Thursday, December 1

Which football clubs are close neighbors but in different countries? | Soccer

“Watching Bayern Munich play Salzburg last night got me wondering: what professional teams are the closest to each other but are in different countries?” Wonders David Gough. “And which are the closest never to play each other?”

It’s around 130km from Bayern’s Allianz Arena to the Red Bull Arena in Salzburg – a pretty convenient trip for border-hopping away fans but by no means the shortest.

Let’s begin our jaunt around the close neighbors divided by international borders in northern Europe. Denmark’s FC Copenhagen took on Sweden’s Malmö in the 2019-20 Champions League with the teams having to travel just 43km across the Øresund Bridge to get to the away leg.

The Fortuna Sittard Stadion in the Netherlandsm– home of, um, Fortuna Sittard – is a mere 32.4km from Alemannia Aachen’s New Tivoli Stadium across the border in Germany, while it’s a 30.5km scenic trip between Swiss top-flight action at FC Lugano’s Stadio Cornaredo and Serie C fare at Como 1907’s Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia in northern Italy.

Just 29km separate Lille’s Stade Pierre Mauroy to KV Kortrijk’s Guldensporen Stadion in Belgium. Meanwhile, Trieste and Koper sit side by side at the top of the Istrian peninsula but the former is in Italy, the latter in Slovenia. FC Koper’s Stadion Bonifika plays host to top-flight football while Triestina, founder members of Serie A in 1929-30, currently play in Serie C at the Stadio Nereo Rocco around 15.5km away. The sides often meet in pre-season friends.

Lille’s Stade Pierre Mauroy is only 29km from KV Kortrijk’s Guldensporen Stadion in Belgium’s Jupiler League. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The best we can find in Europe are two lower-level teams separated by a cross-border walk of 3.1km, taking about 10 minutes. Third-tier Finnish side TP-47 play their home games at Pohjan Stadion in Tornio, with Sweden’s sixth-tier Haparanda FF just across the Kaupunginlahti lake – only a couple of kilometers as the crow flies. The two sides play regular friendlies.

It’s also worth mentioning that should Bundesliga side Freiburg qualify for next season’s Europa League, they could potentially face Basel (67km away) and/or Strasbourg (84km away) in close-range cross-border fixtures.

Away from Europe, strong candidates may well be Brazzaville’s Stade Alphonse Massamba-Debat in Congo, home of Cara Brazzaville and Étoile du Congo, and the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa, DR Congo, home of AS Vita Club and DC Motema Pembe – the grounds are just a 15km journey apart.

And before we leave the subject we should probably mention the thorny issue of Chester, an English club whose pitch is in Wales – the border runs through the ticket office and car park. The Airfield, home of former Welsh Premier side Airbus UK Broughton, is just a 6.6km walk away over the River Dee.

Any more for any more? Have we overlooked some even closer international neighbours? Send your efforts to [email protected]

Who has played in the most World-Cup winning nations?

A few of you cited a higher class of journeyman, former Uruguay striker Diego Forlan. “He started his professional career not in his home country but in Argentina for Independiente,” writes Chris Page. “He later played for Manchester United, Villarreal, Atlético Madrid, Internazionale, Internacional of Brazil and eventually Penarol in Uruguay. He also spent a period on trial at Nancy in France when he was a teenager, so had he played a first-team game we’d have been up to seven with just Germany outstanding.”

Ben Entwistle suggested another South American – former “new Maradona” Andrés D’Alessandro. I have played for River Plate and San Lorenzo (Argentina), Wolfsburg (Germany), Portsmouth (England), Zaragoza (Spain), Internacional (Brazil) and Nacional (Uruguay).

Can anyone beat that? If so, get in touch.

A European clean sweep by clubs from one nation

“England still has teams in all three European competitions. Back in the day, did any nation ever win the European Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and Uefa Cup in the same season,” asks James Funnell.

We alluded to this in a column a few years ago, but haven’t answered James’s specific question. It has happened only once, in 1989-90, when Serie A ruled the world. Or at least Europe. Milan retained the European Cup, Sampdoria won the Cup Winners’ Cup and Juventus beat Fiorentina in an all-Italian Uefa Cup final.

Serie A’s dominance was such that it almost happened on two other occasions. In 1988-89 Milan won the European Cup, Napoli won the Uefa Cup and Sampdoria lost in the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup. Four years later Parma won the Cup Winners’ Cup and Juventus the Uefa Cup, but Milan were beaten by Marseille in the Champions League final.

Franco Baresi of Milan lifts the European Cup in 1989.
Franco Baresi of Milan lifts the European Cup in 1989. Photograph: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

The closest England came was probably the 1980-81 season. Liverpool won the European Cup and Ipswich the Uefa Cup, but West Ham let the side down when they were pummeled by Dinamo Tblisi in the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup.

There was also a near miss for Spain in 1961-62. Atlético Madrid won the Cup Winners’ Cup, Valencia beat Barcelona in the final of the Fairs Cup (a forerunner of the Uefa Cup) – but Real Madrid were beaten by Benfica in the final of the European Cup.

knowledge file

“The Comoros National Team are known as the Coelacanths,” wrote Robert Abushal in April 2013. “Do they have the most endangered nickname in world football?”

Certainly we should spare a thought for the Coelacanths, both the fish species currently listed as Critically Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list and the team at No 192 on Fifa’s world rankings list (although things have improved since). And, despite a lengthy trawl through the IUCN archives, we’re struggling to find any team nicknamed after a species so endangered.

The Knowledge

Can you help?

“As someone bestowed with the relatively rare spelling of the forename Allan, I take a keen interest in the careers of Everton’s Allan and Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin. I am firmly of the opinion that us Allans should look out for each other. I was therefore somewhat disheartened to see Everton’s Brazilian midfield enforcer given a red card for an outrageous, cynical lunge on Newcastle’s mercurial French forward. Are there any other examples of namesake red cards?” asks Allan Leith.

“I saw a stat this week saying that Luka Modric has played in 44.5% of all Croatia’s international games. On quick research, I found one player who can beat that (Fatos Beciraj of Montenegro at 63.4%) but is there anyone else who can say they’ve played in an even higher percentage of their nation’s international games?” asks Richard Wilson.

“Has any player scored the first goal in more than one new stadium?” – Randy Gatley.

“Over the past year or so I’ve noticed a trend for players hopping two or three hops as they come on to a pitch, either at the start/second half, or when coming on as a sub. We know that some footballers are notoriously superstitious but when did this become a thing, and why?” asks Gordon Glen.

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