Saturday, May 28, 2016

European Cup Final: Real Madrid v. Atletico Madrid

Not so long ago, teams from England were doing very well in the European Cup.  From 2005 to 2012, eight of the sixteen European Cup Finalists were from England:

2005:  Liverpool (ENG) 3, AS Milan (ITA) 3 (Liverpool wins on penalty kicks)
2006:  Barcelona (ESP) 2, Arsenal (ENG) 1 (Arsenal's goalkeeper was sent off early)
2007:  AS Milan (ITA) 2, Liverpool (ENG) 1
2008:  Manchester Utd (ENG) 1, Chelsea (ENG) 1 (Man Utd wins on penalty kicks)
2009:  Barcelona (ESP) 2, Manchester Utd (ENG) 0
2010:  Internazionale (ITA) 2, Bayern Munich (GER) 0
2011:  Barcelona (ESP) 2, Manchester Utd (ENG) 0
2012:  Chelsea (ENG) 1, Bayern Munich (GER) 1 (Chelsea wins on penalty kicks)

Results like these were plainly intolerable to England's partners on the Continent, and so the rules were changed to limit the ability of European soccer clubs to take on debt.  The new rules, which went into effect in the 2011-12 season, effectively made it impossible for English clubs to compete on the same playing field as giants like Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Real Madrid, who don't need to borrow as much money because of their enormous fan bases.  Since then, the results have been much more to the liking of the powers that be in Europe:

2013:  Bayern Munich (GER) 2, Borussia Dortmund (GER) 1
2014:  Real Madrid (ESP) 4, Atletico Madrid (ESP) 1 (after extra time)
2015:  Barcelona (ESP) 3, Juventus (ITA) 1

And this year, we have a re-match of the 2014 final, with Real Madrid taking on Atletico Madrid.  Here's how they got here (all knockout scores are aggregate scores, with matches taking place over two legs, one at the home field of each team):

5-0-1 in Group A (first place)
Round of 16:  4-0 win over Roma (ITA)
Quarter-Finals:  3-2 win over Wolfsburg (GER)
Semi-Finals:  1-0 win over Manchester City (ENG)

Real Madrid's win over Manchester City was the 12th time in the last 13 Champions' League matches that an English club lost to a Spanish club.

4-1-1 in Group C (first place)
Round of 16:  0-0 against PSV Eindhoven (NED) (Atletico Madrid won 8-7 on PK's)
Quarter-Finals:  3-2 win over Barcelona (ESP)
Semi-Finals:  2-2 against Bayern Munich (GER) (Atletico Madrid won on away goals)

As you can tell from these results, Real Madrid is the sort of team that you would expect to be the Champions of Europe -- it's loaded with all-stars from all over the Continent.  Atletico Madrid is kind of the U of L of European soccer -- it gets its victories through grinding and hard-nosed defense.  Atletico Madrid has spent its entire history in the shadow of Real Madrid, but Atletico came very close to winning it all two years ago -- they led 1-0 until Real Madrid scored three minutes into injury time in the second half.  That sent the game into extra time, where Real Madrid put three more goals past an exhausted Atletico defense for a 4-1 win.

Normally, I would root for the underdog in this type of matchup, but years of watching soccer has left me with a never-dying hatred for teams that pack everything in around their own goal and try to beat you on the counter-attack.  So I'll be happy if Real Madrid repeats its 2014 victory.


  1. Only 15 minutes into the game, Sergio Ramos broke through the usual crowd in front of the Atletico Madrid goal to put Real Madrid up 1-0. That will probably be enough to win the game, as Atletico will be forced to open up from their usual shell game.

  2. Halftime: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Atletico Madrid

    Since 2008, only one Champions' League final has gone to penalty kicks. We will hope that doesn't happen today.

  3. Oh, good night. In the 47th minute, Atletico Madrid got a penalty kick -- and a golden opportunity to tie the game. But grinding teams often struggle to score, and sure enough the PK bounded off the crossbar and back into the field of play. Real Madrid still leads 1-0. That should do it -- soccer teams rarely recover from a missed penalty.

