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Wednesday, 14 May 2014 11:30

Is tonight the night Benfica’s curse is finally laid to rest?

Coach and squad confident ahead of Europa League final

UEFACupTrophy.jpgTwo weeks ago Benfica went to Turin with a difficult task on their hands. They duly accomplished their mission, knocking Juventus out of the Europa League to set up a final against Sevilla. Today, back at the very same Italian venue, Jorge Jesus’ side will attempt to halt a 7-match losing run in European finals.
 
You have to travel way back to 1962 for Benfica’s last continental triumph. Béla Guttman steered the Eagles to a second successive European Cup win, beating Real Madrid 5-3.
 
The Hungarian coach, perhaps not unreasonably, sought a pay rise but Benfica refused his request. The furious Hungarian stormed out of the club, saying that the Portuguese giants would not win another European trophy for 100 years without him.
 
Since then, with each defeat in the decisive match, the “Guttman curse” has gained more weight. “Don’t worry, you’ve only got another 49 years to wait” was typical of several comments left by fans of Benfica’s fierce northern rivals Porto on internet forums in Portugal in the wake of last year’s Europa League final loss to Chelsea.
 

Jesus: “We’re focused and confident”

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus is convinced tonight is the night the curse can finally be put to bed. “It’s a legend that Benfica have to break. It only gives us more strength to end this 50-year stretch of failing to win a final. We are going to face strong opponents, who have won this competition twice, but we are focused and very confident,” he said.
 
Striker Rodrigo echoed the sentiments of his manager. “Within the squad we don’t feel this curse. Having two trophies in the bag already gives us more confidence.” And captain Luisão believes that last year’s disappointment will make them stronger. “We are here today because of what we did last season. We learned a lot from that experience.”
 
Benfica are considered favourites in most quarters, although the team is significantly weakened by the suspensions of Enzo Pérez, Sálvio and Markovic, not to mention the injured Fejsa and Sílvio.
 
Sevilla are expected to line up with three Portuguese players, goalkeeper Beto, defensive midfielder Daniel Carriço and right-back Diogo Figueiras. “Benfica are strong, are confident and are in their best spell of the season. I expect them to go for it from the start. But we are a side that can take pressure, we play with a lot of heart and we never give up,” ex Porto goalkeeper Beto told the Correio de Manhã.
 
Beto also pointed out that Sevilla have won the Europa League twice in recent years (2006 and 2007), and the Spanish club’s 100% record in finals contrasts sharply with Benfica’s 22% success rate.
 
However, the Eagles can glean one ray of light from the history books. On the two occasions that Benfica won the European Cup, their victims were from Spain, unlike the opposition in their seven subsequent losing finals, none of whom were from over the border.
 

Eusébio and Coluna tribute

Benfica do not need extra motivation, but one further aspect could also add to the squad’s determination to bring the cup back to Portugal.
 
Two of Benfica’s greatest icons Eusébio and Mário Coluna were both on the score-sheet when the Eagles beat Real Madrid in the 1962 final. Both passed away earlier this year. Adding European silverware to the league and league cup triumphs (with the Portuguese Cup final to come on Sunday) would be a fitting tribute to two club legends.
 
by Tom Kundert
 
Comments (15)
Clarify Andre
15 Friday, 16 May 2014 11:37
Chris Canada
VP is actually known outside of Portugal because he and Roberto Martinez were the 2 finalists for the Everton job. Also, JJ went further in an easier competition. VP qualified for the knockout stages. JJ has had almost 3 times the amount of time to make his attempts and has been a coach much longer. Considering that, VP dominated head to head, yes.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on JJ but he certainly has the team to do much much better. Easily one of the top 5 teams in Europe yet he always seems to underachieve.

As for me being bitter, nothing could be further from the truth. I understand that football is cyclical and you cannot win forever. If I was truly bitter I would be on Here making comments similar to Z from Zbording. As soon as Porto were knocked out of the EL, I started to get behind Benfica.

