A Welcome Addition to the Calendar


Argentina 3:0 Italy, Wembley Stadium, London

The Finalissima makes a lot of sense. 

Putting the European champions up against the South American ones is effectively what the FIFA World Club Cup does annually, but for national teams, there is no equivalent.

Argentina win the Finalissima (c) Getty Images

A one-off showdown has been played only twice, for the Artemio Franchi trophy, firstly in 1985 when France beat Uruguay 2-0 and then in 1993 when Argentina beat Denmark on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

The FIFA Confederations Cup, from 1992 to 2017, filled in that gap although the tournament never really took off in the public imagination and served rather as a World Cup warm-up for the organisers.

I attended a couple, in France and Germany and enjoyed them, but they were palpably pale imitations of football's big shows, and quickly forgotten.

The fact the Qatari World Cup is disrupting the calendar meant there was little appetite for a further out of place tournament, and that coupled with FIFA's desire to expand its Club World Cup meant the Confederations Cup was for the chop. When it was axed in 2019 there were few mourners or recollections of the winners.

That said, the concept of the UEFA and CONMEBOL winners meeting was too good to die and so here we are with the revived Finalissima. On the evidence of last night in London it is here to stay. If it becomes a regular event in my capital, so much the better.

Wembley was sold out and a carnival atmosphere of mostly Argentinians saw the Albiceleste demolish Italy 3-0 with goals from Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala.

How the Azzurri have fallen since their apex of winning Euro 2020 last summer and what a melancholy farewell for the great centre-back Giorgio Chiellini, winning the last of his 117 caps. 

Lionel Scaloni's side however, having qualified impressively for Qatar, now look like genuine contenders. Maybe it is not too late for Lionel Messi, so age-defyingly instrumental at Wembley, to lift the greatest prize of all later this year.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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