Saturday, April 12, 2008

UEFA Cup semifinals preview

UEFA Cup report

Adios Getafe, only big guns remain

After all, the UEFA Cup semifinal setup will be worthy of the illustrious tradition of this competition. After the elimination of Getafe, whose best-ever Spanish league standing was last year's nineth, only the teams worthy of European glory have remained.

The big hit of the current edition are the Russian champions Zenit, who kicked out Villarreal, Marseille and Bayer Leverkusen in the past three rounds. Led by the respectable Dutch coach in Dirk Advocaaat and a handful of Russian internationals, Zenit reached their first European semifinals, and it is possible that they have not said their last word although their next opposition are Bayern. The ease with which they demolished Leverkusen

Bayern, by far the winningest team of the last four, had not seen a semifinal action since 2001, when they eliminated Real Madrid on the way to their fourth Champions League title. Despite a certain anonimity on the continental field after that achievement, Bayern are still one of the world soccer giants with shelves packed with silverware: four Champions Leagues, Cup Winners' Cup. UEFA Cup, Supercup and two Intercontinental Cups. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld says he sees Bayern in
the finals, but after toiling so much against a modest side like Getafe, the Bavarians had better approach their next obstacle with more humility.

Fiorentina and Rangers own just one European trophy, a Cup Winners' Cup each. The Italians won the first edition of the competition in 1961, beating who else but Rangers by 2-0 and 2-1. They were on the losing side in the following year's finals against Atlético Madrid and in 1990 they lost a UEFA Cup finals against Juventus. Their last appearance in the semifinal stage came eleven years ago when Ronaldo's and Figo's Barcelone proved too powerful for the Violets.

Rangers collected their only continental honour in 1972, after losing two previous finals in 1961 and 1967. In the scandalous final held in Barcelona thousands of Rangers' fans fought with the police, which cost the club one year suspension. After that tarnished triumph, the Blues came close to a final game only once, when they finished second in the semifinal group of the 1992/93 Champions League, behind eventual winners Marseille. Since this year's finals is to be played in Glasgow, Rangers believe the trophy is destined to end up in their hands, but before that happens Fiorentina's in-form man, Adrian Mutu, will have to give his approval.

UEFA Cup quarterfinals 2007/08

Bayer L. vs Zenit 1-4 1-0
Bayern vs Getafe 1-1 3-3 (a.e.t.)
Fiorentina – PSV 1-1 2-0
Rangers – Sporting L. 0-0 2-0

Copyright Ozren Podnar and Soccerphile

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