I congratulated them on winning the Liga as well. I'm not bitter at all. I've been saying for years that Portistas have become complacent and expected too much with all their success. This year was a much needed wakeup call.

Cheers.
Last words on this Chris
14 Friday, 16 May 2014 09:23
Andre/UK
I'm easy chap, no worries at all! You and I always seem to come to a bit of an impasse in our debates lol, so I'll finish by saying just a few more words. Opinions are all subjective of course, so here's a few more of mine. VP is virtually unknown outside of Portugal, while the same can't be said about JJ. So in these last few years it's JJ who's made more of an impact outside of Portugal.

Yes Benfica crashed out of manageable CL groups, but both times we ended up in the final of the EL. Porto under VP tamely crashed out of Europe in the first knock-out round both years. In fact in the last 5 seasons, Porto have only been good in Europe one of them (the AVB season), the other 4 they were poor at worse and disappointing at best.

I am not biased against VP, he did well to win 2 Ligas, albeit with last minute goals (one of them offside) to sneak both titles, and even that with Benfica reaching a lot further in Europe both years and playing more games. So I wouldn't agree with you, "dominant". You're telling me to take it easy, but I can see you're the one who's bitter about Porto's dreadful season. I know how you feel man, Benfica had quite a few of these in the last 15 years, but things are always cyclical in futebol. Like I said recently, the breaks even out eventually.

Cheers!
Take it easy Andre
13 Thursday, 15 May 2014 20:06
Chris (Canada)
I'm admitting I made a mistake, never said my recollection of everything footy is perfect. I find your analysis of Porto fascinating and not surprisingly out of context. How many seasons has JJ had in charge? 5, right?

Don't we talk about the disgrace of having Benfica bounced out of the CL qualifiers every year by such historical European giants as Celtic and Olympiacos?? Oh, we seem to have overlooked that fact. I can forgive VP for his brutal first CL campaign, but he was not "clueless" as you put it.

That second year we bossed our group and only lost to PSG on the last game of qualification because Porto had already qualified and were not trying. Point? He made the round of 16. We also beat Malaga in the first leg. The 2nd leg, I could easily pull a Benfica card and say "It was luck" and Defour's stupidity, but ultimately, Porto should have played better over the 2 legs.

The point I make is that you're just as biased against VP as I am against JJ, which is fine. Just don't brush over the details because they aren't convenient. Compare them head to head in those 2 years. Who was dominant? VP. End of story.

Cheers.
Chris
12 Thursday, 15 May 2014 19:18
Andre/UK
Well Betis are actually bottom of La Liga (not 15th) and were relegated weeks ago, the only similarity between them and Sevilla this season is that they are from the same city! Don't get me wrong, as much as Sevilla are a good team, SLB are better and we should have won this match, no doubt about it, if you read my first post today I made it clear there.

Why didn't we win? Well a combination of a few errors by JJ, our entire regular midfield forced to miss the match (and particularly Enzo Perez' influence), some wasteful finishing...and yes some bad luck: e.g should have had at least one penalty awarded, the penalty shoot-out toss going the way of the Sevilla fans side of the stadium (big advantage in a nervy situation). These are not excuses, will you deny that luck doesn't often come into play, whether a team wins or loses? This is just the way it is. Sometimes a team gets the rub of the green, other times they don't. To blame everything on JJ is just ludicrous, particularly when he could be delivering the domestic treble this season.

I'm not belittling VP from winning the 2 Liga titles (although as Steve mentioned he did have very strong squads). What I'm saying is he was most probably let go because he was clueless in Europe. I mean Porto were awful in Europe both those seasons, I recall them being hammered 6-1 by Man City, a team that has done nothing in Europe before or since that tie. It's being able to beat teams like Man City or Malaga or Juve (not even to mention the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern) that is more important to clubs like Porto and Benfica than regularly defeating the weaker Liga teams. JJ despite his clear flaws, has proven that he can do well in Europe as well as in the Liga, and the club's record in Europe in the last 5 years shows this clearly. I have criticised JJ a lot in the past, but in the end you can only go season by season, and this season I agree totally with NJ, he's done great. Period.
Correction
11 Thursday, 15 May 2014 13:26
Chris (Canada)
My apologies Andre, I was thinking of Real Betis. Silly mistake. Seville are good, no doubt, and they beat Porto fair and square, but I just find it a bit sad that no one really talks about how much JJ underperforms. Again, are you just reading my criticisms? Do you not see how I credit Benfica as the better team in Portugal the last 4 years?

