Category Archives: Europa League

The Club World Cup is already forgotten — Here’s how it could be awesome

The Club World Cup came and went last week, with Bayern Munich winning the trophy and officially confirming what many long believed: the Bavarians are the best club football team in the world. It was Die Roten’s fifth trophy of 2013 and Pep Guardiola’s second since taking over for Jupp Heynckes.

The final was especially significant for Bayern Munich center back Dante. Not only did the Brazilian defender score a goal in the final, he also picked up his sixth piece of silverware this calendar year. Dante also took home a Confederations Cup winner’s medal in the summer on top of the five trophies he won with Bayern.

But Bayern were not the story of this event. Not after home team Raja Casablanca made a dramatic run to the final, taking down Copa Libertadores champions Atlético Mineiro along the way. A few of Raja’s players also took home some souvenirs from a living legend, Ronaldinho, after that match:

Some people seemed legitimately upset that the host team made it all the way to the final (like here and here). Others rightfully appreciated the Cinderella story of the Moroccan club. Whatever it means about the quality of the teams they defeated and ultimately lost to, it’s undeniable that Raja Casablanca’s run captivated both the Moroccan people and the global audience of the Club World Cup.

This tournament always raises the same issues: whether it is a worthwhile event in the first place, and the significance of one-off matches between teams from different confederations. We’ve all heard that for whatever reason, the Club World Cup just hasn’t caught on as a big tournament that clubs want to take seriously. A full week since the final was played, and this tournament is already an afterthought.

Football is a global game, and when you hear World Cup you think of the pinnacle of competition. But the Club World Cup has rarely lived up to that billing.  What can be done to improve this floundering tournament that has so much potential?

How can we see more of this?

dinhofreekick

And this?

The are two things that can be done to make both fans and clubs care a lot more about this tournament: invite more teams, and give out a lot more prize money. Steve Graff write a nice piece on how to improve the Club World Cup for VAVEL.com with similar suggestions. My solution is slightly different, but the general idea is the same.

First, the prize money. The current payout breaks down like this: Winner gets $5m, runner up 4m, third place: 2.5m, fourth: 2m, fifth: 1.5m, sixth: 1m, seventh: 0.5m. That’s not very much money for a team like Bayern Munich, who received over 50m euros from the Champions League. Here’s some more info on Champions League payouts, for those who are curious.

So, in order to make every team take this tournament a lot more seriously, we need to up the stakes. It’d be nice to multiply those payouts by 10, but to be more realistic, let’s go with 5x the current purse. That means the winner gets $25m and the runner up, $20m. Enough to make winning a significant temptation, even for a European team.

And how to finance that? Just add more teams: expand it from 7 to 14 teams. More teams makes it even more fun for the fans, but it also means more high profile players and more of a spectacle, which equals more sponsorship money.

We are keeping the host team. Raja Casablanca’s run to the final was a great story. A host team getting an auto berth is a classic part of a cup competition. We are trying to revitalize this competition. You have to keep the team that brings the home fans to the stadium. With potentially different hosts and the obvious advantage of playing at home, we could see a underdog story like Raja’s more often.

The winners of the Europa League and the Copa Sudamerica are automatically qualified. We are also bringing in some non-trophy winners. The finalists of each federation’s Champions League are invited, with the winners given an additional bye and the runners up entering the competition earlier. Here is a rundown of the seeding:

1. UEFA Champions League Winner

2. Copa Libertadores Winner

3. Europa League Winner

4. Copa Sudamerica Winner

5. UEFA Champions League Runner Up

6. Copa Libertadores Runner Up

7. CONCACAF Champion

8. CAF Champion

9. AFC Champion

10. Oceania Champion

11. CONCACAF Runner Up

12. CAF Runner Up

13. AFC Runner Up

14. Host country league champion

14 teams is a strange number for a tournament, so some teams are going to have to enter at different stages. The top 4 seeds are the UEFA and CONMEBOL trophy winners. They don’t come in until the third round of the competition. UCL and Copa Lib runner ups face off against champions of Asia, Africa, and North America. Here is how the bracket would look every year:

What does that really mean, you ask? Well, here’s how it would have looked for this tournament, given the winners and runners up of all the tournaments in question, assuming the higher seed wins each match:

Now this is starting to look like a Club World Cup that is worthy of the name. This bracket contains potential matchups of legendary European and South American clubs, and gives the weaker confederations plenty of chances to knock off the top dogs. The tournament also contains 5 different rounds of matches for the enjoyment of fans, and most teams only have to play one more game than they currently would under the existing format.

