In an age when we try and convince ourselves that the FA Cup does really matter, yet all the indications from the media, from apathetic fans and [some] disinterested players suggest otherwise, it was interesting to hear a post-match conversation that dismissed the forthcoming final between Arsenal and Hull as “it’s only Arsenal and Hull…who cares?.” For the fans of the two clubs, May 17 will be a red letter day. It may just save the careers of one or two Arsenal players and it will certainly make the day for some Hull players.
The FA Cup can’t win. If the big guns get there – how many more Chelsea v Manchester United games do you want?- it is invariably greeted with, “it’s them again…so predictable”, but if a club from outside the bulge bracket gets there, the reaction is, “it’s only Wigan”. The beauty of the FA Cup was that it was fairly democratic. You could always find a romantic story to tell – just take Wigan last year. Arsenal v Hull is an interesting final and everyone outside of the Emirates will be willing the Tigers to win. They are the underdog and everyone [used to] like that breed of animal.
To say that the big guns are not interested in the cups is nonsense. Look at the winners of the past few seasons since the final returned to its spiritual home: Chelsea; Portsmouth (ok, excuse that one); Chelsea, Chelsea, Manchester City, Chelsea and Wigan (a genuine upset). And the runners-up: United; Cardiff (what did happen in 2008); Everton; Portsmouth; Stoke City; Liverpool and Manchester City.
We hear the same argument across Europe, but this season really doesn’t support that argument.
In Austria, the semi-finals are about to take place: Salzburg and Sturm Graz are two of the four teams, and they’re first and fifth respectively in the Bundesliga.
In Belgium, the two finalists were fourth and fifth – Zulte-Waregrame have won it.
In France (trophy top left), the final is on May 3 – Rennes and Guingamp are the finalists. Both below mid-table.
In Germany (pictured centre top), it is the Deutsch clasico on May 17 – Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich, second versus first.
The Dutch saw a bit of an upset in their final in mid-April, champions elect Ajax losing 5—1 to Zwolle.
Spain is one country that does take its cup seriously. The Copa Del Rey (pictured right) saw Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1.
On May 18, Benfica, now champions of Portugal, will play Rio Ave who are some 10 places below Lisbon’s finest.
The Danes will host their cup final on May 18 and current leaders Aalborg will play third-placed FC Copenhagen.
Tonight, keep your ears open for the Polish final in Warsaw. They’ll be plenty of Zs on display when Zaglebie Lubin (15th) take on Zawiska Bydgoszcz (6th).