How Did Underdog Dortmund Reach Champions League Final

Heading into the Champions League quarterfinals, they were by far the biggest underdog in the field. Naturally, the same was true for them heading into the semifinals. In fact, if not for the Bundesliga getting a fifth team, they wouldn’t even have a spot secure for next year’s Champions League. Yet, against all odds, Borussia Dortmund has reached the Champions League Final and is 90 minutes away from being kings of Europe for the first time since 1997. The question is how Borussia Dortmund in an otherwise mediocre season by their standards, wrote the preamble to a great underdog story.


To get a true sense of how miraculous Dortmund’s run has been, it’s critical to go back to last spring. Dortmund was on the verge of winning its first Bundesliga title since 2012 only to suffer a disappointing draw with Mainz on the final day of the season. Combined with a win by Bayern Munich, BVB lost its grasp on the title, succumbing to Munich on goal differential in the most heartbreaking way.


After facing such disappointment, it’s no wonder Dortmund endured an up-and-down 2023-24 campaign in the Bundesliga. At the same time, the German side was drawn into the Group of Death in Champions League alongside PSG, AC Milan, and Newcastle. Much like their domestic campaign, Dortmund struggled early in the Champions League Group Stage. They lost their opening match to PSG 2-0 and managed only a draw at home against Milan.


However, this is when the perseverance and determination that would come to define Dortmund’s season started to show. In practical terms, that meant a focus on playing defense. The home draw with Milan was the first of three straight Champions League matches in which BVB kept a clean sheet. That led to back-to-back wins over Newcastle, as well as a 3-1 road victory over AC Milan. A draw with PSG on the final match day not only secured entry to the Knockout Stage but also gave Borussia Dortmund first place in the Group of Death and a slightly easier path forward.


Of course, the challenges in front of Dortmund were just beginning. After advancing past PSV Eindhoven, BVB was overlooked by most pundits heading into the quarterfinals. After a 2-1 in the first leg against Atletico Madrid, few expected Dortmund to have any chance of turning the table on Diego Simeone’s side, which has proven itself to be among the best in Europe at grinding out results and managing tight leads. 


Alas, this is when Dortmund’s never-say-die attitude truly shined. BVB jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, only to fall behind 5-4 on aggregate with less than 30 minutes left in the second leg. However, just when it would have been fitting to write them off again, Niclas Füllkrug and Marcel Sabitzer scored a pair of late goals to give Dortmund an unlikely win and passage to the semifinals.


That victory led to the greatest challenge of the season with a semifinal matchup against Kylian Mbappé and PSG. Mbappé looked destined to lead PSG to a Champions League crown before leaving the club, but it turned out that Dortmund was the team of destiny. The German side dug in defensively once again, knowing that was the best path to beat the French champions. In the first leg of the semifinal, the visiting Parisians peppered Dortmund with 30 shots thanks to 70% possession. Instead, it was Füllkrug who scored the only goal of the game while Mbappé was silenced.


Surely, PSG would have better success at home in the second leg. But veteran Mats Hummels in his farewell season in Dortmund continued to anchor a memorable defensive effort. When all was said and done, PSG had six shots hit the woodwork across the two legs of the semifinals but never hit the back of the net. With a strong backbone and a little bit of luck, Dortmund proved against all odds that grit and determination still go a long way. In this case, it’s taking BVB all the way to the Champions League Final and a date with Real Madrid.


Whether you believe in Dortmund’s Cinderella run to a European title or not, there is plenty of time to place a wager on the Champions League Final. Fans in all corners of the world should be encouraged to explore some of the best sports betting apps to find one they like before such a major event.


Naturally, Borussia Dortmund will be the underdog against a Real Madrid team that has won five of the last 10 Champions League crowns. But the odds being against Dortmund is yet to stand in their way during Champions League this year. Who’s to say that will start now?