Where Sheriff Tiraspol Over Real Madrid Ranks Among Biggest Upsets Ever


Unless you have been living under a rock this week, you have probably heard of Sheriff Tiraspol by now. The Moldovan champions shocked the world of football and Spanish sporting royalty with an incredible 2-1 victory at one of the most iconic sporting cathedrals on earth— the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

When Sebastien Thills’ strike flew into the back of the net in the 89th minute to secure the unlikeliest of victories that you are bound to see this season, it had sports lovers the world over reaching for their record books to see how it compares to other monumental upsets.

Not just in football, but in the world sports as a whole. This is where we come in!

We’ve done the leg work for you. Here are four of the other biggest upsets in world sporting history, all of which are on par with what Sheriff Tiraspol just accomplished.

1983 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship Game

This upset takes us back to 1983 to ‘The Pit’ in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here the top-ranked, #1 seed Midwest Regional Champion Houston Cougars, faced 16th-ranked, #6 seed North Carolina State Wolfpack. With future NBA superstars Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, the Cougars were unbackable favorites to win. 

The first half didn’t go to script as the Wolfpack burst out of the blocks to hold a 33-25 lead, with Clyde Drexler already on four fouls, as they went into the halftime break.

The second half saw Houston hit back in a big way—going on an incredible 17-2 run to take the lead by seven points. Just as the action seemed to be going as expected, Hakeem Olajuwon had to come off the court to receive oxygen.

That opened the door for the Wolfpack to get themselves back in the game. 

march madness

With 44 seconds remaining and Olajuwon back on the court, the scores was tied at 52. NC State had the final possession of the game. After avoiding the Cougars’ attempt to steal the ball back, guard Dereck Whittenburg launched a hail mary from 30 feet.

Hakeem Olajuwon hesitated for fear of being called for goaltending—paving the way for small forward Lorenzo Charles to dunk an air ball shot for the unlikeliest of victories: NC State 54-52.

Still regarded today as one of the craziest March Madness tournaments in history, the Wolfpack became the first team to win the NCAA Tournament despite having suffered 10 losses.

Greece Winning Euro 2004

When the 2004 Euros rolled around, the team on nobody’s lips was The Piratiko. UEFA’s premier international competition was hosted by Portugal this time around. When the hosts were beaten by the no-frills Greek side in the first game of the tournament, it was considered nothing more than one of those freak results that happen in the early rounds.

Regardless of the result, Portugal was expected to shake it off and go deep in the tournament, whereas Greece was not expected to make it out of the group stage.

Their results in their other group stage matches did not turn any heads either. They eked out a draw with Spain and lost to Russia. A late goal from the hosts helped Greece through to the quarter-finals on goal difference, as runners up in their group.


The knockout stages saw a stoutly defensive Greek side shock defending champions France 1-0 in the quarter-finals. In the semi-finals, they beat the Czech Republic by the same score line in the first and only silver goal victory in Euro Championships history.

That set up a final rematch against the hosts. Much like the first encounter, the Portuguese dominated the ball and had the better of the chances, but a corner kick around the hour mark was bundled into the net by Angelo Charisteas—giving the Greeks a 1-0 lead. That was enough.

As the final whistle blew, Greece was crowned as perhaps the most unlikely European Champions in history.

Mike Tyson knocked Out by Buster Douglas

In February 1990, Mike Tyson was the baddest man on the planet. Holding the WBC, WBA, and IBF titles, Tyson was undefeated and the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

He was coming off of a 93-second knockout of Carl Williams in his previous fight. Experts and pundits around the globe viewed the match in the Tokyo Dome with the unheralded Buster Douglas as a warm-up fight before Tyson would defend his title against number-one contender Evander Holyfield.

Such was Tyson’s dominance, he was not only ranked as the best heavyweight fighter in the world but also the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. This is a rarity for heavyweight fighters. 

mike tyson punchout

What nobody saw coming was the 50/1 underdog Buster Douglas knocking out Iron Mike. With Mike Tyson still reeling from a battering in the 9th round, the underdog hit the overwhelming favorite with a vicious four-punch combo that sent Tyson to the canvas for the first time in his career.

Tyson attempted to get back to his feet.

But after incorrectly putting his mouth guard back in, and clearly seeing stars, the referee called the fight over. Tyson was counted out and Buster Douglas was crowned the new World Heavyweight Champion.

Leicester Winning the 2015/16 Premier League

At the beginning of the 2015/16 season, Leicester City was 5000/1 to win the most coveted crown in English football. Some bookmakers offered shorter odds on Elvis Presley showing up alive. Claudio Raineri, the Foxes manager at the time, was however regarded as someone with title-winning credentials.

With a squad that was valued at £72 million (seven times less than Manchester City’s squad value the same year) and having finished 14th the season before, Leicester seemed to have no chance at breaking up an oligarchy that had seen three sides win the title in the previous ten years.

After keeping pace with the top sides throughout the notoriously hectic Christmas schedule, the Foxes took the top spot in January and never looked back—sealing the first title in the top tier of English football in their 132-year history when their nearest challengers that season, Tottenham Hotspur failed to beat Chelsea.

Along with introducing Premier League fans to the likes of N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy announced himself as a world-class striker, with 24 goals completing a journey that had begun in the non-league section of England’s footballing pyramid.


So there you have it, folks. These are the sporting upsets that compare to the Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol (a team with no shirt sponsor by the way) beating Spanish footballing royalty, Real Madrid.

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