With odds of 3/2 to win at the start of the event, Europe were always underdogs to beat odds-on favourites USA in the 2012 Ryder Cup in Medinah. By the time they were 10-6 down going into the final day, they were not only underdogs but 7/1 outsiders. Amazingly, inspired by the spirit of Seve Ballesteros and a pumped-up Ian Poulter, Europe then embarked on an epic comeback to win 14.5-13.5.
The question is, how does that compare with some of the other memorable comebacks in sporting history? Taking a welcome trip down memory lane, we’ve gone trawling through the archives and picked out five of the top sporting comebacks of all time, starting with the Miracle of Medinah. Don’t agree with our selections? Get in touch with us on Twitter @bwin or the bwin Facebook page and send in your own picks.
Europe win the Ryder Cup, 2012
That Europe were trailing the USA 10-6 going into the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup perhaps doesn’t tell the whole story of how great a comeback this was. To do that, we need to go back to the closing stages of day two when, with two fourball matches still to be completed, Europe had four points in the bag to USA’s ten, having been thoroughly outplayed by an inspired home side.
But if the script appeared to have been written in the USA’s favour, nobody told Ian Poulter. He and partner Rory McIlroy were trailing Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson by a hole standing on the 14th tee but then, with the gravity of Europe’s situation all too apparent, the 35-year-old suddenly elevated his game to new heights. With puffed out chest and a look in his eyes which at times bordered on the murderous, Poulter birdied the final five holes to clinch a one-up win and give his team some much-needed momentum.
With Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald also clinching a point to cut the deficit to 10-6, Europe had hope going into the final day and a top-loaded singles line-up got Jose Maria Olazabal’s men off to a dream start. Five points from the day’s first five matches – including one for Poulter, who once again played like a man possessed – put Europe in the lead and with Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer adding further wins and Francesco Molinari claiming a half against Tiger Woods in the final match, a famous victory was secured.
It was the biggest deficit Europe had made up on the final day in the history of the Ryder Cup and while the USA did exactly the same to the Europeans at Brookline in 1999, the fact Europe’s 2012 vintage were playing on foreign soil makes the victory even more special.
Man Utd beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, 1999
It is often forgotten that, for 90 minutes of the 1999 Champions League final, Manchester United were outclassed by a clearly superior Bayern Munich side. The final three minutes, on the other hand, will live long in the memory. The Bavarians scored early through Mario Basler and while United struggled to create chances without their first-choice central midfield pairing of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, Bayern hit the post and the bar and stretched United keeper Peter Schmeichel on a number of other occasions.
In a bid to get back into the game, United manager Alex Ferguson brought on Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after 67 minutes and 81 minutes respectively. The move appeared to have made little difference but as the game went into three minutes of injury time, Sheringham stabbed home an equaliser and Solskjaer added a winner less than two minutes later. Given Bayern Munich’s overall dominance, the German side’s captain Lothar Matthaus claimed that it “was not the best team that won but the luckiest”. That there is so much truth in that assessment only served to make the comeback all the more dramatic.
Liverpool beat AC Milan in the Champions League final, 2005
Like United, Liverpool had their backs to the wall early on in the 2005 Champions League final in the Atatürk Olympic Stadium. Playing Italian giants AC Milan, the Reds were a goal down after only a minute and things went from bad to worse as the first half went on. Two further goals were conceded before the break and if the game had been a boxing match, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez would have thrown in the towel. Instead, he threw on Didi Hamann.
There has been much debate about the role of Benitez at half-time in Istanbul, with some putting his generalship on a par with Napoleon and others suggesting he lucked into a masterplan in the manner of Harry Flashman. Regardless, the introduction of Hamann proved hugely influential: the German put the shackles on Milan’s Kaka while allowing Steven Gerrard greater licence to go forward and it was Gerrard who scored Liverpool’s first, while he also won a penalty which led to the third after Vladimír Šmicer had made it 3-2. With no further goals, the match went to extra-time and penalties, before Jerzy Dudek’s spaghetti legs helped to seal a remarkable comeback in Liverpool’s favour.
Dennis Taylor beats Steve Davis in the World Snooker Championship final, 1985
The fact that Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis in the 1985 World Snooker Championship final is astonishing enough; the fact that he recovered from eight frames to nil down to do so only adds to the sense of wonder. Particularly as he did so while wearing a pair of upside-down glasses.
World number one Davis went into the match as overwhelming favourite having won three of the previous four world championships and he dominated the opening exchanges. Although Taylor stormed back into contention to ensure he only trailed by nine frames to seven overnight, he did not lead at any stage until the final ball was potted. Level at 17-17 but trailing 44-62 in the decider, Taylor needed to sink the remaining four colours on the table to win. He duly potted the brown, blue and pink before sealing his comeback by potting the final black to spark wild celebrations.
England beat Australia in the Third Ashes Test, 1981
Winless in their previous 12 Tests, bowled out for 174 in the first innings and reduced to 105 for 5 in the second innings, England were facing not only defeat against Australia in the Third Ashes Test of 1981 but humiliation on a damning scale. Still 122 runs short of Australia’s first-innings total, not many in the England camp can have expected to avoid an innings defeat, let alone contemplated a win. But however hopeless the situation, if Ian Botham was going to go down he wasn’t going to do so without a fight. Beefy deployed attack as the best form of defence and battered his way to 149 not out, with fast bowler Graham Dilley helping his team’s cause by scoring 56 in an eighth-wicket partnership with Botham of 117.
Yet this is only half of the story. Botham’s exploits ensured England had a lead of 129 to defend and when the Baggy Greens reached 56 for 1, victory once again looked to be theirs. However, in Bob Willis, England found another hero. In taking eight wickets for just 43 runs, Willis played a large part in bowling out Australia for 111. Crucially, this not only clinched the win for England but also gave them the required springboard to secure a 3-1 series triumph in what became known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’. It was also only the second time that a team had won a Test match having been asked to follow on.