Munich magic in the UCL final has been the strangest football wonder which seemingly gives the only hope for the new champions.
The UEFA Champions League is set to begin the knockout stage this week. It has been undeniably well-known for its prestige. Not any big or rich teams can be the champions in this competition. Only those with the so-called ‘tradition’, or simply winning the title before, could exclusively join the elites. Once they do, somehow they have a bigger chance to clinch the title.
Such becomes even more obvious when they face off top teams without tradition on their sides in the final. Since the beginning of the Champions League era in 1992/93, this tendency has grown even stronger. New champions have barely emerged since then. Many clubs have pushed their luck such as Valencia in 2000 and 2001, Bayer Leverkusen in 2002, AS Monaco in 2004, Arsenal in 2006, Chelsea in 2008, Atletico Madrid in 2014 and 2016, Tottenham in 2019, PSG in 2020 and the latest Manchester City in 2021 edition. They all made it to the final, only to wither and confirm the enormous challenge of winning the most prestigious silverware in the continent.
However, nothing is impossible in football. The Munich magic can break the spell of the so-called ‘curse’ for the non-elite teams. It is the door for them to win it as well as earn the exclusive elite badge. Marseille in 1993, Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Chelsea in 2012 have proven it. They all lifted the trophy in Munich.
The Munich Magic in UCL Final is The Strange Key for the New Champions
The Magic Began in European Cup 1979
This unusual phenomena can be traced back to the European Cup 1979, the old version of Champions League. The 1978/79 final was held in Munich for the first time in history with the iconic Olympiastadion as the venue.
That was the only European Cup/UCL edition in which all favorites were eliminated in the first two rounds. There was no group stage at the time. As a result, the competition began with knockout rounds right away.
At the first round, the reigning champions Liverpool was even knocked out by Nottingham Forest, and so was their opponent in 1978 final, Club Brugge. The Belgian side surprisingly lost to Wisla Krakow. Not to mention, Juventus who suffered a 2-1 loss in aggregate against Glasgow Rangers.
At the second round, the upsets continued. This time, the two remaining favorites, Real Madrid and the 1978 UEFA Cup Champions, PSV Eindhoven headed to exit early. They were beaten by Grasshopper Zurich and Rangers respectively.
At the quarter finals, all of the qualified teams, Nottingham Forest, Malmo, Grasshopper Zurich, Glasgow Rangers, Wisla Krakow, FC Koln, Austria Vienna, and Dynamo Dresden of East Germany had no tradition of winning the ‘Big Ear’ trophy. Such is rare as there has always been at least one elite team at the last eight. One may argue that such also took place in 1961 edition. Yet, it was a different case since the history was still in the making with the fact that the tournament was still five years old. Moreover, there was only one team with a tradition, Real Madrid. They won the first five consecutively. Nottingham Forest eventually won the first title in 1979, defeating Malmo 1-0. It was also the only time a Nordic team ever reach the final of a European top flight championship.
The Magic Continues in the Champions League Era
The mysterious magic appears to live on in the Champions League era. All Munich finals in 1993, 1997 and 2012 led to the rise of the new champions.
In 1992/93 season, Olympique Marseille won the silverware against all odds. Didier Deschamps and Co thumped ‘The Dream Team’s back then, AC Milan through a single goal of Basile Boli. They remain the only French team so far who managed to do so.
In 1996/97 season, nobody would have bet on Dortmund’s victory when they had to face off the reigning champion, Juventus in the final. Nevertheless, Ottmar Hizfield’s side did it. They shockingly dismantled La Vecchia Signora with Zidane, Alessandro Del Piero and Christian Vieri 3-1.
Last but not least, in 2012 final, Chelsea upset the host Bayern 4-3 on penalties despite playing without their best line-up. After conceding the first goal through Thomas Muller, Didier Drogba headed home a late equalizer. Adding to another surprise, Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger unexpectedly missed the penalty during the extra time and in the shootout.
As absurd as it may appear, such enigmas do occur in football. The new champion is unlikely to be crowned until the 2024/25 season, when Munich is chosen to stage the final once more.
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