Minnows vs Big Boys: the tiny teams who took on the giants
SpVgg Unterhaching vs Bayer Leverkusen (Bundesliga, 1999/00)
Before the 1999/00 campaign, experts agreed that if one team couldn't stand a chance in Germany’s top flight, it would be SpVgg Unterhaching, from a Bavarian municipality with a population of 23,000 – smaller than the capacity of Dortmund's home end.
However, the prime relegation candidates finished the season in 10th and would even decide the destiny of the title. On May 20, 2000, they hosted Bayer Leverkusen, who only needed a draw to win their first-ever Bundesliga. Ten miles away, at Munich's Olympiastadion, Bayern Munich could hardly believe their luck when Unterhaching beat Leverkusen 2-0, enabling the Roten to gain the title yet again.
Nowadays, Haching play in the third league and are something of a holding pen for world champions' siblings with players like Jonas Hummels, Fabian Götze and – until 2010 – Tobias Schweinsteiger.
CF Extremadura vs Real Madrid (Primera División, 1996/97)
CF Extremadura's great moment came by default. Castilla had qualified for the Segunda Division play-offs, but as Real Madrid's reserve side they were ineligible for promotion; instead, the minnows from the province of Badajoz stepped up, beat Albacete Balompié 2-0 on aggregate and took their first-ever place in the top flight. Having lost their first seven games, they wisely restricted themselves to defending.
It worked to an extent, even against elite clubs: at Estadio Franscisco de la Hera on January 12, 1997, the mighty Blancos were held to a goalless draw. Even so, Extremadura were relegated; they bounced straight back, but were promptly relegated – this time, forever. They drifted down the divisions and in 2010, financially troubled, they were dissolved.
FC Basel vs FC Vaduz (Swiss Super League, 2014/15)
FC Vaduz represent one of the more curious cases within European football (see FFT 249). Despite being based in Lichtenstein, their domination of the Lichtenstein Cup (having won it 42 times) led to their acceptance into nearby Switzerland’s Super League.
Having had an initial spell in the Swiss Super League in the 2008/09 season, in which they were relegated, FC Vaduz returned this season following their promotion from the second-tier Swiss Challenge League. FC Vaduz play their home games at the home of the Lichtenstein national team, Rheinpark Stadion, which holds almost 8,000 spectators.
In comparison to Switzerland’s most successful club, FC Basel, who have 17 Swiss titles to their name, FC Vaduz’s current seventh-place standing is respectable considering their constraints.
Throughout their two spells in the Super League, FC Vaduz have ended up on the losing side on each of the seven times they have met Basel, only managing to score once. However, they do boast a UEFA Cup victory over the Swiss outfit, coming in 2006, even if they subsequently went out on away goals.