In terms of glamour, no group stage game comes close to matching Portugal vs Spain on June 15 at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. This is, after all, a meeting between the last three European Champions (Spain in ’08 and ’12, Portugal in ’16), and a clash between arguably the world’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a who’s who of talent concentrated at the mega clubs of the world’s two best domestic leagues.
Liverpool and AS Roma have made this the most exciting Champions League in recent years (at least as far as the semifinals are concerned). Here's why a Liverpool versus AS Roma UCL final would be the best thing that could possibly happen to us.
There's a good reason powerhouses Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus always feature in the most definitive rounds of Europe's most important competition, and yet, even though these teams never cease to amaze us, there's something refreshing and exciting about teams like Liverpool and Roma making it so far.
When Barcelona drew Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals back on March 16, many penciled the LaLiga leaders straight through to the semis. This is, after all, Barcelona’s 11th consecutive appearance at the quarterfinal stage. For Roma, it’s their first in 10 years. If you want to place a bet on Roma winning the first leg at the Camp Nou, you’ll get 14-1 odds on that punt.
A few weeks ago, Lionel Messi reached the landmark of 100 goals in the UEFA Champions League, joining Cristiano Ronaldo as the only footballer to achieve the feat. The following comparisons between the two were inevitable, because for the last 10 years, it’s just been Ronaldo and Messi at the top of the world’s premier club competition.
In fact, you’d have to go back to the 2006-07 season and AC Milan’s Kaká to find the last Champions League top scorer by season not named Ronaldo or Messi.
Due to the dawning of the internet, increased globalization and the heavy concentration of players plying their trade in European club football, there are hardly any unknown quantities at the World Cup now. Years back, nations like Panama, Iceland and Peru would’ve left opposing managers scrambling for information, but in 2018, that’s hardly the case.
Historically speaking, things look pretty bleak for the five South American nations set to compete in Russia this summer. Over the history of the World Cup, the event has taken place in Europe 10 times. Collectively, if you break those tournaments down by how things finished, European nations have accounted for 34 of the 40 top four finishes (85%), leaving South America with only six success stories:
Since the turn of the 21st century, it’s happened without fail: every World Cup, three nations that began the tournament ranked in FIFA’s top 20 have been unceremoniously dumped from the competition at the group stage. In fact, in two of the four World Cups this century, three of the world’s top 10 ranked sides have capitulated before the knockout rounds.
Here’s a rundown of the three highest ranked sides to fall at the first hurdle in the last four tournaments:
Eighteen years. That’s how long it’s been since the L.A. Galaxy defeated Honduran side CD Olimpia 3-2 in the final of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, becoming only the second and, to date, final MLS side to win the region’s continental championship.
When D.C. United won the tournament in 1998 with the likes of Roy Lassiter, Jeff Agoos, Eddie Pope and Marco Etcheverry running circles around León and Toluca, there wasn’t the reward of a FIFA Club World Cup.
With only nine matches remaining in the 2017-18 Primera Division Femenina, Sunday’s meeting between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will likely decide the title. The two sides have rarely been troubled by the rest of the division, and they’ve distanced themselves at the top of the table, where Atletico hold a one-point advantage over Barca.