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Greatest comebacks in sport

Reuters

Sept 25 (Reuters) - Oracle Team USA are bidding to complete the greatest comeback in America's Cup sailing history when they face Emirates Team New Zealand in a winner-takes-all race in San Francisco on Wednesday. Oracle had trailed 8-1 in the best-of-17 series but are now level at 8-8. Here are some of the best comebacks in other sports:

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SOCCER

West Germany's 3-2 victory in the 1954 World Cup final in Switzerland had an impact far beyond the playing pitch. The Germans, back in the finals for the first time since the end of World War Two, fielded a weakened team for tactical reasons against hot favourites Hungary in the group stage and were crushed 8-3. Although they bounced back to reach the final, no-one gave them any hope against the incomparable Ferenc Puskas and his "Mighty Magyars" who had not lost in 32 matches since May 1950.

Hungary led 2-0 after eight minutes of the final with goals from Puskas and Zoltan Czibor but the Germans equalised with goals from Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn with 18 minutes played. Rahn completed the upset with his second goal to make it 3-2 six minutes from the end of a match which not only made the Germans world champions but also restored a collective sense of national pride and is remembered to this day in Germany's national culture as 'The Miracle of Berne'.

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BASEBALL

The Boston Red Sox had not won Major League Baseball's World Series for 86 years - seemingly victims of the Curse of the Bambino after trading Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.

In 2004, the Red Sox met their old enemies in the American League championship and the Yankees easily won the first three games and seemed destined to advance to the World Series as no team had ever come back from 3-0 down to win a best-of-seven series.

The Red Sox were right on the brink of elimination in Game Four when they suddenly turned it around and somehow managed to win the last four games, completing the biggest turnaround ever seen in baseball. A week later, they ended their curse by winning the World Series against St Louis.

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GOLF

Europe seemed to be dead and buried going into the last-day singles matches at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago where the United States, roared on by vocal home fans, led 10-6 and needed 4-1/2 more points to regain the trophy.

Stunningly, Europe went on to win six of the first eight encounters before Germany's Martin Kaymer secured the vital point to retain the Cup with a one-up victory over Steve Stricker. By the time it was all over, Europe had beaten the U.S. by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2 to complete one of the greatest comebacks on a golf course.

Though the U.S. had overhauled the same deficit on the final day to triumph at Brookline in 1999, Europe's astonishing turnaround at Medinah is widely regarded as more impressive, having been delivered on foreign soil.

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AMERICAN FOOTBALL

In a January 1993 playoff game, the Buffalo Bills recovered from a 32-point deficit to defeat the visiting Houston Oilers 41-38 in what remains the greatest comeback in NFL history.

With their team trailing 35-3 late in the third quarter, many fans started leaving the stadium before Kenneth Davis scored on a one-yard run and Frank Reich, who started in place of the injured Jim Kelly, threw four touchdown passes to put Buffalo ahead.

Houston tied it up with seconds left in regulation but in overtime Buffalo intercepted a pass from Oilers quarterback Warren Moon to set up the dramatic game-winning field goal. Buffalo won their next two games before falling in the Super Bowl for a third consecutive year.

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TENNIS

Ivan Lendl had already lost his first four Grand Slam finals and seemed to be condemned to a fifth defeat when he faced John McEnroe in the 1984 French Open final.

McEnroe, at the peak of his powers, had not lost a match that year and was bidding to become the first American man to win the title since Tony Trabert in 1955.

McEnroe easily won the first two sets but a brief lapse of concentration following an argument with a cameraman opened the door for Lendl who fought back to win the last three sets and the first of his eight grand slam titles 3-6 2-6 6-4 7-5 7-5.

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ATHLETICS

Finnish long-distance runner Lasse Viren produced one of the greatest comebacks in track and field in the 10,000 metres at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

The overwhelming favourite going into the race, Viren's hopes of winning seemed over when he tripped and fell shortly after the start of the race, leaving him trailing by more than 30 metres.

The Finn quickly got back up on his feet and set off in pursuit of the leading pack, including Belgium's Emiel Puttemans, his main danger. Against all odds, Viren rounded the field and went on to win the gold medal, breaking the world record in the process.

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CRICKET

Bookmakers quoted England at odds of 500-1 to win the third Ashes test at Headingley in 1981 after they were bowled out for 174 in reply to Australia's 401-9 (dec).

Ordered to follow on, England all-rounder Ian Botham smashed the Australian bowlers to all parts of the ground with an unbeaten 149 as the home team made 356.

Australia were still in the box seat, needing 130 in their second innings to win, but Bob Willis produced the greatest bowling feat of his career, capturing eight wickets for 43 runs as Australia crumbled for 111.

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RUGBY

Led by Jonah Lomu's two tries with the French seemingly unwilling to tackle the gigantic winger, the heavily-favoured All Blacks had established a 24-10 lead early in the second half of their 1999 rugby World Cup semi-final and seemed to be on course for a place in the final.

Despite the lead, the French had been competitive throughout and Abdelatif Benazzi inspired the rest of his forwards to tear into the All Blacks allowing flyhalf Christophe Lamaison to slot home two drop goals and two penalties inside eight minutes before Christope Dominici gathered a chip kick from scrumhalf Fabien Galthie to give his side the lead they never looked likely to lose.

Lamaison's delicate chip kick over New Zealand's defence sealed the game for Les Bleus when centre Richard Dourthe dived triumphantly on the ball before Phillipe Bernat-Salles scored from another kick through with five minutes remaining to clinch the victory, with the French scoring 33 unanswered points to win 43-31 and send New Zealand into a state of disbelief.

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ICE HOCKEY

The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the National Hockey League's most storied franchises, added to their legacy in 1942 when they became the first team to fight back from a 3-0 series deficit to win the Stanley Cup.

Only two other teams (1975 New York Islanders, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers) have climbed out of 3-0 holes to win a best-of-seven playoff series and the Maple Leafs remain the only one to do it in the Stanley Cup finals.

Trailing the series 3-0 to the Detroit Red Wings and down 3-2 in the third period of Game Four, the Maple Leafs battled back for an unlikely win then returned home to claim a crushing 9-3 victory before Turk Broda collected a 3-0 shutout to level the series. Back at Maple Leaf Gardens for Game Seven Toronto capped the greatest comeback in NHL history with a 3-1 victory. (Reporting by Mike Collett, Karolos Grohmann, Frank Pingue, Ian Perkins, Steve Keating, Greg Stutchbury, Mark Lamport-Stokes and Julian Linden; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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