UEFA Cup conquers new territory

If proof were needed that the UEFA Cup is a truly cosmopolitan competition, a quick glance at the list of previous winners provides adequate testimony.

If proof were needed that the UEFA Cup is a truly cosmopolitan competition, a quick glance at the list of previous winners provides adequate testimony.

Seven wonders
Recent evidence suggests that the team which claims the UEFA Cup can come from just about anywhere, as the last seven sides to lift the trophy were from seven different countries: Russia, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, England, Turkey, and Italy. Parma FC were the last Italian club to celebrate success in the competition, beating Olympique de Marseille in 1999, to take their nation to nine UEFA Cup wins since the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was renamed and restyled in 1972 - making Italy the most successful country in the tournament's history.

English heritage
Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC gave England an early taste for success by claiming the cup in the first two seasons, but the enduring appeal of the competition has been that no one nation has had a monopoly on the title, save for Italy who had eight winners in eleven seasons during the late 1980s and 90s. England and Germany are in joint second behind Italy with six victories apiece, but the trophy has been passed around ten different European countries down the years.

Russian honour
Last year's competition provided Russia with their first ever major European trophy when PFC CSKA Moskva travelled to Lisbon to play Sporting Clube de Portugal at their own stadium, the Estádio José Alvalade. Playing away from home cast CSKA firmly as underdogs, but they stole the show, coming from a goal down to win 3-1. CSKA coach Valeriy Gazzaev described it as "a landmark victory for Russian football".

Turkish delight
The story was much the same in 2000 when Galatasaray SK gave Turkey their first European trophy by beating Arsenal FC on penalties in Copenhagen. Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim was in no doubt about the significance of the triumph as he said: "In the past, Turkish players watched finals on television. Now they have the chance to play the starring role." The transition from armchair spectators to tournament victors may sound the stuff of fantasies, but there was a fundamental truth behind Terim's words: anything is possible in this competition.

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