The Shocks Of The Decade: Leicester, Ruiz And The Curse Of The Billy Goat

The Sportsman takes a look at some of the greatest sporting surprises in the last 10 years
07:01, 25 Dec 2019

The 2010s have come to a close (are we calling in the tweenies? The tenties? The tenners?) with a gallimaufry of high and lows across the sports circumference. As sports fans we’ve been delighted and enthralled, been gazumped and bamboozled even when our own individual horses aren’t running.

Let’s take a look back at six of the most sensational shocks that we’ve been privileged to witness over the past 10 years.

Leicester City win the Premier League - 2016

The greatest sports fairytale ever told? Leicester City were 5000/1 to win the Premier League title ahead of the 2015/2016 campaign. The Foxes had been on the verge of relegation the previous season, but some shrewd investment, a misguided sex tape and a departed Nigel Pearson later, they produced the most remarkable triumph in English football history.

In Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante, heroes were born, and there have been few captains or managers as likeable as Wes Morgan and Claudio Ranieri to have lifted the highest accolade in England. Over three years later, just say it again: Leicester City became the champions of England.

The shock to end all shocks, simply historic and destined to be unrivalled for an age.

Andrea Bocelli serenades Leicester City and manager Claudio Ranieri after their 2015/16 Premier League success
Andrea Bocelli serenades Leicester City and manager Claudio Ranieri after their 2015/16 Premier League success

Andy Ruiz Jr. beats Anthony Joshua - 2019

British heavyweight Anthony Joshua possessed a 23-0 record when he lined up his American breakthrough at Madison Square Garden, putting his WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO titles on the line. AJ’s initial opponent Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller had to withdraw following adverse drug findings, but from that fight’s ashes a Mexican-American phoenix arose.

Andy Ruiz Jr. trashed expectations by producing a stunning flurry to leave the lacklustre Joshua shell-shocked, the Brit having to hand over his belts in the seventh. Joshua may have had his vengeance less than six months later in Saudi Arabia but that stunning initial loss is a definitive moment in boxing’s recent history.

Brazil 1-7 Germany - 2014

In 2014 Brazil hosted one of the most memorable World Cups in recent memory. The country that helped make football beautiful, the most successful national side in the competition’s history, hosts once again. Expectations were high, with many predicting that they could lift the World Cup trophy for the sixth time in their history, and a first on home soil. An undefeated Canarinha faced Germany in a real clash of the titans in the semi-final at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.

What could have been a match-up turned into a massacre. Die Mannschaft led 5-0 at half-time after netting four times in six minutes in the opening stanza to leave an entire nation in mourning. Jogi Low’s side could easily have caused more damage than the 7-1 final scoreline, with the Germans almost looking embarrassed for their opponents by the end. The watching world was stunned, and Brazil - 64 years on from the 2-1 World Cup loss to Uruguay on home soil which they took a long time to overcome - might never get over their 2014 loss.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ first NBA Championship win - 2016

Few sporting cities in the USA could be said to have been as beleaguered as Cleveland. The Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948, the Browns haven’t truly been world-beaters since the days of Jim Brown, and the Cavaliers were pretty much a laughing stock across the Millennium.  

Then LeBron James came of age. Though a ring escaped him in his first period with the Cavaliers, King James returned to Ohio in 2014 after four years away (The Decision is now nearly a decade old!) Their match-ups with the Golden State Warriors have lit up the 2010s, and though they were defeated in the 2015 Finals, 2016 saw them make history.

The Cavaliers were the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit, besting the Warriors in a remarkable turnaround. James was named Finals MVP after scoring 27 points, 11 rebounds and producing 11 assists in Game 7, and it marked the first major sports championship that a Cleveland team had won since 1964.

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The Chicago Cubs break the Curse of the Billy Goat - 2016

Talking about curses, the Chicago Cubs suffered the longest of the lot. A fan named Billy Sianis wanted to take his mate Murphy to witness the Cubs play in the 1945 World Series. Problem was, Murphy was a goat. Though he had bought an extra ticket for said farmyard animal to enjoy the game at Wrigley Field, the franchise’s owner Philip Wrigley kicked man and goat out. “"The Cubs ain't gonna win no more," slammed Sianis.

And indeed they didn’t, losing that World Series despite being two games from victory. Flash forward to 2016 and you’d be forgiven for thinking the Billy Goat Curse was alive and well. The Cubs, in their first appearance at the World Series since goat-gate, trailed the Cleveland Indians 3-1 after the first four games, 12 months on from having been eliminated in the last four amid a home-run spree by a player called… you guessed it… Murphy.

However, the Cubs came storming back thanks to a newly-adopted Rocky soundtrack and a literal sent-from-the-heavens rain delay when all appeared lost in Game 7, eventually besting the Indians 8-7 in extra innings to claim their first World Series in a record 108 years.

2016 was really one for the underdog wasn’t it?!

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Japan v South Africa - 2015

‘The biggest upset in rugby union history’, and arguably the moment when the sport truly launched itself into the hearts of a nation.

The Rugby World Cup 2015, Brighton, UK. Japan had gone 18 World Cup games without victory, stretching all the way back to 1991, before they stunned the tournament into life by beating South Africa, winners of the Webb Ellis Cup on two previous occasions, in a 34-32 classic.

Japan - coached by Eddie Jones - refused to be intimidated, outsmarting and outplaying the Springboks, and when Karne Hesketh crossed in the final minute, there weren’t just ridiculous scenes on the south-coast but across the globe too. You really couldn’t make it up.

The shock result wouldn’t cause South Africa too much heartburn. They would become three-time champions by defeating England four years later.