Apoel Nicosia: The Biggest Underdog Story in Soccer You've Never Heard About

Ryan Day@theryanedwardCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2012

The greatest underdog story in March has nothing to do with college basketball in America.

Cyprus, a small island in the eastern corner of the Mediterranean, has taken the soccer world by storm and earned a place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in the nation's history.

Apoel Nicosia, a highly decorated club in the Cypriot First Division, managed to knock off the likes of Porto and Lyon, and claw its way to the elite eight of this year's Champions League.

Unless you live in Cyprus, you may not have ever heard of Apoel Nicosia, much less seen them play.

That's forgivable.

Entering the Champions League, the Cypriot First Division ranked 21st out of a total 53 UEFA associations in the tournament.

To put it into perspective, the Israel Football Association ranked higher than the Cypriot First Division. Name a team in the Israel Football Association—I dare you.

They're a defensively minded club who are as patient as they are unsuspecting.

They scored only six goals in group play and it's incredibly entertaining to see some of the best clubs in Europe confused at their unorthodox tactics. Cyprus' fanbase catches many off guard and when Apoel Nicosia supporters are as rowdy as you'd find at Old Trafford or Allianz Arena.

England may not be in the Champions League for long after Chelsea—the last English bastion of hope—went down 3-1 in their first leg against Napoli. 

Germany may not have any representatives after Bayern Munich lost 1-0 in their first leg against Basel. 

France lost its footing in the tournament thanks to a club from Cyprus who said again and again, "I think I can! I think I can!"

Some of the most successful clubs in Europe are going down in flames and yet Cyprus remains, having earned a place with the big boys in Apoel Nicosia. 

How will Apoel Nicosia perform when the spotlight shines brightest? How would the little island fare against Barcelona or AC Milan?

These questions and more will be answered March 27 when the quarterfinals for the Champions League begin.

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