The five biggest upsets in CONIFA 2019
One of the key campaigns behind the Sportsbet.io 2019 CONIFA European Cup was “Defy the Odds”, a slogan designed to show what these competing players have been through to be able to represent these forgotten regions in Artsakh over the last week.
It exemplified many of the background stories but also came to light on the pitch, with plenty of unexpected results giving rise to a surprise winner. Here, we take a look at the biggest upsets from the tournament.
South Ossetia defy the odds
South Ossetia were seventh-placed in the sports betting stakes, and their spirited performances throughout the tournament kept many pundits and fans on their toes, with more established sides bowing out early.
The player of the tournament award went to Batradz Gurtsiev, who starred for his home region and scored the most goals, but all his teammates in the final deserve an equal share of praise for the way that they went about their game, and played solid football throughout.
Chameria’s surprise heroes
Expected to come last, Chameria’s march to the semi-finals was only prevented from going further on penalties, and they won many plaudits on their way.
Their 4-1 win against Artsakh was undoubtedly the highlight, as they stunned the hosts with an incredible win, much of which was down to the aptly named Marko van Basten Çema, as he echoed the skills and talent of his namesake with a now-trademark Panenka penalty.
Western Armenia’s huge win over Székely Land
Western Armenia stunned 2018 CONIFA World Cup semi-finalists Székely Land in astonishing fashion, with a romping 5-0 win. This really set the scene to suggest that we would see different champions this time around.
Székely Land may have lost to Padania 4-0 beforehand, but the Italian region were favourites, so it was not quite a shock in the same sense.
South Ossetia versus Padania
Seventh-favourite and eventual tournament winner versus the favourites – many expected a routine win for Padania, but South Ossetia defied the odds again with a 2-1 win to see them into the last four. The player of the tournament, Gurtsiev, was on the scoresheet once again as they set the tone for what lay ahead.
Double champions bow out early
That loss against South Ossetia really seemed to take the wind out of Padania’s sails, and they could only muster a 1-1 draw against Western Armenia in the third group game.
It shows that being the sports betting favourite is not everything, and it seems great for the future of football in CONIFA when new winners are emerging each time out.
Words: Jonah Farrell