Ladies and gentlemen, you are most privileged to be able to witness one of the greatest sporting match-ups ever. No I’m not talking about the hockey or basketball playoffs. I’m talking about a contest that is in the climactic quarterfinals and I’m sure you normally would never watch.
That’s right, the most popular sport in the world: football (soccer for you Yanks) will be on ESPN 2 at 12:30 p.m. today. The Champions League is in the second leg of the quarterfinals but has already got the two best teams in the world competing against each other: Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Real Madrid is arguably the best team to step onto a pitch (field) since the 1970 Brazil team that included a little someone who called himself Pele – now that’s a name even Americans recognize.
The Spanish team includes Ronaldo, the Brazilian who scored two goals against Germany in the World Cup Finals last year to win the trophy for the men in yellow.
Manchester United is headed up by (Posh Spice’s husband) David Beckham, who broke into US media with his Mohawk at the World Cup Finals. When Beckham injured his foot before the tournament and the England captain was questionable, even Prime Minister Tony Blair noted how huge of a loss it was for England.
Mix together the two best tacticians working the benches and I can guarantee you will realize why the rest of the world riots over the outcome of just a game. Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson was knighted – the highest honor the Queen can give you – for winning this tournament in 1999.
On the other side of the dugout sits Vicente del Bosque, a man who has been leaking rumors to the press of his intention to buy Beckham from the Red Devils in an attempt at playing mind games with his opposition.
Ronaldo and Beckham are not the only World Cup stars you can witness when you watch the match of the century. Virtually every player on both teams boasts a cap from his country, and Real Madrid’s all-star lineup includes players who can score goals like they’re playing FIFA 99.
It’s a little complicated because, unlike American sports, there is two legs to each “series”. Each team gets to play at home once. Now if one team wins both, or wins one and ties one, it’s easy to understand why they go through. But if each team wins a game, that’s where it gets complicated.
First, the tiebreaker goes to goals scored, and since Real Madrid beat Manchester United, 3-1 in the first leg at Estadio Bernabeu, Manchester United will go through if they win by three or more. If however, they win by two goals then it will depend on the situation.
Uefa (the governing body in European soccer) recognizes that it is hard to play away from home, so if the total number of goals in both games are equal, then the deciding factor is away goals. This means Manchester United will go through with a 2-0 victory, but will lose with a 4-2 victory. If the score ends up 3-1 the game will go into extra time and, maybe if we’re lucky, penalty kicks.
I’m sure there are many out there that will have wished I hadn’t taken up your newspaper space with a soccer story, but I just don’t want you to miss the opportunity of a lifetime to see what the most-played sport in the world has to offer.
Luke is a senior journalism major.