become crowned champions of their respective league or a tournament. I won’t claim to know a secret formula but I can anoint the following as contributors to these magical moments:
- A disciplined system: All players know their role and perform it to the best of their ability, week in, week out. Upsets usually come in the form of squeezing the life out of opposition through a frustrating and dogged approach to football. Greece were a miserable outfit to watch in Euro 2004 but they were respectable as the system they deployed was perfectly tailored to the players they had. In addition to the system, these overachievers usually have a player or two who is capable of breaking a game open through a moment of brilliance. Leicester City had Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez and Denmark had one of the Laudrup brothers.
- Fight and determination: Success is not expected but it is earned. These teams overcome assumption due to the never say die attitude and the overarching desire to win they all encompass. A major contributor to this mentality is the manager who is the leader of the tribe and encourager on so many fronts. Motivational techniques are imperative in the success of these clubs. Apparently, when Claudio Ranieri saw his Leicester City players slacking he would ring and imaginary bell and yell, 'Dillydee, Dillydong' - no joke.
- Lack of focus from the opposition: This aspect is the trump card which makes it possible for underdogs to overachieve. If superior plays inferior and both play to their utmost potential, the result will almost always be as expected. However, this rarely occurs and the nature of the beast is to become more motivated by the class of the opposition. It only takes one player with a lacklustre mentality to throw off the balance of an entire squad. When playing inferior opposition, this often happens.
The above are all aspects which make the impossible, possible – long live the success of the underdog.