They said it was a cup of pie. They complained that we would only remember her when we said goodbye to Giorgio Chiellini. Meanwhile, Finalissima this year turned into a fantastic football holiday and at the same time showed that Argentina can really count in the fight for the world championship.
It was an intense 24 hours. I couldn’t get past the on-court performances of Philippe Chatrier, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, and we had to prepare for the plane. Although the flight from Poznan to London was full, it was not with football fans flying towards Wembley. However, I did meet these at Stansted Airport, and when the slogan “Argentina” came up in my phone conversation on the train to the center, the boy sitting next to me in a River Plate shirt was smiling only from ear to ear.
As it happened on the train, the Argentines took control of the city and the stadium later. All in all, no wonder. It was one of the few opportunities for his national team to see a large number of South American supporters living in Europe. Those “Albicelestes” fans who arrived at the stadium that day certainly did not regret it. Coach Lionel Scaloni’s accusations prepared a real show for us.
History is complete
Where did the idea of playing the Italy-Argentina match in London come from? The Artemio Franchi Cup match, a famous Italian football activist, was first held on the initiative of UEFA and CONMEBOL in 1985. From the beginning, the meeting was to be a representative equivalent of the Intercontinental Cup for the club. In its first edition at the Parc des Princes, France defeated the European champions 2-0 Uruguay, the 1983 Copa America winner.
Four years later, Orosia could have had a second chance to play for this cup, but then they didn’t get along with the Dutch on the due date. The Artemio Franca Cup was played again – in 1993, when the Argentine team beat the Danes on penalties in Mar del Plata. It was after the establishment of the Federation Cup, which eventually replaced the normal duel between the best teams of the old continent and South America.
However, when FIFA decided to liquidate the Confederations Cup, UEFA and CONMEBOL saw an opportunity to revive the competition. In February 2020, these two organizations signed a special agreement, among the terms of which was to explore the possibility of holding international matches between representatives of the two continents. In September last year, it was decided that the European Nations Cup and Copa America champions would play the first torch, and the Italians and Argentines would play the first of the three editions now planned at Wembley in June.
Accurate hit of the target
It must be said directly that the decision to organize the match in London served as a starting point. Perhaps there is no better historical venue for such a meeting than the temple of English football. Something important not only for football itself, but for the world in general. The place where in 1975 Evel Knievel tried to jump on more than 13 buses on a motorcycle, in 1982 it hosted Pope John Paul II, and three years later the famous Live Aid concert was held – all this reminded me of the official match program, which was available at the stadium and its surroundings.
Before I got there, I had the opportunity to wander the streets of the English capital for several hours. In London itself, there are not many signs that there will be a meeting between two legendary football teams in a few hours. Tourists and residents were more than willing to celebrate the platinum jubilee, the 70th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. This was the topic that also dominated the covers of British newspapers and newspapers.
I found some football atmosphere in Piccadilly Circus. Not far from this busy shopping plaza, football fans have gathered waiting for the evening game. Among them was also an Italian journalist who could not believe one of his compatriots, who, instead of wearing the jersey of the Ozuri national team, walked in front of him in a white and blue shirt with tension and the name of Maradona on the back. Such an occurrence on the Apennine Peninsula will surely be forgiven only in Naples.
Filled with fans, tourists, shopaholics and, to a lesser extent, ordinary Londoners, the city center has finally turned into a suburb of Wembley in the northwest. I had expected that from the perspective of the historical confusion between Great Britain and Argentina, the locals would not look entirely favorably on the “Albicelestes” shirt I was wearing and by my side. Although I was met with a shout or a shout of “Italy” in my direction, the sympathies of the “locals” were deeply divided, which is best illustrated in conversation with the English, who had already taken me to the stadium in the subway.
– Who is playing? He asked, to my surprise though.
– Argentina with Italy – I replied, even though one of the teams had already managed to decode my shirt.
– You may win. Especially after what the Italians did to us last year.
The English have not forgotten the humiliation inflicted on them at Euro 2020. After all, Gareth Southgate’s side were shining with the European Championship within their grasp. The “Sons of Albion” played almost all matches, including the final, in front of their own fans. And when it looked like he was at Wembley, the stadium where Jeff Hurst showed his hat-trick in 1966, the Three Lions defeated Germany 4:2 and won the World Cup, they would finally be able to break through and win another National Cup. However, the Italians turned out to be a pesky imp for them, and in the respectable case of the English this wound did not completely heal.
Discord and beer in jackets
Having arrived at the stadium, very early in my condition, more than two and a half hours before the start of the whistle, I really felt the atmosphere of a football festival. Crowds of fans dressed in tangled blue, white and blue. Trade frenzy, two fan zones. You could only drink alcohol in them, and in other places you had to rub the golden liquid into jackets or other paper bags. Of course, the whole feast was accompanied by many lively discussions, as befits southerners, about possible scenarios for the evening’s duel. I was even drawn to one by an Argentine radio journalist.
– are you from Spain? Student.
– Not from Poland.
– Why Argentina? Why are you rooting for them today?
– You know, of course it’s about Leo Messi. However, I am also very impressed with Lionel Scaloni for the progress he has made with this team – I answered him honestly.
Of course, there was also a joke about whether I would also support Qatar’s “Albicelestes” in the match against Poland. However, my Argentine colleague and I came to an agreement that the best draw for that match would be the best, which would eventually lead to the two teams leaving the group for the next stage of the World Cup. After what we saw later on the field, we will be able to consider the draw for coach Czeslav Micniewicz’s team in the Arab Championship as a huge success.
Regardless of the fans’ sympathy, Argentina played galactic football on Wednesday night at Wembley. Leo Messi remembers the last time he spent in this stadium, when he and Barcelona were dismantled here in the Champions League final, Manchester United. Although he now has not had such an exciting season behind him at PSG, he showed an exceptional side in the match against Italy. Although he did not score, he managed his teammates well and scored assists. The list of shooters also included well-known names – Angel Di Maria, Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala.
While Argentines can certainly feel good after this meeting, as they may be slowly parting from the label “eternal losers,” the mood in the Apennine Peninsula is certainly strong. 2022 certainly does not belong to the acting led by Roberto Mancini. Not only will the Italians miss the World Cup, but all the European champions’ weaknesses were revealed in Wednesday’s performance. Certainly such a farewell to the team was not expected by a footballer of such a class as Giorgio Chiellini.
Finalissima will go down in history not only as a huge success for Argentine football. This match between UEFA and CONMEBOL could be a catalyst for more joint projects, not necessarily relying on FIFA. The fans, in turn, had the chance to see some really great players in action, and their attitude was definitely different than it was before the friendlies. On the field, just like in the stands, we were dealing with a real celebration. And that is how it should be, especially in national football.
“The uncomfortably humble TV fan. Twitter generalist. Extreme music enthusiast. Internet connoisseur. Social media lover.”