Cup giant-killings in Germany, France and Spain - the trend of shocks across Europe

When German minnows Saarbrucken reached the semi-finals of the German Cup, they joined a list of underdogs ripping up the established order in cup competitions across Europe this season.

The South West Regional League side's dramatic 7-6 penalty shootout victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf ensured they became the first team from the German fourth division to reach the last four in the German Cup's 85-year history.

Goalkeeper Daniel Batz was the hero, saving one penalty in normal time before making another four stops in the shootout to set up a potential lucrative clash with Bayern Munich.

It's not a bad result for a team with an 8,600-capacity stadium who haven't even updated their Twitter account since July 2019.

But Germany hasn't been the only European nation to witness a number of cup upsets this season.

The changing face of Copa del Rey

Mirandes players celebrate their 4-2 Copa del Rey victory over Villarreal
Mirandes players celebrate their 4-2 Copa del Rey quarter-final win over Villarreal

The Copa del Rey was revamped for the 2019-20 season with the Spanish FA removing two-leg ties from the competition until the semi-final stage.

Matches instead go straight to extra time and penalties, improving the likelihood of a lower-league side progressing from the lottery of a penalty shootout rather than being outscored over two legs.

It certainly has had an effect, with Champions League stalwarts Atletico Madrid among the big names to be knocked out of the competition by clubs from lower divisions.

Third-tier side Cultural Leonesa, previously best known outside Spain for designing a kit in the style of a tuxedo, shocked Diego Simeone's giants with a 2-1 extra-time victory.

Their progress ended in the round of 16 on penalties to Valencia after a 0-0 stalemate, but fellow lower-league side Badajoz came close to going one better in a 2-3 defeat against La Liga's Granada.

While minnows Unionistas went out at the hands of Real Madrid and Barcelona stumbled against Ibiza, the real story of this year's competition has been second-division semi-finalists Mirandes.

Hailing from Miranda de Ebro, a town of just 35,000 people in the north of Spain, Mirandes knocked out La Liga sides Celta Vigo, Sevilla and Villarreal to reach the last four.

They went down 2-1 away at Real Sociedad in the semi-final first leg, but a turnaround would ensure they become the first second-division club in a Copa del Rey final since Real Madrid Castilla in 1979-80.

A 6,000-mile trip and second-division shocks

Les Herbiers
Les Herbiers are congratulated by Paris St-Germain after the 2018 Coupe de France final

The island of Reunion is better known for its white beaches and golden sunshine than its football.

But this season amateur club JS Saint-Pierroise of the Reunion Premier League made a name for themselves by becoming the first club from the island to reach the last 32 of the French Cup as they shocked second-division side Niort 2-1.

Their journey ended with a 1-0 defeat against fourth-tier SAS Epinal, who themselves went on to reach the quarter-final stage after beating Ligue 1 side Lille.

Fellow amateur side ASM Belfort matched SAS Epinal's Coupe de France achievement, but were also defeated in the last eight, 3-0 by Rennes.

The precedent was set in the competition when Les Herbiers, a side battling relegation in the third division, managed to reach the final in 2018.

With an entire annual budget of 2m euros (£1.77m), they faced the financial and footballing might of Paris St-Germain in the final, where they battled to an honourable 2-0 defeat.

There will be no club outside Ligue 1 in the French Cup final this campaign, but could Saarbrucken and Mirandes keep the cup magic alive a little longer in Germany and Spain?

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