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The beautiful rebirth of La Copa


The events of Wednesday, where both Madrid and Barça played out suffered victories against modest opposition, pale in comparison to Thursday’s great Copa del Rey upset: the spectacular fall of Atlético in León against Segunda B side Cultural.

The fixture was shown on free-to-air terrestrial TV in Spain, which will have allowed a wider audience to enjoy it. And the names of amateur players unheard of before the game – Gudiño, Sergio Benito, Kawaya, Sergio Marcos, Giffard – will now forever be etched in the collective memory of us fans. They were members of an unwavering team that managed to turn the game against Atlético.

Only the Cup can treat us to nights like this. And even more so now that the new format allows no opportunity for the bigger clubs to fix things in the home second leg. Because now there is no second leg.

Joao Felix laments during the Copa del Rey defeat to Cultural Leonesa.
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Joao Felix laments during the Copa del Rey defeat to Cultural Leonesa.Irina R. H. / AFP7 / Europa Pres

Atlético fans begin to question Simeone

Atlético lined out a team mixed up of regular starters and bench players, in which João Félix shone, and took a 1-0 lead just after the hour mark. But then Cultural raised their game, finding two goals (one coming in extra time) to knock Atléti out of the competition, leaving many fans questioning Diego Simeone.

Cultural now march on to the next round, as do fellow Segunda B side Badajoz, who beat Eibar, and four Segunda clubs: Mirandés, Tenerife, Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecano (who won their penalty shoot against Betis while I wrote this article).

These six clubs go into the last 16 with the same conditions: they are guaranteed a home one-leg tie against a Primera side. The Copa has been reborn with this new format, something which Ángel María had tried in his time but was later discarded because of the Mallorca-Recreativo final in 2003. The bigger clubs were thought to have little interest in the competition, something which could be remedied if the winner went to the Champions League. And for that the ball is in Luis Rubiales’ court. Viva la Copa!

(The draw has since been made and you can see the pairings here)