The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Anything can happen. We haven’t secured the championship. There are no guarantees. That said, we beat Juventus 2-0 (goals from Mark Linnane and “that man Michael Dogan”), Siena 3-1, and Catania 4-1, while Inter astonishingly drew 0-0 with last-placed Pescara and Milan drew 0-0 with Napoli. So with two games left, we’ve opened up a five-point lead at the top of Serie A and only need two points to clinch the championship. Our remaining games are away to Napoli (19th in Serie A) and at home against Treviso (17th). You can fill in your own slow-rising crescendo leading to a triumphant cymbal crash. We’re taking nothing for granted.
Because of the strangeness of the Serie A schedule, our last two games don’t take place until after the end of the Champions League. So before we know about the scudetto, there’s another small/utterly terrifying matter to attend to…
We didn’t have any real trouble against Benfica in the semifinal. We went up 3-0 in the home leg before conceding two late goals to make things (sigh) interesting. In the away leg, their striker Rafael decided to kick the Ferj during a stoppage of play and was sent off in the 30th minute. In the 56th minute, a mighty shot from David ricocheted off their right back Yoav Benado and went into the net, and David scored again in the 69th minute to seal the 5-2 aggregate win.
The very, very bad news from the second leg is that Dogan picked up a yellow card literally as I was moving to substitute him, meaning that he’ll be suspended for the final. Also, Teixeira pulled his hamstring five minutes into the first leg and hasn’t played since. He should be ready to go for the final, but after three weeks on the bench I’m not sure how effective he’ll be. And since Vrancken is cup-tied and ineligible for the Champions League, we may not have a viable striker.
The whole team looks slightly shell-shocked at the thought of playing the biggest European game of their lives without their captain—doubly so as Ibrahimovic will be the one wearing the armband—and even though we’ve historically done well against Roma, I am slow-roasting in anxiety about this match. They’re on a high after squashing Milan 2-0 in their semifinal, and I’m not sure our win over them in the Europa League final last season, or even at the Olimpico in February, will have much bearing on the game this Saturday.
Which is right around the corner, so we’ll know soon enough. For now, it’s time to think about tactics. We’ve been waiting for this moment for more than 10 years—you could even say 100—and I don’t want to let it slip.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Check back around 1pm US Eastern time TODAY for a live blog of the final.
by Brian Phillips · June 11, 2009