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Atlético is a ball of enthusiasm


I'm writing from the Calderón just ten minutes after the conclusion of the game and I'm pondring that if this Atlético didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. With all due respect to Real Madrid, Barça, Manchester United, Juve, Milan, Bayern and the rest, the ball of enthusiasm that this club exudes doesn't exist elsewhere. This factor overcomes the financial disadvantage that they have, elevates their status, and gets them a seat at the big boys table. It's also the reason that, as I write, the fans have still not left the stadium, they continue to sing and release that enthusiasm that overflows onto their heroes.

There is nothing, therefore, that is surprising about Atlético eliminating Barça, beyond some refereeing incidents in both legs. They went through thanks to their zealousness and unity in a shared idea. They knew how to play their cards that, although less in value, were more powerful together. They waited, when 2-1 in the first leg, and played the game out. Then, 1-0 up in the return, they waited some more, playing with the nerves of their rival, sacrificing much, but ready to spring the counter. And, as this unfolded, they hit the woodwork then won a penalty which put the seal on the 2-0 victory.

So there it is, Atlético will be in the semi-final draw along with Madrid, Manchester City and Bayern. Barça won't. Is this a surprise? Messi is there, but not really. He slipped into quiet areas of the pitch playing like a veteran with some clever balls but not impacting on the game as before. Nor is Neymar the devil that he previously was. Barça squeezed the play, but created little danger. Their excellence has disappeared, but Piqué's genius and questionable antics remain. After seeing both legs, the team that made the semi-finals deserved to. This flow of enthusiasm is irrepresible when it is channeled into an idea, currently that of "Cholismo".