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the end of the away goal rule, what influence on the fate of the round of 16?

The announcement of its removal in June 2021 had provoked many reactions. The so-called rule “of the away goal” is no longer used in the event of a tie between two teams in the round-trip confrontation in the European Cup. A game-changing decision for the sixteen teams involved, from Tuesday March 8, in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

This historical standard, in place since 1965, has given rise to scenarios, each crazier than the next, which has seen the fate of teams turn with a goal on hostile ground. Monaco, which overthrew the “Galacticos” of Real Madrid in 2004 with a 3-1 victory at Louis-II after a 4-2 loss at the Bernabeu, is a perfect example of the historical confrontations that have changed due to this rule.

More recently, the scenario of Barcelona’s “rise” against PSG has also been fed by this rule. When Edinson Cavani allows the Parisians to come back to 3-1 half an hour from the end, the hardest part seems to be done for the players of the capital, because Barça, who were one goal away from snatching extra time, must now score three. The rest is history.

But this rule was under fire from critics. Observing the reduction in the phenomenon of the advantage of playing at home, certain observers found that they were no longer necessary. This is also the argument that was taken up by UEFA when it was abolished. Its injustice, especially in the event of extra time, was pointed out, while others found that this law of the game pushed home teams to take fewer risks to avoid conceding this famous away goal. By removing it, we could therefore have more open matches.

On the contrary, former players like Robert Pirès find that its removal could lead to “less suspense”. He is afraid that the weakest teams on paper are lacking in momentum. “I find that there is even more calculation. We can tell ourselves that we are going to draw, hold on until the end and go to penalties”, fears the unfortunate Champions League finalist in 2006 with Arsenal.

“If we take the case of Bayern-Salzburg (1-1 in the first leg in Austria), the calculation can quickly be made for the Austrians. They can very well try to hold the 0-0 to go to penalties.”

Robert Pires

france info: sports

What is certain is that there is a much greater chance of seeing extra time with the abandonment of this mythical rule and some see it as an opportunity for more spectacle. “It will bring more uncertainties, extra time and penalty shootouts and therefore more emotions”believes Eric Roy, former player of Lyon and Marseille in particular and consultant for France Televisions.

The ways of approaching the return match will therefore change drastically. With the evolution of the rule, PSG saw their chances of qualifying, after a 1-0 victory at home in the first leg, go from 62 to 45% according to three Spanish academic economists who analyzed a large number of meetings with and without this rule.

With the old rule, a goal from PSG on Wednesday in Madrid would have forced Real to score three, compared to two today. Data that could push Mauricio Pochettino towards more defensive ideas. “Paris can very well tell themselves that they have more to lose than to gain by going on the offensive since their goal will not be improved. Even if they are down 1-0 and there is little time left , they will surely discover each other less”analyzes Robert Pirès.

The former world champion therefore sees in this change in regulations a possible curbing of the offensive ambitions of away teams.

“It forced you to want to score, to attack, there is always that little extra and that little goal that allows you to win, to move on to the next round and to go more on the offensive.”

Robert Pires

france info: sports

UEFA for its part believes that the abandonment of this rule could bring more spectacle. An early response can be provided on Wednesday evening, after the round of 16.


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