Saturday, July 2, 2022
UncategorizedWhy Rangers’ Run To The Europa League Final May Never Happen Again

Why Rangers’ Run To The Europa League Final May Never Happen Again

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As the sun set on a despondent Rangers in Seville on Wednesday night, it took the hopes and dreams of an estimated 100,000+ Teddy Bears with it. And how it could have been so different for those travelling ‘Gers, had Ryan Kent managed to beat the outstanding Kevin Trapp from barely six yards in the dying embers of extra time. Unfortunately, the pacey English winger, who has been sensational throughout last season’s invincibles’ run to the final, couldn’t. The brilliant Trapp would then save from Aaron Ramsey in the shootout while Allan McGregor couldn’t get near any of the Germans’ typically perfect penalties, meaning that the Europa League trophy would rest at Deutsche Bank Park for the first time in over 40 years. Online bookmakers such as Livescore Bet, whose free bets and offers are kindly compiled by oddschecker, would have given long odds on these two teams contesting the final of Europe’s secondary competition, but that’s exactly what we got. And we may never have two clubs of similar stature reach the final ever again. 

Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash
Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

Luck of the draw

If you’d have told Giovanni van Bronckhorst that he’d need to beat Eintracht Frankfurt, RB Leipzig, Braga and Red Star Belgrade to lift the Ibrox club’s first major European title since that famous night in Barcelona 50 years ago, he’d have snapped your hand off. Admittedly, they had to defeat another set of German giants in Borussia Dortmund to reach that point, but the fact remains that such a run to glory will never happen again. Similar to England at the World Cup four years ago, the draw opened up beautifully for Rangers after they saw off Dortmund. And once their Bundesliga counterparts saw off Xavi’s resurgent Barcelona in the Nou Camp, van Brockhorst and his men realised the position they were in. Unfortunately, however, they squandered it. 

The reason why they may never reach this stage again is purely due to the calibre of team that usually await hopefuls in the latter stages of the Europa League. This season, clubs in that competition could consider themselves lucky that some of the elite sides from south of the border had succeeded in the Champions League or failed to even qualify, such as Arsenal. Their abject campaign in the Premier League last season meant that this year’s Europa League spots fell to West Ham United and Leicester City, hardly continental behemoths. If we take a look back through recent history, English footballing juggernauts usually feature. Last year it was Manchester United and Arsenal. The Red Devils also featured again the year before that. The Gunners then feature again if we look even further back, losing out to Chelsea – reigning European champions, until May 28th at least – in Baku’s 2019 showpiece. Before that, there were no English clubs, just the small matter of Diego Simeone’s two-time Champions League finalists, Atletico Madrid. The point is that the competition is usually tougher than it has been in recent years. 

That may be overly harsh on this year’s competitors. RB Leipzig are no mugs. They reached the last four of football’s greatest club competition just two years ago, albeit aided by the one-legged knockout tournament. Dortmund on their day and with a full Signal Iduna Park are a match for anyone on the continent. But to the neutral, it did feel as though this year’s Europa League was a real one-off. Prior to this term, West Ham had not even reached the group stages, never mind the semifinals. The best they could manage was twice losing to now Romanian second division side, Astra Giurgiu. Admittedly our new champions did reach the latter stages in 2019 before losing on penalties to Chelsea. The only time Die Roten Bullen featured in the Europa League, they exited at the group stage, despite their pedigree in Europe. The fact remains that the chances of having similarly reputable semifinalists are slim to none. 

Losing top talent

Another reason why tougher times could be on the horizon for the outgoing Scottish champions are the expected departures from the blue half of Glasgow this summer. Allan McGregor, Steven Davis, Leon Balogun and the colossus Connor Goldson are all out of contract next month and expected to leave. Amad Diallo and Aaron Ramsey – neither of whom have truly sparkled – both will return to their parent clubs at the end of their loan deals. And to add to that, Ryan Kent, Joe Aribo and superstar striker Alfredo Morelos are all out of contract next summer, all of whom have suitors eying them up, which may prompt manager van Bronckhorst to cash in on his prized assets. The first priority on the Dutchman’s list in the close season will be rebuilding his depleted squad so that he can bridge the gap to champions Celtic. And despite the 2-0 victory of Hearts at Hampden, a result which brought a first Scottish Cup since 2009, that gap may even expand over the next 12 months. 

A competition that may bring some solace, however, is the Europa Conference League. UEFA’s newest addition to the football calendar has been a massive success in its inaugural campaign, and this season’s final, contested in Tirana, Albania between household names Roma and Feyenoord, will only add prestige to Europe’s third-tier competition. In fact, add Leicester City and Marseille to those two, and this year’s final four were on a similar level to the final four fighting it out to get to Seville. It was designed so that clubs outside of the so-called ‘Big Five’ would get more of a chance on the continental stage. And with teams such as Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt, Greek runners-up PAOK and last year’s champions in the Czech Republic, Slavia Prague, all reaching the last eight, it would seem that UEFA’s plan has worked. With some smart recruitment in the summer, and in successfully retaining some of their big names, nothing is impossible. Maybe European glory isn’t too far away after all, but not in the competition they so desperately desire. 

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