UEFA Champions League 2016 Final - A flawed affair
The finals of the 2016 Champions League saw the Madrid divide being put to test again. Real Madrid were chasing the elusive ‘UnDecima’ to cement their already firm tag as the best team in the history of the illustrious competition. Atletico Madrid, the underdogs in this particular tie were handed a task of bettering their dismal record in the finals of Europe’s elite competition having failed to win their previous two.
The stakes were already high enough, Ronaldo would win his 3rd Champions League trophy equalling Messi’s haul at the grandest stage. Zidane, the prodigal son of Madrid would have won the Champions League first as a player, then as an assistant coach and finally as a coach and on doing so would become the first French manager to win the trophy.
Fernando Torres, who for the majority of his post-Liverpool career has been mercilessly trolled and targeted for his dull performances would finally win the trophy with his childhood club, a fairytale in itself. Diego Simeone would proudly proclaim to have broken Real and Barcelona’s dominance, winning all the trophies he could have laid his hands on in Spain.
After 120 hard-fought minutes at the San Siro, Real Madrid won 5-3 on penalties further strengthening their position as the best team in Europe. The Madridistas were in a state of euphoria to have witnessed their team stand up against a resolute Atletico Madrid side who certainly gave them a run for the money, defying critics with a fresh style of attacking football which came as a surprise to many given the criticism they have received in recent times with their defensive approach.
It was ecstasy for Real Madrid fans, despair for the Atletico Madrid fans and for us neutrals, a flawed affair.
The Madrid derbies of the past have been intense affairs, with Atletico Madrid managing to dominate their rivals in the league, all whilst bringing in exciting youth prospects and striking tactical masterclasses. This encounter was along the same lines but due to the excellent refereeing of Mark Clattenburg, it proved to be a bit different given how smoothly the game flowed with only a few altercations between the players and surprisingly, no red cards.
However, a man who kept testing the patience of the referee was Real Madrid’s 33-year-old Center Back, Pepe. The Brazil-born defender saved the best of his antics for the night with needless tumbles and clutches to the face. The Champions League is one of the most watched sports event in the world, that attracts the eyes of millions of fans worldwide, with almost one-third of it being kids who aspire to be footballers at some point in their lives.
Pepe’s actions would definitely hinder the psychology of these young and budding footballers who shall think its okay to take an unnecessary tumble. He may have won the Champions League trophy but he certainly lost respect amongst the football fans of the world, if there was any. A glorious occasion, tainted by an otherwise avoidable and disgraceful act.
Were Zidane’s tactics out of place?
Zidane, as has been mentioned before, joins an elite list of players who have won the Champions League as a player and as a coach. A lot of questions were raised as to whether he can perform at the highest level and show the same resolve and swagger that he has shown in La Liga, in the Champions League. Though he ended up raising the ‘UnDecima’, the question, however, remains unanswered.
Zidane has inherited a squad of superstars and it was all a question of how he uses them. Zizou’s Real Madrid were outclassed and outrun by a passionate Atletico Madrid side. His tactics seemed out of place but given the quality the squad possesses, they bailed him out when it came to some peculiar moments in the match.
The most peculiar being his choice and timing of substitutions. Carvajal was a forced substitution as he couldn’t carry on and had to give way to Danilo, 52 minutes into the game. His next two, however, were strange. Isco has failed to cement a Real Madrid starting spot for another year as his struggles to get a full 90 minutes goes on.
Given the way the game was heading, with Atletico Madrid barraging forward, they needed stability in midfield which Kroos more or less, did provide. The German is a proven winner and an athlete and could trot on till deep into extra time and given his vision and game sense, could have won the game for Real Madrid in normal time.
Was Zidane thinking of a more potent attacking threat? It hasn’t worked for James Rodriguez at Real Madrid, fair to say, however, with proven pedigree in Europe and on the International stage, he must have been disappointed to miss out on the night. James has all the ability and the charisma to work out a chance with his gifted left foot.
Another surprise was the introduction of youngster Lucas Vasquez, who has had a breakthrough season but coming on for Benzema was too much to ask for the youngster. He couldn’t trouble the opposing defense much and didn’t have the nerves when required as a result of which he took too much time on the ball.
Jese Rodriguez, much maligned of late has been known to bail Real Madrid when needed the most. Had he come on, would it have been done and dusted before full time? We never know.
In all of this, it is interesting to note that Zidane used all three of his substitutions within 77 minutes, thinking the game was done and dusted. His counterpart however, made only one substitution in the 90 minutes of normal time as he felt the introduction of fresh legs could influence the game in extra time.
This move could have massively backfired for Zidane, but lady luck had chosen her side. Another tactical mistake from a man who knows a trophyless season would not please his bosses.
Jan Oblak’s miserable outing
Another disappointment on the night was the performance of Atletico Madrid’s sensational shot-stopper, Jan Oblak. His performance during open play was commendable with many close ditch saves, denying Casemiro, Benzema and Ronaldo in one-on-one occasions. However, in the penalty shootouts, his performance was dismal.
For a keeper who has kept 32 clean sheets in a season, the onus to save at least a single penalty is expected. His performance was disastrous to say the least. He seemed too dull to dive for the ball and went the wrong way on almost all occasions.
Another stat that doesn’t come to his rescue is the fact that Real Madrid scored ALL of their penalties to his left and not even once did he guess the right way. To say he’s saved his worst for the most crucial moment in the season is an understatement.
Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres have been known for their devastating link-up play this season. However, Torres went missing on the night and Griezmann had his fair share of disappointment as he thundered a well-earned penalty onto the crossbar right at the start of the second half.
Ronaldo was at his absolute worst on the night as he didn’t muster any effort worthy of making it to the highlight reel of this year’s final. So many expectations but such a meagre outcome would justify the title of this article, a flawed affair. Take nothing away from both the teams though, Real in particular, as the Los Blancos clinched the UnDecima and it seems like the only way for the best club in the world is up.
Commiserations for Diego Simeone and his brave troops for falling short yet again. Here’s to hoping this loss fuels the raging desire and brings rise to a reinvigorated RojiBlancos as we look forward to yet another footballing season of ups and downs, of success and failure and of fairytales and heartbreaks.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author, and not necessarily that of Sportskeeda.