  4. 55 minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Atletico Madrid

  5. 60 minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Atletico Madrid

  6. 65 minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Atletico Madrid

  7. 70 minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Atletico Madrid

  8. 75 minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Atletico Madrid

  9. And we're all tied! In the 78th minute, just as Real Madrid seemed to have the game in hand, a desperate attack from Atletico Madrid finally pays off -- a great crossing pass to Yannick Carrasco, who blasts the ball into the top of the goal. We're all tied, and now Atletico Madrid can go back into its defensive shell.

  10. 80th minute: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    When Atletico was forced to attack, Real Madrid had some great chances to counterattack and take a 2-0 lead. But they blew those chances, and now they're back in a dogfight.

  11. Atletico Madrid really is a lot like U of L -- they don't have a huge amount of talent, but they are extremely scrappy.

  12. 85 minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Atletico now has all 11 men playing defense -- they need to hold out for about 40 minutes to reach penalty kicks.

  13. 90 minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Real Madrid has 3 minutes of injury time to win the European Cup.

  14. Atletico Madrid is not trying to win now. They want to win on penalty kicks.

  15. Full Time: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Now in a just world, they would all have to come back on Tuesday and replay this game. But the TV networks don't like that, so we will get to watch Atletico Madrid hold out for 30 minutes in an effort to reach penalty kicks.

  16. Real Madrid has used all of its substitutes, for reasons that no one understands, so that puts them at a disadvantage headed into extra time.

  17. 95 Minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Same as it ever was.

  18. 100 Minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Atletico just had a couple of corner kicks, but they went nowhere.

  19. 105 Minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    End of the first period of Extra Time. Fifteen minutes left.

  20. 110 Minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Ten minutes left.

  21. 115 Minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Now players on both teams are going down with cramps. This is really exciting.

  22. Someone commenting on the Guardian notes that "There's something pretty anti-climactic about the last half hour of a great contest ending up resembling a lumbering over-40's match."

    Hard to argue with that.

  23. 120 Minutes: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Two minutes of injury time.

    The Guardian is frustrated that Atletico Madrid didn't try to ride its momentum from the second half into extra time. But it was obvious that Atletico Madrid only came out of its defensive shell because it was losing. Once the game was tied, Atletico went back on defense and started waiting for penalty kicks.

  24. All time has expired: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

    Atletico Madrid got the penalty shootout that it wanted. We'll see how it works out for them.

  25. I would break ties like this with a replay, but if people don't want to do that, I would give the trophy to the team that took the most corner kicks. In this case, Real Madrid took 7 corner kicks, while Atletico Madrid took 6, so I regard Real Madrid as the true champion.

  26. There are five rounds of PK's.

    In the first round, both teams make their kicks. 1 to 1.

  27. Both teams make their kicks in the second round: 2 to 2.

  28. Christian Bale of Wales, playing with what appears to be a bad cramp, makes his penalty kick for Real Madrid in the third round. But Atletico matches him. 3 to 3.

  29. Sergio Ramos makes the fourth of four penalties for Real Madrid. And Juanfran of Atletico MISSES, banging the ball off the left upright. Real Madrid leads 4 to 3, with one round left.

  30. And here comes Cristiano Ronaldo, who is probably one of the two best players in the world, even though he hasn't done much tonight. The whole point of the Atletico Madrid system is to put so many people in front of the goal that great players like Ronaldo can't do all that much.

    But now, Ronaldo can win the European Cup by making this penalty kick, and the only Atletico player between him and history is the goalkeeper. Like the Hall of Famer that he is, Ronaldo BLASTS THE BALL INTO THE GOAL, and Real Madrid have won a well-deserved European Cup.

    Atletico Madrid have never won the title. Real Madrid just won for the 11th time.

  31. Good for Ronaldo and Real! Congratulations, Go Heath.