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Gus Keri

A life-long Liverpool fan who resides in New York City and also supports the New York Red Bulls.


The Europa League – It Has Come A Long Way

Written by on March 17, 2011 | 18 Comments »
Posted in General, History and Books, UEFA Europa League

2011 probably will go into history as the year when it all came together for the second year competition; the Europa League. But the journey it took to reach this point wasn’t as easy.

In 1955, it started as a small tournament to promote international trade fairs. It was called Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. It lasted until 1971. The first two cups took place over three and two years, respectively. Later it became a yearly event.

The rules, initially, allowed for one club from each city, with few exceptions, regardless of league position. In the later years it became known as the Runners-Up Cup because it took league position into consideration, but still would not allow more than one club from each city.

Spanish clubs dominated the early years when they won 6 out of the first 8 cups. The English clubs dominated the period between 1968 and 1971 winning four in a raw. Club-wise, Barcelona was the most decorated club with 3 titles out of total 13, including the first ever.

The FC grew from 10 teams in 1955 to 64 in 1971, when UEFA decided to take control of the cup and changed its name to UEFA cup. And in 1975, they dropped the “one city, one club” rule and allowed for more than one club from one city, thanks to the protest by the English club, Everton.

From 1971 to 1999, UEFA Cup didn’t play a second fiddle to the European Cup/UEFA Champions League only, but also to the much less competitive Cup Winners Cup; a competition among the domestic cup winners only. Clubs would go into the CWC even if they are eligible to the UEFA cup.

The CWC, unlike the FC, was organized by UEFA and took place between 1960 and 1999. It was considered by many to be the easiest among all European competitions; although, ironically, no team had managed to win it twice in a row.

For some, like the Arsenal fans, it was considered a cursed cup. Seven different defending champions have reached the final in the following year but all failed to win it again.

In 39 years, there were 32 different winners. 4 teams won it twice and only Barcelona won it more, 4 times total. Country-wise, England won it 8 times and Spain and Italy won it 7 times each.

From 1971 to 1997, the UEFA cup had seen a steady increase in the runners-up representatives. It only lost the domestic league and cup winners. Things started to change after 1997, however. It started to lose more of the runners-up to the UCL.

UEFA noted that the standard of competitions had come down significantly outside the UCL. Therefore, they decide to merge the UEFA cup with the CWC in 1999. And furthermore, in 2005, they decided to let teams that dropped from the UCL qualifying round and the third place finishers in the group stage join the UEFA cup.

These changes elevated the playing standard and the competitiveness to a height; it has never been seen in the UEFA cup before. It almost guaranteed that the best clubs outside the last 16 in the UCL are still involved in soccer when the month of February comes.

In 39 years of the UEFA cup, 26 different teams won it. Italian teams won the most with 9 titles, followed by England, Spain and Germany with 6 each. Club-wise, Liverpool, Juventus and Inter Milan won it a record 3 times.

Here is the overall record of the winners including FC, CWC and UC:

By country:

1- Spain: 19

2- England: 18

3- Italy: 17

4- Germany: 11

5- Holland: 5

6- Belgium: 4

7- Ukraine: 3

8- Russia, Portugal, Sweden and Scotland: 2

12- France, Croatia, Hungary, Turkey, Slovakia and Georgia: 1

By clubs: (Only those which won three or more titles)

1- Barcelona: 7

2- Valencia: 4

2- Juventus: 4

4- Liverpool: 3

4- Tottenham: 3

4- Inter Milan: 3

4- Parma: 3

4- Anderlecht: 3

The second leg of the last 16 games will take place on Thursday.

The two televised matches on GolTV are PSG vs. Benfica (2pm) and Liverpool vs Braga (4pm).

The two Portuguese teams are leading on aggregate with one goal.

PSG had the benefit of scoring an away goal. They will go through with 1-0 win.

Liverpool, on the other hand, will need another one of those famous European nights to make it through. Conceding a goal will make things very difficult for them. Both teams have not played since their meeting in Portugal last Thursday.

The third Portuguese team, Porto, fared better with an away win against CSKA Moscow (1-0). But nothing has been won yet. Russian teams are very inconsistent in Europe. One bad performance is usually followed by a great one and vice versa.

The same goes for the other two Russian clubs in their meetings with the Dutch representatives. Spartak won away to Ajax (1-0) while Zenit lost away to Twente (0-3).

