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A Look Back At Last Year’s Champions League Final

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Champions League Final1

With football finding itself within the vice-like grip of a global pandemic, it was enough to put last season’s Champions League at risk and with pan-continental competition being considered an absolute no, it would require a considerable amount of thinking outside the box to restart it.

Thinking that was required for this and the Europa League, to reach a rightful conclusion and with the usual format of home and away legs scrapped, it meant one nation would host each of the final phases of these respective competitions.

For the Europa League, it was the home of the Bundesliga which become rather welcome hosts and once again it would be Sevilla who became accustomed to the trophy, as they managed to get the better of Inter Milan in the final.

While for the pinnacle of European club football, it was Portugal which hosted eight of the biggest clubs in the land and although Porto will have to get ready to host this season’s edition of the final, it was Lisbon which was tasked with staging duties last summer.

Because with UEFA’s other crown jewel having been delayed by 12 months, the lack of European Championships meant a huge void in the usual summer football schedule and, therefore, a different looking Champions League for 2020 was a welcome replacement.

A replacement that saw a rather simple format installed, as eight teams would eventually be whittled down to a winner by virtue of a straight knockout competition and one that Barcelona would not play a substantial part in.

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Although their part was still memorable and that was down to the eight goals that they conceded to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals and such was the result, that it was nearly enough for Lionel Messi to leave the Camp Nou for good.

The Argentine is still calling Catalunya home for now and even if he does pen a new contract in the next few weeks, the sight of him and his teammates being mauled by the Munich based outfit is one that will be etched in his mind for near eternity.

Going into the game, a look at the sports betting stats would have suggested that there was not a great deal between the two sides and although it looked like being a rather close contest on paper, it was nothing of the sort come the final whistle.

Disaster for Quique Setien and his Barcelona men and with the former Real Betis manager falling on his sword soon after, it was a result that subsequently saw Ronald Koeman take the reins during the off-season.

While if it was a disaster for the club that won the 2015 edition of the competition, it was progress for the team that thrashed them and lying next in wait, was Ligue 1 outfit Olympique Lyonnais in the Semi-final.

Olympique Lyonnais or Lyon as they are perhaps better known had a considerable amount riding on this game and if they were the next outfit to be dumped out by the German giants, there would be no European football for them the following season.

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That’s because with Ligue 1 being curtailed early after instruction from the French government, they found themselves lying outside the qualification places for any of the UEFA competitions and with no time to make up any necessary ground.

Unfortunately for them, they were no match for a once again brilliant Bayern side and although the level of defeat was not as high on the Barcelona scale, the German champions of 2020 still managed to put three unanswered goals past their opponents.

An outcome which meant they would find themselves in the final and the question was who would be joining them in the showpiece event. A question that was eventually answered by Thomas Tuchel’s star-studded PSG.

After scoring two late goals against Atalanta, the dominant force in French football managed to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat and in doing so, booked a Semi-final meeting with RB Leipzig.

A meeting that was just as once sided as the other semi-final and although RB Leipzig are backed by a famous energy drink, they had certainly run out of fizz by the time they squared off against Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Because if RB Leipzig have designs on being considered one of football’s elite, they were shown that there is still some way to go and with manager Thomas Tuchel overseeing a 3-0 win, it meant more German opposition for him in the final.

A final that pitted last season’s Bundesliga winners versus the outfit who were crowned the kings of Ligue 1 and with these two combustible elements, everybody was preparing for the sparks that were set to fly.

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Only that was not really the case and although it would be unfair to label last season’s Champions League final as an anti-climax, it certainly did not live up to the hype. The hype that was generated by the prospect of Neymar and Mbappe going up against the fearsome Robert Lewandowski.

However, it would be neither of these three who would score the game’s only goal and in doing so, write themselves into football folklore. Because that honour was bestowed to Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman.

Champions League Final2

The former PSG youngster was on hand to finally break the deadlock after the interval and in doing so, he put himself and his teammates in pole position to see out the remaining half-hour of the game as winners.

Something that would be achieved come to the final whistle and although the players on the field will have taken the credit, their success would also cap a remarkable debut season in charge for manager Hans-Dieter Flick.

Only installed the previous November as an interim, he would transform the Bavarian outfit and after already winning a German trophy double before leading his side to battle in Portugal, success on August 23 would complete what at one point seemed like being a rather unlikely treble.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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CAS Reduces Samson Siasia’s Life Ban to 5 Years

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Samson Siasia

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has reduced the life ban of former Nigerian national team coach, Samson Siasia, for a match-fixing affair to five years.

The court ruled that the life ban, imposed by the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) in April 2019 after Mr Siaisia was found guilty of agreeing to join a match-fixing ring in 2010, was “disproportionate”.

The CAS ruling upheld the guilty verdict but reduced the length of the ban and set aside the additional fine of 50,000 Swiss francs ($54,000).

In a statement, the Court ruled that “The panel determined the imposition of a life ban to be disproportionate for a first offence which was committed passively and which had not had an adverse or immediate effect on football stakeholders.”

