Actually, the Danish footballers were already on holiday in the summer of 1992. They were not qualified for the European Championship anyway. But the disqualification of Yugoslavia because of the Balkan war brought the Scandinavians to Sweden for the tournament completely unprepared. There "Danish Dynamite" made history: In their group, the Danes left France and England behind. In the semi-finals they beat the highly-rated Dutch on penalties, and in the final the underdogs beat reigning world champions Germany 2-0. A title for the ages!
In the same summer, another team performance caused a sensation at the Olympic Games - but under completely different circumstances: At the Barcelona Games, the NBA-star-studded U.S. team entered the tournament as the heavy favorites. But as expectations rose in the face of names like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley, so did the stakes. Would these completely different characters, who sometimes fought each other to the death in the NBA, be able to function as a team? Under head coach Chuck Daly, they did. Selfishness was put on the back burner. Instead, there was the finest team play and exhilarating dunks. The Dream Team won all eight tournament games by at least 32 points. In the finals, the Croatians were outclassed 117-85 before the NBA stars faced off again in their home league.
In the English Premier League, the "Big Six" at the top have been de facto cemented for a good decade thanks to rich club owners. Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool FC, Chelsea FC, Arsenal FC, and Tottenham Hotspur are the only teams that smaller teams can get past. But in the 2015/16 season, Leicester City turned the league on its head. Led by future world star Ngolo Kante, but with a team that was nominally much weaker than the top clubs, the team from the city with a population of 350,000 played an unforgettable season: In attack, Jamie Vardy, who had been playing in League 7 four years earlier, scored as he pleased. Coach Claudio Ranieri managed to keep the team riding the wave of success for the entire season. In the end, Leicester lost only three of their 38 games in what is arguably the most balanced top division in the world.
No country dominated the rugby scene between 2010 and 2020 quite like New Zealand: two World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015; over 80 per cent win rate in international matches - and with a population of just 4.5 million. How can that be? For one thing, it helps that rugby is the number one popular sport. While in other rugby nations like England, Wales or France the most talented young athletes choose between football or rugby, in New Zealand there is no serious alternative in professional sport to rugby. What's more, the team thrives on diversity. Here, Maori, other Oceanic ethnicities, and descendants of British immigrants play on the same team, and together they are arguably their country's greatest poster child. The most famous testimony: the legendary haka before every game, which has long since become iconic.
Salary caps and the preference given to weaker teams when signing top talent actually make a long era of success in the modern NFL impossible. The New England Patriots proved that it can still be done from 2001 to 2019. Head coach and mastermind Bill Belichick built a functioning team structure around former no-name quarterback Tom Brady. Players discarded elsewhere or overlooked talents like Mike Vrabel or Randy Moss blossomed with the Patriots. Brady, who has become the NFL's biggest superstar over the years, repeatedly waived record contracts commensurate with his status so that more salary budget was available to bolster the team. The reward: six Super Bowl victories for what had been a notoriously unsuccessful team. With Brady's departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots era came to a (temporary) end in 2019.
When the USA team met the then Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, the roles were clear: the US college amateurs were gross underdogs against the Soviets, who had previously won four consecutive Olympic gold medals, were loaded with stars from ZKA Moscow and had dominated their opponents at will in the previous group stage. But on that February 22, 1980, the U.S. team forced its physical play on technically superior opponents. In a heated atmosphere - just weeks before the Olympics, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, fuelling the Cold War - the U.S. team scored with ten minutes remaining to take a 4-3 lead, which it held until the final siren. The legendary victory became a cultural treasure, especially in the USA, where countless documentaries and films are still dedicated to the "Miracle on Ice".
The dominance of Mercedes in the past Formula 1 years is impressive. But even the Silver Arrows cannot match the team of Ferrari, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello from the 2002 season: the Italian racing team won an incredible 15 of the 17 races of the season. Eleven of them went to Schumacher, who won his fifth world championship title at that time and finished on the podium in all 17 races. Only his brother Ralf as well as David Coulthard were able to scratch the red dominance with one victory each, before Ferrari made things clear again in the second half of the season with ten victories in a row. The crowning glory of a perfect team performance by engineers, mechanics and two top-level drivers.