The first Europa League season, following its rebranding from UEFA Cup, draws to a close with a final line-up no-one would have expected here in Hamburg, but still, there is a familiar feel heading into this match.
Reuters Soccer Blog
There will be a heavy Brazilian influence in Wednesday’s UEFA Cup final between Shakhtar Donetsk and Werder Bremen in Istanbul — despite the absence of Werder’s influential playmaker Diego through suspension.
What have the UEFA Cup and the Eurovision song contest got in common?
A) Some people don’t take them as seriously as they could.
B) They give lesser known participants the chance to appear on prime-time TV.
C) East European countries have started to dominate them
And the answer, I’m starting to think, is C … because of A and B.
This year will be the third year in the past six that an ex-Soviet team plays in the UEFA Cup final after victories by Russian sides Zenit St Petersburg last year and CSKA Moscow in 2005.
Spain overcame 44 years of underachievement on the international stage when they were crowned European champions at Euro 2008. Not only did they win the tournament, but their players, their style and their attacking ambition were hailed around the world.
Twice UEFA Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur are most likely heading out of the competition after a 2-0 first-leg defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first knockout round on Thursday.