One of the greatest parts of being a sports fan is that odds are there to be defied, and sometimes the underdog can end up achieving the seemingly impossible. From various sports and around the world, here are five of the most amazing comebacks in history.
The 1987 Canada Cup
Sports are a source of enjoyment and passion for billions of people, and sometimes sporting contests are more than just a matter of rival individuals or teams. This was exemplified on the silver screen by Rocky IV and in the real world by the 1987 Canada Cup, both of which pitched the West against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. It was also a unique opportunity to see the top hockey players of the USSR up against the leading lights of the NHL as, at the time, Soviet players were not able to participate in hockey in North America. And, if all that build-up were not enough, hockey aficionados were able to enjoy a one-of-a-kind treat with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux combining in the forward unit for the only time in their careers.
With those two all-time greats playing side by side it might have seemed that Canada was in a strong position to start well, but it turned out wrestling the Russian bear was trickier than anticipated. The first game saw the Soviets race into a lead, and while the Canucks were able to peg them back overtime saw the Reds clinch the winning goal to take the first game. The series was only a best of three, so going down in the first encounter meant Canada had to win both remaining contests or lose the series.
Game two was almost a mirror image of the first meeting, with Canada securing a lead before the Soviets levelled the scoreline and overtime beckoned. Gretzky and Lemieux once again proved their worth by working as a team to secure the critical goal needed to take the series to a deciding final game. During this, the Soviets went into an early lead but the Canadians fought back and, just as yet another overtime seemed inevitable, Lemieux scored to not only claim the game but win the entire series – what a comeback!
Superbowl LI Comeback
The Super Bowl is always a highlight of the USA’s sporting calendar, and Super Bowl LI was a cracker. Pitting the New England Patriots (AFC champions) against Atlanta Falcons (winners of the NFC), this 2017 clash of the titans involved the biggest single comeback the Super Bowl had ever seen.
After a literally pointless first quarter the Falcons burst into the second like a jet firing its afterburners, utterly dominating with 21 points to a paltry 3 for the Patriots. And while the third quarter ended up being a more or less even 7-6, the Falcons at one point enjoyed a colossal 28-3 advantage. And yet, what happened next entered the annals of Super Bowl folklore. 28-9 heading into the final quarter, the Patriots rallied to score 19 points unanswered, the exact result they needed to force overtime. Overtime saw a continuation of the momentum the Patriots had built up in the fourth quarter, and they went on to win 34-28, the first time the winner had been decided in overtime in Super Bowl history. It was the greatest comeback ever, and many consider it the finest Super Bowl of all time. Quarterback Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP for an unprecedented fourth time and was the oldest man to achieve the accolade (he later went on to beat his own record).
Liverpool Break Milan’s Heart
When the halftime whistle blew in Istanbul, host city of the 2005 Champions League final, many Liverpool fans were so disconsolate they left the stadium. Their team was 3-0 down to AC Milan and the writing very much appeared on the wall. But most of those who had flown thousands of miles stayed in their seats, and prayed for a miracle. And, on this occasion, the sporting gods answered.
In a spellbinding six minute period the match was turned on its head, transformed from Milan cruising to a seemingly effortless victory to level pegging as Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard scored the first of three rapid goals (Smicer and Alonso adding the latter two). Suddenly, the final had come alive and a drubbing was contest. Although Milan looked sharp in extra time neither side was able to score and the tournament was determined by penalties.
Liverpool’s keeper Jerzy Dudek did his best to distract the opposition with comically wobbly legs, and it did the trick, with Serginho’s first penalty for Milan soaring above the crossbar. Dudek’s heroics continued as he saved the second Milanese penalty. Although Milan managed to equalise at 2-2, a final save by Dudek secured the win for Liverpool in dramatic fashion.
Dennis Taylor and the Black Ball Final
Snooker has waxed and waned in popularity in the United Kingdom over the years, but the 1980s was its heyday. And during this era of big name characters the most successful player was undoubtedly the reserved Steve Davis, who won all six of his world titles during the decade. In 1984 he was aiming for three in a row, and was up against Northern Ireland’s Dennis Taylor (whose previous high point was being the 1979 runner up).
Obviously, everybody expected Davis to wipe the floor with his opponent. And he did, from the start. In the initial seven frame session, Davis won them all (the final being a best of 35 affair). However, Taylor started to mount a comeback and by the end of the third session had whittled down his opponent’s lead to just 13-11. Heading towards crunch time, Davis and Taylor were tied at 15-15, and then again at 17-17. The final frame would decide the winner of the tournament.
Frames can vary in length from a few minutes to much longer, and the 1985 final frame took 68 minutes. Davis led by 62 points to 59, which only the black ball (worth 7 points) on the table. Cue a game of cat and mouse with safety shots, double attempts, and misses aplenty. It was past midnight when Taylor finally sunk the black to claim a glorious victory. Taylor only ever won two ranking tournaments, but his part in the 1985 final with Davis has made it arguably the best ever World Snooker Championship Final there’s ever been.
Button Goes from Last to First
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has seen some classic F1 races over the years, but the one that sticks in most people’s memories is undoubtedly the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, held before the plague era led to some cancellations. The event itself lasted over four hours due to a very long rain interval as the heavens opened and a downpour made the track undriveable. It also saw arguably the greatest comeback the sport has ever seen.
Things had not started well for British driver Jenson Button. He had crashed into his fellow Briton, and team mate, Lewis Hamilton, putting Hamilton out of the race, bringing out another safety car, and earning Button a drive-through penalty. Later, contact with Fernando Alonso punctured the Briton’s tyre and after yet another visit to the pits he was dead last, 21st of 21 cars still running, with more than half the race distance to go.
But wet-dry conditions were something of a Button specialty. On the drying track he was soon the fastest man and set about carving his way through the field like a hot knife through butter. Against all expectations he climbed into the podium positions, and soon held 2nd, but it seemed race leader Sebastian Vettel would retain his place because there were not enough laps for Button to effect a pass. But Vettel made a rare mistake, slid off the track, and Button was able to squeak past for a staggeringly unlikely victory.
And that soggy spot of motorsport glory completes our quintet of astonishing sporting comebacks. From the baize of snooker to the turf of the Super Bowl, sports vary a lot in style but all have the capacity for incredible twists and turns.