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Wednesday, July 4, 2012
European dominance

Norman Hubbard

Norman Hubbard is ESPN's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to and he'll try to answer as many as possible After a season when Barcelona and Real Madrid almost got through to make it an all-Spanish Champions League final, and Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao did both reach the Europa League final, has there ever been a season when all the finalists in all the major European competitions (yesteryear's European Cup/UEFA Cup/Cup Winners' Cup and today's Champions League/Europa League) came from one country alone? S Phua from Singapore asked. The short answer is no. No country has ever provided all of the European finalists. However, there are two cases of one league supplying four of the six finalists. The first came in just the second season when there were three competitions (European Cup, Cup Winners' Cup and Fairs Cup). In 1961-62, Spain provided Real Madrid, who lost the European Cup final to Benfica, Atletico Madrid, who won the Cup Winners' Cup, and Fairs Cup finalists Valencia and Barcelona (Valencia winning 7-3 on aggregate). The efforts of the La Liga clubs were both equalled and surpassed by Serie A in 1990 when Italy had four finalists and all three winners. AC Milan were European Cup winners, beating Benfica 1-0; Sampdoria, who defeated Anderlecht 2-0, lifted the Cup Winners' Cup; and Juventus beat Fiorentina in an all-Italian UEFA Cup final. It was part of an era of Italian dominance in European football. Over the following decade, there were four years when Italy had three finalists (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998), including three in a row. In comparison, Spain has only had three finalists once more (1966). In addition, Germany had three in 1980. While England had a golden age in Europe between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s, when its clubs were banned, there were never three finalists from Division One. Since the Cup Winners' Cup was abolished in 1999, no country has had three finalists in the two remaining competitions. I had a question on Euro 2012. When I was looking at Group C before the last game, Spain, Italy and Croatia could have all finished with the same points and the same head-to-head record. Has this ever happened? And who qualified? Kelvin Tang from Singapore asked Two countries finished level both on points and goal difference at the 1990 World Cup when Republic of Ireland and Netherlands both drew all three games. The Irish drew 1-1 with group winners England and then 0-0 with Egypt, who finished fourth, while the Dutch drew 1-1 with Egypt and then 0-0 with England. They finished the group with a 1-1 draw against each other, leaving them tied on three points. Second place in the group was decided by drawing lots - and the Irish won. It is perhaps fortunate that the 1990 World Cup featured 24 teams, 16 of whom qualified for the knockout stages. So while Ireland, as the second-placed team, went through to face Romania and eventually became quarter-finalists, Netherlands, as one of the four best third-placed teams, also qualified, losing to West Germany in a game famous for the dismissals of Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voller. Just wondering with Chelsea's cup wins this past season, which London club is the most successful and what are the trophies Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs have won and how many each? Wilfred Alexander Tan from Brunei asked As ever, the answer depends on how you define success. If it is purely by winning the Champions League, then Chelsea, as London's only European Cup-winning club, are. If the Premier League, or the old Division One, is the main criterion, it is Arsenal, whose 13 league titles place them third behind Manchester United and Liverpool. And if it is the total number of major trophies (I am counting league titles, FA and League Cups plus the Champions League/European Cup, the Cup Winners' Cup and the Fairs Cup/UEFA Cup/Europa League), the Gunners are again convincing winners, with 27 major trophies. But Chelsea's triumphs last season, when they won the FA Cup as well as the Champions League, did enable them to leapfrog Tottenham and go second among the capital clubs. In total, the roll of honour is: Arsenal: 27 - 13 league titles, ten FA Cups, two League Cups, one Cup Winners' Cup, one Fairs Cup Chelsea: 18 - Four league titles, seven FA Cups, four League Cups, one Champions League, two Cup Winners' Cups Tottenham: 17 - Two league titles, eight FA Cups, four League Cups, one Cup Winners' Cup, two Uefa Cups

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