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CAS added that a five-year ban would be placed on the former Super Eagle player, saying that the fine was dropped as the panel felt it would be inappropriate and excessive on top of the ban, noting that Mr Siasia had not benefitted financially and had been hit in the pocket by not being able to work in football.

It wrote, “The imposed fine of CHF 50,000 on Mr Siasia is set aside. The panel determined the imposition of a life ban to be disproportionate for a first offence which was committed passively and which had not had an adverse or immediate effect on football stakeholders, and that a five-year ban would still achieve the envisaged aim of punishing the infringement committed by Mr Siasia.

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“The panel acknowledged the need for sanctions to be sufficiently high enough to eradicate bribery and especially match-fixing in football.

“However, the panel considered in the particular circumstances of this matter that it would be inappropriate and excessive to impose a financial sanction in addition to the five-year ban, since the ban sanction already incorporated a financial punishment in eliminating football as a source of revenue for Mr Siasia, and considering that Mr Siasia had not obtained any gain or pecuniary benefit from his unethical behaviour.”

His suspension from any football-related activity nationally or internationally is backdated to August 16, 2019, and runs until 2024.

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The former striker played 51 times for Nigeria, including at the 1994 World Cup, and won a French Championship medal with Nantes in 1995.

He was the coach of Nigeria between 2010 and 2011 and took the Nigerian U-23 team to the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Mr Siasia was caught after a wider investigation involving Mr Wilson Raj Perumal, who confessed to international match-fixing.

Mr Perumal, a Singaporean national, was arrested and jailed in Finland in 2011 for fixing top-tier football games in his country to which he later collaborated with investigators to name others.

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CAF Approves 5,000 Fans for African Champions League Semifinals

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African Champions League Semifinals

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has given the green light that up to 5,000 fans will be allowed to attend Saturday’s African Champions League semifinals in Tunisia and Morocco.

In a statement issued on Friday, the African football body said the decision was arrived at after receiving an application from the host member and approvals from governmental and health authorities of the respective host nations.

Morocco and Tunisia are two countries that have some of the highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths on the continent.

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Four-time winners Esperance de Tunis host defending champions Al Ahly at the Stade Olympique De Rades, Tunis, while two-time winners Wydad Athletic Club host Kaizer Chiefs at Complexe Mohamed V Stadium, Casablanca.

“CAF has stressed that all medical precautions should be followed at all times in respect to CAF Covid-19 health protocols,” the statement said.

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The return legs are scheduled to take place on June 26.

Prior to Saturday’s games, continental games involving clubs and countries in Africa have been behind closed doors or opened to a limited audience in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Esperance defeated Algeria’s CR Belouizdad in the quarter-finals on a penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 aggregate score. The club will be focused on stopping Egyptian giants Ah Ahly who have won the Champions League for a record nine times.

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The Red Devils stopped Mamelodi Sundowns with a 3-1 aggregate win, which started with a 2-0 victory in the first leg.

Elsewhere in Casablanca, Wydad, who grabbed a late goal to send MC Alger packing with a 2-1 aggregate win in May, will aim to go beyond the semi-final this year when they battle South African giants, Kaizer Chiefs.

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Euro 2020 Kicks-Off Amid COVID-19 Threat (Full Fixtures)

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Euro 2020

By Adedapo Adesanya

Following a year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Euro 2020 will finally kick off on Friday (today), with the virus still a major issue that organisers have to contend with.

Unlike other previous editions of the continent-wide event held in one country or jointly hosted, the tournament would be held across Europe and will be played in front of limited crowds and with strict health restrictions in place.

The tournament, the 16th of its kind, will feature 24 teams – 20 from automatic qualification and the remaining four decided through the play-offs.

It will be held across 11 different cities in Europe, with UEFA celebrating the 60th birthday of the first European Championship (then called the European Nations Cup), which was held in France in 1960.

For the first time in the history of the competition, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be used.

Cities, Stadium, and Capacity

City Stadium Capacity
Amsterdam, Netherlands Johan Cruyff Arena 56,000
Baku, Azerbaijan Olympic Stadium 68,700
Bucharest, Romania Arena Nationala 55,600
Budapest, Hungary Ferenc Puskas Stadium 67,889
Copenhagen, Denmark Parken Stadium 38,065
Glasgow, Scotland Hampden Park 52,063
London, England Wembley Stadium 90,000
Munich, Germany Allianz Arena 75,000
Rome, Italy Stadio Olimpico 72,698
Saint Petersburg, Russia Krestovsky Stadium 68,134
Seville, Spain La Cartuja 60,000

St Petersburg will have a stadium capacity of 50 per cent of fans in attendance, with the number potentially increasing before the tournament start date.

Budapest plans to hold supporters in full capacity, though they will have to comply with strict entry requirements.

Baku will have a stadium capacity of 50 per cent. Fans will be required to provide a negative Covid-19 test before entering Azerbaijan.

Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen and Glasgow have confirmed a capacity of 25 per cent to 33 per cent. All three cities will potentially increase their capacity by May, based on the success of their vaccine rollout and local COVID-19 situation.

