The Myth of the Magic: How the FA Cup is no longer the king of the giant killing


Having contributed to a variety of sports betting-based journalistic mediums, James joined the bwin fraternity in early 2014. He is an avid Middlesbrough Football Club fan who frequently foresees defeats for both Newcastle and Sunderland while, in spite of his age, he remains an unashamed follower of wrestling results.
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For English football fans, or, more specifically, those who sell products to English football fans, a competition is nothing without a marketing campaign.

The Premier League is forever being billed as the most exciting domestic division in the global game; the Champions League is lauded as the holy grail of club football; the Europa League is often described as though it were a violent strain of leprosy certain to ruin participants’ seasons.

Akin to its flashier cousins, the FA Cup is no different, though the advertising spiel spouted in relation to this tournament centres more on nostalgic reverence than glitz and glamour.

Indeed, not a season goes by without it being referred to as the world’s oldest domestic competition, but this isn’t the sole selling point those tasked with ensuring this soccer artefact remains relevant rely upon.

The much discussed ‘magic’ of the FA Cup is the strategy broadcasters and promoters have developed in order to uphold public interest.

It’s a theory that revolves around lesser sides enjoying, through their participation in this sacred tournament, their abilities being enhanced to a point where, in a one-off fixture, they can inexplicably get a result against the famous names we see on Match of the Day every weekend.

A study undertaken by news.bwin, however, has confirmed that if it’s the shock factor that keeps punters tuned into domestic cup action, they need to subscribe to the channels that air the French and German competitions.

Across the last five years, adversaries stationed in the Championship or below have taken 27 Premier League scalps.

It’s a number that dwarfs that of Italy’s Coppa Italia (16) and Spain’s Copa del Rey (11), but no minnows are as adept at big buck hunting than in France and Germany.

In five years of Coupe de France football, a staggering 47 Ligue 1 outfits have succumbed to opponents operating at a lower level, an equivalent of over five per year, while the DFB Pokal in Germany has seen 38 Bundesliga behemoths fall by the wayside across the same timeframe.

The Pokal may have been more magical than it’s FA equivalent to the tune of 11 upsets, but England’s premier cup competition has still seen more non-top-flight teams make the quarter final stage across the last five campaigns.

There have been 11 sides residing outside of the Premier League to make the last eight of the FA Cup, whereas only ten have reached the same point or further in Germany.

France, unsurprisingly, tops this particular chart too, with no fewer than 15 teams based beyond the confines of the top division – or three per season – venturing to at least the quarters of the Coupe de France.

Finishing position

Some more well-worn jargon used in hyping up the FA Cup dictates that it is a competition immune to domination from the elite.

Unlike the Premier League, for example, picking the eventual winner, it is alleged, does not come from a shallow pool containing but a handful of contenders.

Once again, this preconception has been dashed by research results, which show the average league finishing position of this century’s FA Cup victors to be fourth.

It’s a mean standing shared by those who tend to prevail in the Coppa Italia, while those aspiring to sample DFB Pokal glory must be aiming to finish third or higher in the Bundesliga.

Owing to four consecutive early-to-mid 00’s Copa del Rey conquests by mid-table La Liga outfits, the average finishing position for the Spanish cup champion is sixth, though this is improving thanks to each of the last seven winners having simultaneously had Champions League qualification to celebrate too.

Successive Coupe de France triumphs for Strasbourg and Lorient, who wound up bottom of Ligue 1 in 2000/01 and 2001/02 respectively, coupled with Guingamp’s 2008/09 victory, which came despite them ending the season below the equator in Ligue 2, has brought the average finishing position of the French cup winner down to tenth.

Double winners

The pursuit of the Premier League title this century has taken precedent over FA Cup success, with only two top-tier champs landing the double, Arsenal in 2001/02 and Chelsea in 2009/10.

It’s a pattern that recurs all over the continent, with the same period producing as many double winners in Spain, while just three Serie A and Ligue 1 winners have gone on to claim their respective domestic cups in tandem with divisional success.

Germany, however, provides something of an anomaly in this regard, with no fewer than ten of the 21st century DFB Pokal kings bagging the Bundesliga in the same season.

Winning Variety

Another nugget to thwart those peddling the fallacy that FA Cup success is attainable for more than an elite few is that only in Germany have there been a lower number of different cup winners this century.

Just six sides have added a Pokal to their trophy cabinet this century, though England has only seen one more. Three sides have won the FA Cup on multiple occasions in the 00s, with Arsenal proving the most successful with five; the Gunners are 13/2 co-favourites to hoist a sixth this time around.

In Italy, that number swells to eight, while nine different teams have swigged champagne from the Coupe de France trophy since 2000.

It’s the Copa del Rey that provides the greatest variety, however, with ten alternative Spanish teams claiming the crown this millennium.

Most goal-filled games

If it’s goals, not giant killings, that float your boat, then the FA Cup still isn’t the competition for you.

With an average of 2.8 net bulges per match (to take place in the fourth round or beyond), the English extravaganza disappoints yet again when compared to its continental counterparts.

A mean of 2.72 goals per match make the Coupe de France the tournament where goals are least likely to be seen and places it, somewhat surprisingly, in stark contrast to the Coppa Italia, which is the most prolific event, boasting an average of 2.98 goals per game.

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