A few simple changes could make the Club World Cup a headline event, truly capable of determining the best team in the world.

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Inter no match for Bale, Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan faced off in a Europa League clash today in North London. In a match up of two sides with hopes of playing European football on Tuesdays and Wednesdays next season rather than Thursdays, it was only Spurs who looked Champions League worthy, cruising to a comfortable 3-0 win. In truth, the score line could have been much worse for Inter, if not for several big saves by the Slovenian keeper Samir Handanovic.

Tottenham immediately took the game to their opponent, dominating possession from the get-go and creating dangerous chances. Gareth Bale continued to demonstrate why he should be considered among the best footballers in the world, rising to beat Esteban Cambiasso and head home a cross from Gylfi Sigurdsson in the sixth minute. It was Bale’s 14th goal in 14 games and his 50th in a Tottenham shirt. The Welshman has recently been the subject of high priced transfer rumors to Real Madrid, and today’s performance will do nothing to diminish the hype surrounding the 23-year-old. Bale started the match up front alongside Jermain Defoe, but roamed throughout the final third of the pitch, often dropping deep to collect the ball and run at the defense.

It wasn’t all smiles for Bale in the first half however, as he was booked for a dive in the 15th minute and will miss the return leg in Milan due to yellow card accumulation. The decision may have been a bit harsh, but the contact was minimal and Bale, who has developed a reputation for diving over the past few years, was not given the benefit of the doubt by the referee. Spurs fans will hope the 3-0 advantage will be enough to get them through without their star man in the second leg.

Tottenham showed little sign of missing American forward Clint Dempsey, who remains sidelined with a calf injury. Bale and Sigurdsson linked up well with fellow attackers Defoe, Mousa Dembele, and Aaron Lennon, as Spurs were on target 13 times over 90 minutes. Midfielder Scott Parker had an outstanding game, winning balls in the center of the field, controlling the tempo with smart passes, and charging forward to initiate attacks. Iceland international Sigurdsson also proved dangerous, sending crosses into the box, assisting on the first goal, and cleaning up the rebound off a Defoe shot for the second. This squad is clicking at the right time and should be considered one of the favorites to win the tournament after their domination of Inter Milan today.

The match also featured two of the oldest players still plying their trade at the highest level. 39-year-old Javier Zanetti anchored the defense for Inter, while American Brad Friedel, 41, manned the goal for Spurs. Friedel was barely tested all game, although halftime substitute Rodrigo Palacio forced him into an excellent kick save after latching onto a lovely ball played over the top of the Tottenham defense. Ricky Alvarez also had a one on one chance with the American keeper when a through ball from Antonio Cassano was deflected into his path, but he dragged the shot wide of the far post.

After blanking Arsenal in the first half of their match up this past weekend, Spurs again went into halftime up 2-0 against a red-shirted squad at White Hart Lane. Unlike Arsenal, however, Inter were not able to find a goal to keep the game interesting, and Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen effectively ended their chances in the 55th minute. Gareth Bale swung in a high ball off the corner kick and it found the Belgian, who coolly headed past Handanovic to increase Tottenham’s advantage. Cambiasso was again caught sleeping as the ball came into the box, and Inter was made to pay.

Spurs will now travel to the San Siro next Thursday to try and finish the tie off, although they will have to do it without Bale. Tottenham supporters will also hope that Aaron Lennon, who went off with a knock to the leg in the 82nd minute, will not have sustained a long term injury as they now look towards a key Premier League meeting against Liverpool at Anfield this weekend. Everything seems to be falling into place at the right time for Andre Villas-Boas’ side, which look deserving of a place among Europe’s elite in the Champions League next season.

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