The coach should have accomplished more. As for your VP rebuttal, I won't even address that. The guy did an excellent job while he was in Portugal and had to work under AVB's shadow. Do you think that was easy? Are you saying because he decided to hop aboard the money train for one year that diminishes his accomplishments?

I can understand the defensive attitude, but you do realize this is becoming an annual discussion between us right? You got angry at me last year for saying the same thing. At what point do you acknowledge some of my points are accurate?

NJ, I am usually pretty respectful to even the most left-field of your comments, I can appreciate that I made a mistaken identity flub with Seville, but let's not get things off on the wrong foot.

End of the day, Benfica should be proud of their squad and administration. They have managed to make a great run and propped up a mediocre coach for 5 years.

Cheers.
Get your facts right Chris!
10 Thursday, 15 May 2014 13:01
Andre/UK
To quote you: "If Seville are top 5 how is it they fought the relegation battle in Spain this season? They finished 15th or 16th."
Haha what? Do you follow any other leagues at all? Get your facts right before making such strong comments. Sevilla are in 5th in the Spanish Liga, and probably only missed out on the top 4 CL spots because of their EL run. Their 3 European trophies also make them a definite top 4 or 5 Spanish team in terms of achievement. So you say Porto lost to an inferior team? I don't think so, not this season.

You can say what you like about me being defeatist or whatever you want to say, the fact is we had virtually the entire midfield missing and one of the guys who came in (Sulejmani) quickly got injured. And we were still the better team overall and unluckily lost on pens. No shame at all in that, particularly since we fought for every trophy this year and will likely be winning all the others. But we're all entitled to our opinions of course.

Another thing, you keep on going on about how much of a great coach Vitor Pereira is. If this is the case then why has he vanished to the Middle East? Pereira won two Ligas (with some serious breaks, need I remind you?) but failed miserably in Europe both seasons. This is likely why he was let go, one thing is beating the likes of Pacos (with all due respect) on a weekly basis, another is being able to beat top European sides. JJ has gotten this team to two European finals and one other semi final, plus a CL quarter final. And we're winning the domestic treble this year. Does JJ have his flaws? Of course he does, I'm the first to admit this. He's just not the "crap" coach you always make him out to be.
Be Careful
9 Thursday, 15 May 2014 12:19
NJ/USA/SLB
Chris, you're treading in becoming laughable. Your JJ comments are rediculous.
Andre thin skin
8 Thursday, 15 May 2014 11:19
Chris Canada
Andre, I have been the first to point out what a shambles Porto have been this year. Your retort is not insulting to me at all because Porto have been awful. The difference is I can admit it. If Seville are top 5 how is it they fought the relegation battle in Spain this season? They finished 15th or 16th.

Now, as usual with some Benfas, you are choosing to deflect the real question because of your disappointment. Are you telling me honestly that Seville are on the same level as Benfica? Rather than making excuses, can you not address the fact that your coach is a chronic loser? He can't even beat one of the worst teams in Spain?

When Porto lost that 2nd leg, I made no excuses. They lost to an inferior team but it was par for the course of a team that basically imploded on themselves. No excuses. If I can be honest about the situation, why is it you are in such denial? You do understand that I am complimenting your team yes? They deserved to win it all, in fact, with the talent they have, they should have made a deep run in the Champions League.

I don't get this defleftion. Jorge Jesus is a choker people. He only succeeded in Portugal this season because the other big boys failed. We saw last night that he is not and never was clutch. He cannot handle the pressure. Benfica fans deserve better.