The third Dutch team has a difficult trip to the Ibrox, where the hope of the Scottish soccer rests on Rangers. The 0-0 result in Holland is the best by any British team in this round.

Manchester City, the other English club, will need a big performance after losing (2-0) away to Dynamo Kyiv. An away goal on a counter attack by Shevchenko-led Dynamo team would make it almost an impossible mission.

And finally, the only Spanish side left, Villarreal is in the best position, among all 16 teams, to qualify after they won away to the only German side left, Bayer Leverkusen 3-2.

The Schedule

At 2pm EST:

Man City – Dynamo Kyiv (0-2)

PSG – Benfica (1-2)

Spartak Moscow – Ajax (1-0)

Zenit – Twente (0-3)

At 4pm EST:

Liverpool – Braga (0-1)

Villarreal – Bayer Leverkusen (3-2)

Porto – CSKA Moscow (1-0)

Rangers – PSV Eindhoven (0-0)

For more on the last 16, check my previous article.

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18 responses to “The Europa League – It Has Come A Long Way”

  1. Bryan says:

    I admire your attempts at “bigging up” the europa league and your enthusiasm for it Gus ,but I’m not buying it.
    It’s less relevant now than ever before.

    But I don’t ever recall the UEFA cup being called the runners-up cup ,or the CWC being considered the easiest.

    I had forgotten about the one city one club rule though. And you’re right in that the eventual downfall of the CWC was because few actual cup winners were taking part, thanks(?) to the extended CL.

    You might ,or might not ,be interested to know that the first English team to reach a european final was London in the first fairs Cup.
    They were a team made up of mostly Chelsea players with a few from Tottenham ,were “managed” by the Chelsea secretary and played their home games at Stamford Bridge.
    And as Maurice Micklewhite might say “and not a lot of people know that.”

  2. Gus Keri says:


    Thanks for the input.

    Yes, I am aware of the London IX which made the first final against Barcelona. In the second season, though, Chelsea was chosen as the London representative.

    In the first few seasons of the Fairs Cup, few cities (not all) had select teams to represent them.
    The story also goes that the first Barcelona team to win it had one player from Espanyol.

  3. Bryan says:

    It was the chairman at the time ,Joe Mears ,and not the secretary who picked that first team. My mishtake.

    And I’m happy to announce that there is no Irish in me today ,or any other day.
    But Happy Paddy’s Day to Paddy Mulligan (and is there a more Irish name than that?),John Dempsey(although he wasn’t really irish)aaand ….can’t think of any others.

  4. Soccerlogical says:

    “I admire your attempts at “bigging up” the europa league and your enthusiasm for it Gus ,but I’m not buying it.
    It’s less relevant now than ever before.”

    – If one cant appreciate a competitive match between PSG/BENEFICA or LEVERKUSEN/VILLAREAL then I suggest watching sports with balls of a different color and size.

  5. Boris says:

    I hed no Idea, Eric Ebidal had liver cancer. That is horrible, especially for a young guy like that. The other day Nate Dogg die from a stroke at the age of 41.
    It is all the bad air and chemicals in our environment not to mention bad diet and lack of exercise (probably wouldn’t attribute to Abidal’s problem). Granted, nothing one can do about genetics, but a good diet and exercise can lower the risk.

  6. Theo van Nasarshavregas says:

    Boris – Abidal has a tumour in the liver. He goes under the knife today. We won’t know the severity until after today. It does put things into perspective however.


    Nice recap and thanks for some of the history of which I was not aware. To me, the UEL is still the red headed step child of European competition. However, as you said, the third placed UCL teams from the group stages are part of the competition. That alone is worthy of viewing. Even without those teams involved it does give footy starved fans something to do on Thursdays and the final 16 should always be interesting. I’ll be watching. At least what I can get today in my market which is like a box of chocolates. Curious to see if LFC can overcome 0-1 in their crib (I think they will). I wonder if ManC can overturn 0-2 (I don’t think they will). I’ll be rooting on the Yellow Submarine to wave the La Liga flag and hopefully win the competition (they’ve got a real shout as do Porto).

    Congrats to Pepe as he will be making his 300th appearance today for LFC.

