Everybody roots for the underdogs, except for the fans of the teams they’re up against. Amazing performances made by unheralded teams and athletes usually come out of nowhere, shocking the sporting world. Regardless if it’s in the local scene or in competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics, the world will surely take note and view these stories with interest.
We’ve heard of huge upsets and Cinderella stories like George Mason in 2006, the United States Hockey Team’s “Miracle on Ice” in the 1980 Winter Olympics and the Rockets winning the 1995 NBA Championship. Let’s take a look at some unheralded and virtually unheard of upsets in the sporting world:
Basketball: Iran vs Jordan FIBA Asia Quarterfinals 2011
The year 2011 was a big one for Asian basketball, and every pundit was anticipating a finals rematch showdown between the 2009 champions Iran and the hosts, China.
Iran entered the quarterfinals undefeated, cruising past the first and second rounds. Their notable results included a 132-38 romp over Uzbekistan, 121-36 against Malaysia, 76-45 vs Lebanon and a 79-62 route against eventual third placers, South Korea.
Jordan contrasted Iran’s situation, having only won two out of five games. They experienced horrible defeats against the Philippines, 72-64, Japan 92-87 and China, 93-60.
Judging from the recent performances, you could safely say the Hamed Hadadi-backed Iranians would win by a huge margin.
It wasn’t meant to be.
Despite having a subpar performance in the earlier rounds, the Jordanians came out with one thing on their minds: beating Hadadi. Piloted by former 2002 World Championships semifinalist coach Tab Baldwin, the Jordanians kept the score close throughout the game, and somehow grabbed the lead in the last quarter. Backed by veterans like 6’6 guard Sam Daghles and 6’8 forward Zaid Abbas, the Jordanians displayed a masterful performance.
The game ended 88-84 for Jordan, leaving the stunned Iranians in tears:
Eventually, Jordan also managed to upset the Philippines, 75-61 and narrowly fell to China in the finals, 70-69. A complete turnaround compared to their 33-point defeat in the second round.
Iran had their revenge two years later though, as both teams met in the quarterfinals again. This time, the Persians won, 94-50.
Football: North Korea 1-0 Italy 1966 World Cup
North Korea is the world’s only surviving totalitarian state, and though it is known for its war-like stance against western countries and widespread poverty, it has had success in the world of football.
Recently, the nation qualified in the 2010 World Cup and performed quite well against five time winners Brazil despite losing 2-1. Subsequently, they fell to Portugal, 7-0 and Ivory Coast 3-0.
This wasn’t the case in the 1966 World Cup: they managed to reach the second round via a huge upset against Italy, 1-0 and a 1-1 tie vs Chile. They played Portugal in the quarterfinals and despite leading 3-0 in the first 25 minutes, they conceded five straight goals before eventually losing, 5-3. Here’s a documentary about the 1966 team’s exploits.
Pro Boxing: Corrie Sanders vs Wladimir Klitschko
Having called out of retirement, the late South African Corrie Sanders was supposed to be a gazelle that was going to be fed to the lion in the form of Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko. Does the latter’s name sound familiar? Well of course: he’s currently the world’s #1 heavyweight boxer.
Skip to March 8, 2003: Sanders lined up to be a ”stay busy” fight for the guy known as Dr. Steelhammer. In the first round, the brawl ensued and Klitschko ended up getting dropped TWICE. The second round was no better for the Ukrainian, who was dropped again twice en route to a 2nd round technical knockout.
Things did not end well for Sanders though, as he lined up to challenge Wladimir’s big brother, Vitali and lost via an 8th round TKO.
Overall, even if you’re an unheralded athlete with huge aspirations, it is best to keep yourself in shape, take in healthy food and food supplements like antler velvet. Remember, don’t let your status in life stop your dreams, like the people in the stories above did!