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London will have a minimum capacity of 25 per cent for the three group matches and the round of 16 matches. They are also optimistic about having an increased stadium attendance for both the semi-finals and final.

Munich, Rome, Bilbao, Dublin as at press time are yet to provide additional details on their attendance plans.

Match ball, Mascot, & Slogan

The Uniforia ball, designed by Adidas, will serve as the match ball for all Euro 2020 matches.

The ball is mostly white and includes multi-coloured black strokes with additional blue, neon and pink stripes.

The name of the ball is taken from the combination of the words “unity” and “euphoria”.

Official Song

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix will be performing the tournament’s official song, which will be unveiled at the full opening ceremony in Rome at the Stadio Olimpico.

Matches Schedule

Matchday 1

11 June 2021

Match 1: Turkey vs Italy

Stadio Olympico, Rome, Italy

12 June 2021

Match 2: Wales vs Switzerland

Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan

Match 3: Denmark vs Finland

Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark

Match 4: Belgium vs Russia

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia

13 June 2021

Match 5: England vs Croatia

Wembley Stadium, London, England

Match 6: Austria vs North Macedonia

Arena Nationala, Bucharest, Romania

Match 7: Netherlands vs Ukraine

Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands

14 June 2021

Match 8: Scotland vs Czech Republic

Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland

Match 9: Poland vs Slovakia

Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Match 10: Spain vs Sweden

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La Cartuja, Seville, Spain

15 June 2021

Match 11: Hungary vs Portugal

Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary

Match 12: France vs Germany

Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany

Matchday 2

16 June 2021

Match 13: Finland vs Russia

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Match 14: Turkey vs Wales

Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan

Match 15: Italy vs Switzerland

Stadio Olympico, Rome, Italy

17 June 2021

Match 16: Ukraine vs North Macedonia

Arena Nationala, Bucharest, Romania

Match 17: Denmark vs Belgium

Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark

Match 18: Netherlands vs Austria

Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands

18 June 2021

Match 19: Sweden vs Slovakia

Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Match 20: Croatia vs Czech Republic

Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland

Match 21: England vs Scotland

Wembley Stadium, London, England

19 June 2021

Match 22: Hungary vs France

Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary

Match 23: Portugal vs Germany

Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany

Match 24: Spain vs Poland

La Cartuja, Seville, Spain

Matchday 3

20 June 2021

Match 25: Italy vs Wales

Stadio Olympico, Rome, Italy

Match 26: Switzerland vs Turkey

Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan

21 June 2021

Match 27: Ukraine vs Austria

Stadio Olympico, Rome, Italy

Match 28: North Macedonia vs Netherlands

Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Match 29: Russia vs Denmark

Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark

Match 30: Finland vs Belgium

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia

22 June 2021

Match 31: Croatia vs Scotland

Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland

Match 32: Czech Republic vs England

Wembley Stadium, London, England

23 June 2021

Match 33: Sweden vs Poland

Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Match 34: Slovakia vs Spain

La Cartuja, Seville, Spain

Match 35: Portugal vs France

Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary

Match 36: Germany vs Hungary

Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany

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ROUND OF 16

26 June 2021

Round of 16 tie 1: Runner-up Group A vs Runner-up Group B

Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Round of 16 tie 2: Winner Group A vs Runner-up Group C

8pm

Wembley Stadium, London, England

27 June 2021

Round of 16 tie 3: Winner Group C vs 3rd Group D/E/F

Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary

Round of 16 tie 4: Winner Group B vs 3rd Group A/D/E/F

San Mames, Bilbao, Spain

28 June 2021

Round of 16 tie 5: Runner-up Group D vs Runner-up Group E

Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark

Round of 16 tie 6: Winner Group F vs 3rd Group A/B/C

Arena Nationala, Bucharest, Romania

29 June 2021

Round of 16 tie 7: Winner Group D vs Runner-up Group F

Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Round of 16 tie 8: Winner Group E vs 3rd Group A/B/C/D

Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland.

QUARTER-FINALS

2 July 2021

Quarter-final 1: Round of 16 tie 6 winner vs Round of 16 tie 5 winner

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Quarter-final 2: Round of 16 tie 4 winner vs Round of 16 tie 2 winner

Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany.

3 July 2021

Quarter-final 3: Round of 16 tie 3 winner vs Round of 16 tie 1 winner

Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan.

Quarter-final 4: Round of 16 tie 8 winner vs Round of 16 tie 7 winner

Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy.

SEMI-FINALS

July 6 2021

Semi-final 1: Quarter-final 2 winner vs Quarter-final 1 winner

Wembley Stadium, London, England.

July 7 2021

Semi-final 2: Quarter-final 4 winner vs Quarter-final 3 winner

Wembley Stadium, London, England.

FINAL

July 11 2021

Final: Semi-final 1 winner vs Semi-final 2 winner

Wembley Stadium, London, England.

The action kicks off tonight at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where Italy take on Turkey in front of 16,000 fans.

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