Lesser lights revel in 'stuff of fantasy'

Unlikely is not the word. At the start of this season's Champions' League, a final between Monaco and Porto was more unthinkable than Elvis Presley being found alive or someone producing proof of intelligent alien life before the end of the season. So say William Hill, who would have given you odds of 1000-1 against either of the latter scenarios last summer.

"Monaco were 80-1 to win the Champions' League last July and Porto were 50-1," said Graham Sharpe, the bookmaker's spokesman. "The chances of them meeting in the final seemed so remote that nobody asked for a quote. If we'd given one, it would have been 1000-1 at least."

The scepticism over the durability of Didier Deschamps' and Jose Mourinho's teams was rooted in historical precedent. Since the inception of the European Cup in 1955-56, it has been dominated by clubs from the "big four" nations of Italy, Spain, England and Germany.

They have won 35 of the 48 finals between them and provided 66 of the 96 finalists. Twenty-three of the 48 finals, including all of the last seven, have been between clubs from those countries. Another 21 finals have featured at least one club from a "big four" nation.

Only four finals before this year have ever had no "big four" representation, the last being in 1991 between Red Star Belgrade and Marseille. The other "outsiders' finals" were PSV against Benfica (1988), Ajax against Panathinaikos (1971) and Feyenoord against Celtic (1970).

With Real Madrid, Milan and Arsenal exiting in the quarter-finals this season, only Deportivo and Chelsea were left to represent the "big four" nations. They were favourites against Portugal's Porto and France's Monaco respectively - and lost.

As L'Equipe said yesterday: "To imagine a French presence in the final was the stuff of sweet fantasy." Or as Monaco's Shabani Nonda said before Wednesday's win: "Monaco winning the Champions' League? It only happens on PlayStation."

BREAKING TRADITION UNDERDOG FINALS

The four previous European Cup finals with no "big four" representation:

1991: R S Belgrade v Marseille

Red Star beat the likes of Rangers (2R) and Bayern Munich (SF) to meet Marseille, who had beaten Milan (QF) and Spartak Moscow (SF). Red Star won 5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

1988: PSV Eindhoven v Benfica

PSV eliminated Real Madrid in the semi-finals to progress to face Benfica, who had beaten the 1986 winners, Steaua Bucharest, in the semi-finals. PSV won 6-5 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

1971: Ajax v Panathinaikos

It was not so surprising to see Ajax, conquerors of Celtic (QF) and Atletico Madrid (SF), in the final, but Panathinaikos shocked Everton (QF) and Red Star (SF) to progress. Ajax won 2-0.

1970: Feyenoord v Celtic

Feyenoord shocked Milan (2R) and beat Legia Warsaw (SF) to meet the 1967 winners Celtic, who had beaten the likes of Benfica (2R), Fiorentina (QF) and Leeds (SF). Feyenoord won 2-1 aet.

* Number of European Cup finals with both teams from "big four" nations of Italy, Spain, England and Germany: 23

* Number of finals featuring at least one team from "big four" nations: 21

* Number of previous finals featuring no teams from "big four" nations: 4

EUROPEAN CUP PEDIGREE BY COUNTRY 1956-2003

Nation Winners Runners-up Total

Italy 10 13 23

Spain 10 9 19

England 9 2 11

Germany 6 7 13

Netherlands 6 2 8

Portugal 3 5 8

France 1 4 5

Romania 1 1 2

Scotland 1 1 2

Yugoslavia 1 1 2

Belgium 0 1 1

Greece 0 1 1

Sweden 0 1 1

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific