The Greatest Comeback: France’s 1999 RWC semi-final win or Man Utd’s last-gasp Champions League victory?
Which of these memorable moments gets your vote in today’s poll?
We’ve looked at some stunning sporting comebacks already, from Stuart Pearce’s Euro 96 moment of redemption, to ‘Ian Botham’s Ashes’ as the batsman scored 149 runs to inspire England to victory at Headingley.
But which of today’s comebacks will make it through to our last eight? Have a read and make your choice.
France in the 1999 Rugby World Cup semi-final v New Zealand
When we talk about the moments in sport that are truly great, there are two kinds of narrative that recur again and again, etched in our collective memories for decades after the event.
The first of those is the comeback. Whether that means a team snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at the very last moment, battling back from injury to reclaim a title or overturning a huge deficit.
The second, is the underdog story, where one team or individual is thought to be inferior, written off before their match is even played, only to battle against the odds to unlikely victory.
France’s 1999 Rugby World Cup win over New Zealand combines both of those things. While this France team were hardly minnows, earlier in the year they had fallen apart against Scotland in the Five Nations, recording just one narrow win in the tournament. They were perhaps more renowned for collapse than for their occasional brilliance.
New Zealand on the other hand were looking unstoppable, after dominating Pool B (including a 101-3 thrashing of Italy and a comprehensive 30-16 win over England) and dismissing Five Nations winners Scotland 30-18 in the quarter-final.
Led by the likes of legendary winger Jonah Lomu, New Zealand were heavy favourites going into the semi-final and quickly established a commanding 24-10 lead. France looked unable to cope with the destructive Lomu, who scored two tries as France’s hope faded in front of our eyes.
Then, something remarkable happened. Spearheaded by fly-half Christophe Lamaison they began to score, with two drop-goals and two penalties suddenly tilting the balance of the match, as the margin narrowed.
With the score at 24-22 to New Zealand, the tide truly turned when a hopeful punt forward by Fabien Galthie, caught the luckiest of bounces, with winger Christophe Dominici racing onto the ball. His try and the subsequent conversion finally gave France the lead.
Before New Zealand knew it, France had scored 33 points with no reply, the disbelieving All Blacks unable to stem the tide of Gallic invention. The All Blacks were able to score once more via Jeff Wilson in injury time to lessen the deficit, but by then the damage had been done, the game ending 43-31 to France.
It remains one of the greatest comeback stories in sport, a quintessential underdog tale and probably the best Rugby Union match you’ll ever see. That France went on to lose the final to South Africa is just a small footnote that does little to diminish their stirring semi-final performance.
Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League final win v Bayern Munich
When you think of the great Man Utd teams of the 1990’s, there are two players you would consider key to their success in the middle of the park – Roy Keane and Paul Scholes – the never-say-die captain and the pin-point passing maestro.
Understandably then, there was some concern going into their Champions League Final against Bayern Munich, given that both players were suspended and unable to take part. Instead, their makeshift midfield saw Nicky Butt line-up alongside a 24-year-old David Beckham, with Ryan Giggs out-of-position on the right and Jesper Blomqvist on the left.
Just six minutes into the game, Ronny Johnsen fouled Bayern striker Carsten Jancker outside the area, and dead-ball specialist Mario Basler stepped up to take the free-kick; his rasping shot wrong-footing Peter Schmeichel to give the newly crowned German champions the lead.
United struggled throughout the first half, with the Bayern defence containing Andy Cole with ease and Giggs making little impact on the right.
In the second half, Bayern started to look even more dangerous, with Basler trying his luck from distance on several occasions, while Jancker’s movement upfront posed a constant threat.
At this point Sir Alex Ferguson – reacting to yet another Bayern opportunity – decided to make a substitution, bringing on Teddy Sheringham, who had scored and been named man of the match in the FA Cup final just a week prior.
But it was Bayern’s own substitution which had the more immediate effect, with Mehmet Scholl almost setting up Stefan Effenburg from range, before trying his luck with a sublime 20 yard chip that hit the post, bouncing back into a grateful Peter Schmeichel’s arms.
With 10 minutes left to play, Ferguson brought on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for Andy Cole and finally their attack sprung to life, with the Norwegian immediately forcing Oliver Kahn into a save. United hearts were in mouths a moment later though, when Carsten Jancker’s overhead kick hit the crossbar.
As the game edged into injury time, goalkeeper Schmeichel ventured forward for an attacking corner kick, that was turned away from the box, falling to Ryan Giggs, whose scuffed shot was steered into the corner of the Bayern net by Sheringham as it flew past him, setting the game up for extra time.
Instead, just 30 seconds after kick-off, United gained another corner, with Beckham’s in-swinger finding Sheringham’s head, en-route to the outstretched boot of fellow substitute Solskjaer – and ultimately, the back of the net – sparking wild scenes in the Camp Nou.
In just three short minutes, despair had turned to elation for the English side, as the inconsolable Bayern Munich players had to be coaxed into continuing by legendary ref Pierluigi Collina.
One minute later the whistle blew, United had completed the treble with one of the greatest last-gasp comeback victories in sporting history.
Cast your vote
There are our latest two contenders for the Greatest Comeback in the history of sport. But which do you prefer? Head over to our social media pages and let us know in our polls.
All odds and markets are correct as of date of publication.