    I just saw an interview with NYRB’s newcomer John Rooney. The NY club might want to invest in a Scouser-English interpreter or at least give us subtitles. I had to rewind and recalibrate my senses in order to understand him. It looks like Thierry is raring to go. That NY squad should be very interesting to watch this year.

  7. Boris says:


    Hopefully it is a benign tumor. It does make you wonder about life though. The best thing to do is to enjoy it while it lasts.

  8. Soccerlogical says:

    Hopefully the surgeon is Croatian… they hardly get the credit or opportunities deserved in medicine!

    Right Boris?


  9. Boris says:

    Haha. You got that right.

    Happy St. Patty’s to everyone by the way.

  10. Theo van Nasarshavregas says:

    Yes, Happy St. Patty’s Day all. I think this is a good day to raise a pint of the black stuff … if ever there was a bad day.

    That nutter Balotelli ‘helps’ his side with a red down 0-2 @ 35′. ManC have made it 1-2 just before the half but if I were pulling the strings at that club I would unload that Italian nutter asap. Let a Serie A club have him. They love drama in the land of the pasta no?

  11. Gus Keri says:

    A beautiful goal by Bodmer to tie the game for PSG. (1-1)

    Watching highlights of the other games, Spartak players were sliding over the ice after celebrating the second goal. This is dangerous

    Zenit leading 2-0. Bobby’s pseudo-prediction might come true.

    A kick to the chest by Balotelli, ala De Jong, earned him a red but the team responded immediately with a goal.

  12. Gus Keri says:

    PSG will live to regret their goalkeeper blunder and the many misses up front.

    Strange second half for the first set of games.
    Three teams (Man City, Zenit and PSG) needed one goal to take the match to extra time, but neither one was able to. Kudos to Dynamo, Benfica and Twente for holding tough and making it through to the last 8

    Spartak extended their lead with a very nice free kick. They eliminated Ajax by 3-0 (4-0 on agg)

  13. A great night for Portugal – 3 teams thru’. Two from Netherlands – one from Spain, Ukraine, Russia.

    Final in Dublin.

  14. Soccerlogical says:

    And just like that, Liverpool are out of Europe and Dalglish’s sheen starts to lose luster.

    At the present time, NESV who have a clear project and club structure in mind are unwilling to give Kenny (and the fans) a 2 yr deal and full control… and so the drama continues!

  15. Gus Keri says:

    I took a walk by the ocean, to vent some of the frustration over today’s result.

    Liverpool is out of Europe this year and it will take for a miracle of an epic proportion to put them in Europe next year.

    Liverpool used to rely heavily on two players, Gerrard and Torres. Now, they still rely heavily on two, Gerrard and Suarez.

    I still have faith in Dalglish to lead us into our promised land.

    It will take some effort to convince some players, like Reina, to stay, but life goes on.

  16. Gus Keri says:

    Notes from today’s results:

    Porto, Benfica, Braga (Portugal)
    PSV, Twente (Holland)
    Villarreal (Spain)
    Spartak (Russia)
    Dynamo (Ukraine)

    Seven of the match ups were decided in the 1st leg. All the winners of that leg qualified. The only match that needed a decider is the one ended in a draw (Rangers/PSV).

    Only one club from the top 5 European nations (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France) is still alive. The other 7 are from the next 4 European nations (Portugal, Russia, Ukraine and Holland)

    France is the only country from the top 9 not to have any club left in both Euroepan competitions.
    France continues to be the biggest enigma in the Euroepan soccer history.
    In 55 years, there were 146 trophies available, France had won only two.

  17. Gus Keri says:

    The quarterfinals and semifinals draw:

    (Porto vs Spartak) vs (Villarreal vs Twente)

    (Braga vs Dynamo) vs (Benfica vs PSV)

    Teams from the same country were kept apart in the quarterfinals.

    Braga vs Benfica is the only possible same country meeting in the semifinals.

  18. Jason says:

    I would argue that the Europa Cup is now the more exciting of the two european competition, simply because the Champions League has become nothing more than a competition of Europe’s huge money spenders. everything that is wrong with football can be found in the champions league.
    I’m sick of watching ManU and RM and Barcelona on the telly, where is the variety – the europa league bring that back.

    Aside from the money issue, the competition involves more teams and is alot longer from start to finish. Also more often than not, its a Europa league winner that also takes the European Super Cup.

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