The Champions League Final: A Non-Confusing Soccer Post
From time to time I enjoy writing a post here about soccer. I wrote several times last summer while the world cup was going on and I’ve touched on the subject a few more times since then.
Usually I write about soccer here to explain to American fans what is going on in terms of tournament structures. In my conversations with friends about soccer I usually find that a lot of their frustrations are borne from the fact that they don’t fully understand the structure of the competition they are watching.
Thankfully, by this point, most casual soccer observers in the U.S. have a rudimentary understanding of the structure of the World Cup (round robin group-play preceding a single elimination tournament). However, when these fans try to carry their fandom over into the Fall following the World Cup they invariably get confused by the structure of European soccer. These fans quickly come to find that there is MUCH more going on than the simple “league.”
There are tournaments that last whole seasons which seem to run right along with the normal league games that teams play in. All of this gets complicated and, come November, a casual observer might lose heart and simply wait three years for the next World Cup.
Well all this being said, we’ve come to the end of another European soccer season (the MLS goes through the summer so be sure and watch that!). And with the end of a European soccer season another Champions League final is upon us! The Champions League final is like the super bowl of European soccer (except bigger). The Champions League trophy is the holy grail of European club soccer.
The Champions League is an annual tournament that is structured much like the world cup. The best clubs in Europe (think Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, etc.) are placed in groups (just like the world cup). The top two teams in each group move on to a single-elimination tournament (just like the world cup). The main difference is that the Champions League starts (in earnest) in September and goes all the way until June (of the following year). The games are spread out through the regular domestic seasons that are also taking place during that time.
Now, I won’t get into all the details that make the Champions League unique. But what I will do is tell you that the the semi-finals are over and the final is set. Barcelona crushed Bayern Munich in one of the semi-finals while Juventus stunned Real Madrid (and the soccer world) in the other.
That’s right, Barcelona will play Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday, June 6th. Furthermore, there is nothing confusing about this match. It is as straightforward as any American would hope for! The teams cannot tie. They will play until a champion is crowned.
Juventus was not expected to be in the finals and Barcelona is playing some of the best soccer I’ve seen, so Messi and co. will be the favorites coming in. That said, Juventus has showed their mettle in the past weeks, especially in their semi-final matchup with Real Madrid.
Juventus, like any good Italian side, will approach this game from a tactical standpoint. Barcelona is physically more talented technically more gifted than Juventus, the Old Lady cannot outplay Barca but they will try to outsmart them tactically.
Barcelona will (baring injuries) field a three-headed attacking monster on June 6th comprised of Messi, Neymar and Suarez (an embarrassment of attacking riches). While it has taken these three some time to gel in their first season together, the past months have struck fear in every opponent's eyes as this trio seems to be figuring each other out.
That said, Juventus have a stout defense that will not allow the space that Messi and co. usually enjoy playing with. Juve will hold a very deep defensive line and, in classic Italian style, play pure counter attacking football. Barcelona will dominate possession throughout the game and Juve will not mind one bit. Juve’s main concern will be keeping the field small for Barcelona’s attack. It’s kinda like getting into the redzone in American football. Juve doesn’t mind if Barca have the ball in their half most of the game so long as things are crowded. That way Messi, Neymar and Suarez have less space to show their class. Juve will then try to break out on a quick counter-attack when Barcelona turn the ball over.
The game should be great to watch so I suggest you take in the last game of the 2014-15 European football calendar on June 6th with some friends at a local pub! I might write a post in the coming weeks about the international soccer that will be played this summer by the both the Men’s and Women’s USA national teams.
Until then, enjoy the beautiful game!