Football is Cyprus's most popular sport. Apart from a few sporadic surprise victories against higher-ranking countries, mostly on home soil, the national team has not had a notable success. On the other hand, Cypriot clubs have reached the group stage of the Champions League three times in recent years. This has made Cyprus the smallest and most sovereign state in terms of area and population, represented in the main phase of the most prestigious European club tournament since the launch of the group phase in 1992. APOEL FC made history by being the first The Cyprus team reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2012 and the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League in 2017.
In addition, the National Federation has organized various FIFA and UEFA events (tournaments, courses, meetings).
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Football was introduced at the beginning of the 20th century by the British (Canon Frank Darvall Newham, founder of the English school, Nicosia) in Cyprus. Originally played in the schools of the island, it proved extremely popular and a number of clubs were duly founded. Football clubs played only friendlies and the first unofficial islandwide league was organized in 1932.
The rivalry between teams that support different political parties has increased over the decades and the games are leading to bloody conflicts between the fans. The fans are very proud of their team, not only because of their team's history, but also because of the connection their political party has with their team. Hard-core right-wing fans wave fascist symbols throughout the game while left-wing hardcore fans wave communism-themed symbols. The hardcore fans of AC Omonia made an enormous choreography of hammer and sickle during the 2011-2012 season, while APOEL FC and other right-wing football clubs displayed fascist symbols. The two teams mentioned above often have fierce rivalries that lead to injuries to the fans.
The team's first match took place on 23 July 1949, a year after becoming a member of the FIFA World Cup: a friendly against Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Tel Aviv, which ended in a 3: 3 draw. Seven days later, the team had their first international match: a 3-1 defeat by Israel in the same city.
In November 1962, Cyprus, which had qualified for the World Cup, went there for the first time in history despite losing two out of three games in the group, in which the former West German champions scored a 1-1 draw
In 1974, the national team celebrated one of their most famous victories, when they won 1-0 in Northern Ireland against Nicosia. On 12 February 1983 Cyprus played in the qualification for the 1984 European Championships in Tsirio Stadium in Limassol a 1-1 draw against World Cup Italy, followed a month later, the same result against Czechoslovakia. Four years later, in the European Championship qualifier in 1988, Cyprus recorded its first away spot against Poland. In 1989, there was a 1-1 draw with France in the World Cup qualifier. Despite a series of triumphs on home soil, Cyprus had to wait until 1992 to claim their first away win: a 2-0 victory against the Faroe Islands.
The results in qualifying tournaments have also improved significantly lately. In the qualifying round for the 1996 UEFA European Championship, Cyprus faced defending champions Denmark 1-1. Four years later, they missed out on a place in the 2000 European Football Championship despite beating Spain and Israel 3-2 and beating San Marino 4-0.
On 15 November 2000 Cyprus celebrated its biggest victory in history with a 5-0 victory over Andorra in Limassol at the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying round. On October 7, 2006, Cyprus caused big surprise in the European Championship qualifier when they defeated the Republic of Ireland 5-2 at the New GSP Stadium in Nicosia. Michalis Konstantinou and Constantinos Charalambides scored twice and Alexandros Garpozis scored twice. Only a month later, on 15 November 2006, they caused a further surprise with a 1-1 draw against World Cup semi-finalist Germany. On October 13, 2007, they beat Wales 3-1 in Nicosia. On October 17, 2007, Cyprus was on the verge of a historic away win against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin. In the final game minute, the hosts made up and the game ended 1-1. On 3 September 2010 Cyprus scored in the European Championship qualifier 2012 a historic result against Portugal, after it had given a 4: 4 draw in Guimarães
During the 2016 European Championship qualifiers, the Cypriot national football team led by Pambos Christodoulou celebrated one of their most historic victories, defeating Bosnia's World Cup participants 2-1 in Zenica in 2014. In the final group match, the team had to win against Bosnia to claim third place, relying on Belgium to defeat Israel in Brussels. As fate would have it, the Bosnians won the match 3: 2 and qualified for the play-offs at the expense of the home side, who took the lead 2-1 in the first half and finished in third place for minutes For the first time in history, a place in the play-offs, as Belgium, which will soon be number 1 in the world, defeated Israel at home sovereign.
Cyprus would be in fifth place out of 6 teams in Group H of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying round behind Estonia and ahead of Gibraltar. Their qualifying run would include an impressive 3-2 win over Bosnia.
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