Thursday 10 April 2008

Unparalleled sporting achievement

For the second year running, there are three British (well, English, heh) teams in the UEFA Champions' League semi-finals. The difference this year, as I see it, is that I think Manchester United will beat Barcelona and give us the first ever all-English European Cup final (although the glamorous Wolves and Tottenham contested the first UEFA Cup final in 1972).

Despite not being unknown in the lesser UEFA Cup competition, and its predecessor the Inter-City Fairs Cup, intra-country European Cup finals are a recent development. They are the direct consequence of UEFA letting virtually every team in England, Spain and Italy who don't get relegated from the top flight into the next season's competition. As is my wont, I decided to look into the plain statistical fact surrounding these modern sports phenomena.

There have been two single-country European Cup finals. The first was in Paris in 2000, Real Madrid beating Valencia 3-0. The second was at Old Trafford in 2003, Milan beating Juventus on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

There have been seven single-country UEFA Cup finals. This was a particular boon for the club secretary in charge of travel, as until 1998 these were two-legged home and away affairs.

1972 Tottenham Hotspur beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 on aggregate
yes, that's right, they played the game on a fine carpet of gravel and swarf.
1980 Eintracht Frankfurt beat Borussia Mönchengladbach on away goals after drawing 3-3 on aggregate
1990 Juventus beat Fiorentina 3-1 on aggregate
1991 Internazionale beat Roma 2-1 on aggregate
1995 Parma beat Juventus 2-1 on aggregate
1998 Internazionale beat Lazio 3-0 in Paris
2007 Seville beat RCD Espanyol on penalties after a 2-2 draw in Glasgow

As Clive Tyldesley will surely tell you, English clubs have a pretty distinguished record in European Cup competitions. They are beaten only by Italian and Spanish teams in terms of most wins in European competitions. However, whilst a cursory glance at the record books shows that the big names from Italy and Spain have often secured their triumphs after playing against each other, English clubs normally prevail when by some quirk of fate, a pub team reach the final. Here is a list of all the teams vanquished by English opponents in the finals of European cup competitions.

1860 Munich (West Ham, Cup Winners' Cup 1965)
AC Milan (Liverpool, European Cup 2005)
Alavés (Liverpool, UEFA Cup 2001)
Anderlecht (Arsenal, Fairs Cup 1970; Spurs, UEFA Cup 1984)
Atletico Madrid (Spurs, Cup Winners' Cup 1963)
AZ (Ipswich Town, UEFA Cup 1981)
Barcelona (Man Utd, Cup Winners' Cup 1991) Pretty good, I suppose
Bayern Munich (Aston Villa, European Cup 1981; Man Utd, European Cup 1999)
Benfica (Man Utd, European Cup 1968)
Borussia Mönchengladbach (Liverpool, UEFA Cup 1973; European Cup 1977)
FC Brugge (Liverpool, UEFA Cup 1976; European Cup 1978)
Ferencvaros (Leeds Utd, Fairs Cup 1968)
Gornik Zabrze (Man City, Cup Winners' Cup 1970)
Hamburg (Nottingham Forest, European Cup 1980)
Juventus (Leeds Utd, Fairs Cup 1971) Harumph
Mälmo (Nottingham Forest, European Cup 1979)
Parma (Arsenal, Cup Winners' Cup 1994)
Rapid Vienna (Everton, Cup Winners' Cup 1985)
Real Madrid (Chelsea, Cup Winners' Cup 1971) OK, this one's pretty impressive looking
Roma (Liverpool, European Cup 1984)
Stuttgart (Chelsea, Cup Winners' Cup 1998)
Ujpest Dozsa (Newcastle, Fairs Cup 1969)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (Spurs, UEFA Cup 1972)

This dazzlingly starchy list throws up a number of questions, 40% of which begin with "WHO...?". The most interesting of these is likely to be, who were FC Brugge and how did they become Liverpool's most implacable European rivals in the late-1970s. I too wonder this, and live in hope that decent football blogs will one day answer this question.


Lord Manley said...

ling gently to myself at the vapid nonsense that is Ujpest Dozsa, when it occurred to me that Wolverhampton Wanderers fared no better on the tongue.

Lord Manley said...



You have reached the bottom of the internet