The past year of 2023 will be remembered for numerous sensational results in football. Among them are Saarbrücken’s victory over Bayern in the German Cup and the remarkable achievements of the Faroese team Klaksvik in European tournaments. Let’s look at 10 of the most shocking matches from the last 12 months:
Aston Villa 1-2 Stevenage
FA Cup, January 8
The FA Cup traditionally features surprises, and a classic example is the fourth-division Stevenage shocking elite Aston Villa with a remarkable comeback. The hosts led through Sanson (33), but conceded 2 goals in the final minutes by Jamie Reid (88, penalty) and Dean Campbell (90).
Ferencváros 0-3 Klaksvik
Champions League, July 19
The modest team from the Faroe Islands, Klaksvik, wrote an incredible story in the Champions League qualifiers, starting with a surprising 3-0 victory over Ferencváros in the Hungarian capital. They continued their exploits by eliminating the Swedish champions, Häcken, and securing a 0-0 draw with the French side Lille in the Conference League group stage. For many, Klaksvik’s historic European journey was the most impressive of the entire season.
Basel 1-3 Tobol
Conference League, July 27
Kazakhstan’s Tobol caused a serious upset by eliminating Basel from the Conference League. Despite the Swiss winning 2-1 as guests, the Kazakhs advanced with a 4-3 aggregate victory, having triumphed 3-1 at St. Jakob-Park a week earlier. Basel’s embarrassment is significant considering they reached the semi-finals of the same tournament just a few months prior (lost to Fiorentina).
Germany 1-4 Japan
Friendly match, September 9
While we lament the performance of our national team, Germany experienced a rapid decline in 2023, becoming a laughingstock against Japan with a 1-4 defeat in Wolfsburg. The statistics were outright devastating for the hosts, with only 3 accurate shots compared to Japan’s 11. Coach Flick was immediately fired, and his replacement, Julian Nagelsmann, couldn’t notably improve the team’s performance. Germany sent one of its weakest years in historical terms just months before hosting Euro 2024.
Zrinjski Mostar 0-3 to 4-3 AZ Alkmaar
Conference League, September 21
For Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2023 was historic as the country had a team in the group stage of European tournaments for the first time – Zrinjski Mostar. The sensation occurred in their first match of the Conference League, where Zrinjski was trailing 0-3 against AZ Alkmaar at halftime. The second half was memorable and historic, as Zrinjski gathered strength for a famous comeback to win 4-3. In the end, the Bosnians only secured 1 more point and finished last in Group E, but the immense joy from the grand comeback will forever be etched in the memory of the club and its fans.
Major shock in the Conference League groups was also caused by the performance of Nordjylland (Denmark), who defeated Ludogorets 7-1 and Fenerbahçe 6-1 at home but still got eliminated.
Saarbrücken 2-1 Bayern Munich
DFB-Pokal (German Cup), November 1
Bayern continued their dominance but unpleasantly surprised their supporters. The team led by Thomas Tuchel suffered a major failure and was eliminated from the German Cup in the Round of 16 after a loss to the modest Saarbrücken. The third-division team won heroically with a 2-1 victory, sealed with the winning goal in the sixth minute of added time, shaking up the tournament.
Bayern led in the 16th minute through Müller, but suffered a turnaround, with Zonthaimer equalizing in the extension of the first half. In the final seconds, Marcel Gaus threw the home fans into ecstasy with the second goal.
By the end of the year, Bayern suffered another shocking loss in the Bundesliga – 1-5 against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Aceneta – Zaragoza 2:1
King’s Cup, November 14
A club with the traditions of Zaragoza, which has spent 58 seasons in the Spanish elite and triumphed in the Copa del Rey in 1995, has been stuck in mediocrity for several years. Another bitter pill for the fans was served in the King’s Cup – elimination by fifth-division Aceneta with a 1:2 loss. The match started well for Zaragoza, with Moyeho opening the scoring in the 21st minute. At that moment, nothing suggested that it would turn into a debacle, but the anonymous players from Aceneta turned the tide to win 2:1. This is not the only sensation from the autumn in the King’s Cup, as elite teams Cadiz and Almeria were also eliminated by fourth-tier opponents – Arandina (1:2) and Barbastro (0:1), respectively.
Azerbaijan – Sweden 3:0
Euro Qualification, November 16
Overall, Sweden became one of the major disappointments in the Euro qualifiers. The proud football nation, which rarely misses major tournaments, failed spectacularly, leading to the end of coach Janne Andersson’s tenure. The Scandinavians couldn’t find their form, and the peak of their poor performance was a 0:3 loss to the outsider Azerbaijan. In Baku, Emin Mahmudov (3, 89) and Renat Dadashov (6) scored for the hosts, and Sweden couldn’t even find a consolation goal, even after Mustafazada received a red card (57).
The qualifiers offered more sensations, including Kazakhstan beating Denmark 3:2, Moldova defeating Poland 3:2, Luxembourg beating Bosnia 4:1, and Albania winning against the Czech Republic 3:0.
Napoli – Frosinone 0:4
Italian Cup, December 20
Frosinone shook up the Italian Cup tournament by shocking the champion Napoli with a 4:0 away win at the “Diego Armando Maradona” stadium in the Round of 16. Frosinone reached the Top 8 in the tournament for the first time in its history, while Napoli suffered embarrassment, drastically declining after winning the Serie A title in the spring.
USV Hercules- Ajax 3:2
Dutch Cup, December 21
The calendar year 2023 turned into one of the nightmares for Ajax. The Amsterdam club suffered numerous humiliations, and to top it off, they were eliminated by amateurs in the Dutch Cup. This happened on December 21 when the fourth-division USV Hercules stunned John van ‘t Schip’s selection with a 3:2 victory. Trailing 0:2 in the 82nd minute, Ajax seemed to salvage the game with late goals from Brobbey and Akpom. However, Hercules managed to score the decisive third goal through Grotenberg in the third minute of stoppage time. The coach of the amateur team, Rene van der Kuij, had given his team only a 2 percent chance before the match, and Ajax’s coach did not attend at all, as he was traveling to his son’s wedding in Australia.