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Champions League Kicks Off to a Crazy Start

Eli Locke, Sentry Staff Reporter

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Every four years, the FIFA World Cup mesmerizes soccer (or football) fans and non-fans alike around the globe. Yet for many of these viewers, after the tournament is over the excitement of seeing the world’s best soccer players must wait for four more years. But what many do not know about is the greatest club soccer tournament in the world occurs on a yearly basis- the UEFA Champions League.
Domestic soccer leagues in England or Spain follow a 38-match season without playoffs, and the top-finishing teams in each domestic league qualify for the UEFA Champions League. For major countries like the two above, five spots are usually allotted; for less powerful domestic leagues like Romania, one spot may be allotted to the league winners for a home-and-away qualification leg in order to get into the real tournament. Just like the world cup, eight groups of four teams are formed, with the top two teams in each group advancing. Then the fun starts.

The magic of the Champions League, just like the World Cup, is that underdogs face the world’s best and anything can happen. This year, group B featured Cristiano Ronaldo-led Real Madrid and famed English side Liverpool. While Real Madrid easily advanced with six wins out of six, Liverpool’s spot in the last 16 was snatched by up-and-coming FC Basel. The other team in the group? Ludogorets Razgard: they qualified via a last-minute tying goal and a penalty shootout in which a defender had to be subbed in at goalie and made two saves to help his team to the group stage.
7-0, 6-0 and 5-0 scorelines were abound in this years’ group stage: in one game Shakhtar Donetsk’s unheralded Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano netted 5 goals. Superstars with electric attacking ability like Lionel Messi and Mario Gotze were far from absent during the group stage, both leading their respective teams into the knockout round. Despite the thrill of the group stage, the impending round of 16 would easily top that excitement.
In the first game of the two-game matchup between French giants Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and controversial Chelsea, three Chelsea defenders combined to score and the game ended 1-1 in Paris. In the second go-around, ‘Zlatan’ was shown an early red-card after the referee was swarmed by Chelsea players, prompting the Swede to label the opposition players ‘babies’. Again, defenders stole the show and scored for both teams, including an 86th-minute equalizer by David Luiz against his former team. In overtime, a Chelsea penalty kick goal was cancelled out by (wait for it: defender) Thiago Silva’s perfectly looped header, and PSG shocked everyone and advanced on the road via an aggregate tie by scoring more away goals.

Another intriguing round of 16 matchup featured Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk and pass-masters Bayern Munich. While the first game was a sloppy, 0-0 affair, the second matchup saw Bayern show their class in a 7-0 victory in which ten of eleven players (including their game-changing German goalie Manuel Neuer) had either an assist or a goal.

While many predicted powerful Real Madrid to walk all over German underdogs Schalke 04, especially after the first game was handled effectively 2-0 by Madrid, the second contest was a wild 4-3 affair. Schalke, despite scoring four in Spain, needed only one more to advance; 19-year-old Leroy Sane also scored with his first ever shot on goal in the tournament.

Four other matchups have yet to be finished: Borussia Dortmund vs Juventus and Atletico Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen, two even matchups where the world’s young superstars like Marco Reus, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann will be sure to impress. Moreover, the matchup between two of the world’s top teams, Manchester City and FC Barcelona, will attract fairweather viewers from all over. Lastly, upstart AS Monaco shocked a hapless Arsenal with a 3-1 win in England; the second leg of the matchup promises to be extraordinary.

 

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The student news site of Yorktown High School
Champions League Kicks Off to a Crazy Start