Bring on the excuses and Jorge Jesus apologists.
@Chris
7 Thursday, 15 May 2014 08:03
Andre/UK
If Sevilla are a "mediocre team at best", why is it that they absolutely THUMPED your beloved team? HUGE lol! If Sevilla are mediocre, what does that make Porto then? It's your team that have been "shameful" this year, and you know it too. Sorry mate but you asked for this retort. Sevilla are a top 5 team from by far the strongest league in Europe, a league which is gonna do the European double this season. Sevilla have beaten Real Madrid and drawn away at Atletico this season. Hardly mediocre!
Beto
6 Wednesday, 14 May 2014 22:35
Eric / Canada
Anyone else notice Beto's three steps off the line prior to the ball being kicked. I'm pretty sure both those save were to be called back for re-kicks. Also I do believe that it was ridiculous how the ref was completely out of the game when it came to fouls in the box. There should have been at least 5 penalty kicks in that game at least 3 for Benfica and possibly two for Sevilla.
Curse of Guttman or of Jesus??
5 Wednesday, 14 May 2014 21:33
Chris(Canada)
Tough break for the Benfica fans. The Cardozo and Rodrigo penalties were AWFUL!!! But really, Benfica have no excuse why it even went to penalties. Sevilla is a mediocre team at best. How Benfica didn't put them away is sad really, even without Enzo, Salvio and Markovic.

Conclusion? Jorge Jesus is a LOSER! I know it's harsh, but it's the truth. They played Rakitic and 10 other dudes basically, and Benfica couldn't put them away.

Shameful.
Boa Sorte Benfiquistas
4 Wednesday, 14 May 2014 14:03
Steve/Australia
Yes Tom,

I strongly believe that the curse will be broken today, I think Feher, Eusebio and Coluna can convince Bela that maybe it's time to let it go.

Personally, i'm excited and nervous. In regards to the game, we are loosing our best player in Enzo but we still have our rock solid defensive 5. I'm assuming Fejsa is still injured so I'd expect Andre Gomes and Ruden Amorim will play central leaving Gaitan and Sulejmani on the wings. I fully expect Cavaleiro to get some game time as well.

In regards to Sevilla they are a great attacking team but they have shown a tendancy to leak goals as Benfica have not. The players are going to have to be strong, brave and believe in eachother.

My prediction is 3:1 to us but it will be a very tough and closely fought game

Boa Sorte Benfiquistas - Eu Sou Benfica Ate Morrer
Vamos
3 Wednesday, 14 May 2014 13:54
Andre/UK
A second successive European final is most impressive from JJ and the team, particularly given that we were also fighting for everything else both these seasons. The club is moving in a great direction to the delight of it's millions of fans worldwide.

It's a balanced final between two strong teams. I think it's more balanced due to the 4 key players missing for Benfica. Had they been available we probably would have been the favourites as I believe our squad has more strength in depth. Anything can always happen in a final and Sevilla will definitely fancy their chances as well.

Even with the guys missing I still think we have a good chance tonight because this is a very unified group, and as mentioned in the other comments, for the most part whoever has played for us this season has given their all and the dynamics of the team remain intact. Hopefully this is the case again tonight and Benfica put in a strong performance. Forca sempre!!!!
No Excuses
2 Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:18
NJ/USA/SLB
I for one, am not dismissing Enzo's suspension. He's bossed the midfield for us, and has been tremendous. Missing both Salvio and Marko is also a blow. It would have loved having one of them available.
What's impressed me most this campaign is how ready the subs have been. Guys like Gomes, Almeida, Sulejmani, Jardel, etc... have been prepared tactically, physically and probably most importantly mentally.
No excuses.

Eu So Benfica
Eu so Campeao
Today is the day
1 Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:10
Mdot
It's a final and anything can always happen. I have faith that even with all these missing players we can still win the title today. It won't be easy but something about the drive of this squad to fight still the last second will hopefully pay off. I also look forward to ending this curse talk by lifting the title.

Enjoy the game!!

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