This year’s FA Cup final will see two teams most have not heard of.
On Saturday the FA Cup will run for its 127th straight year. The match will be held at Wembley Stadium in the northwest area of London.
Portsmouth and Cardiff City will go head-to-head for the first time in the competition. The two sides last faced off in the 2004 Carling Cup.
At this point, most readers with a passing knowledge of English football will be drawing blanks at those two teams. Some will wonder what divisions they play for while others will wonder what part of the UK those teams are from.
I don’t blame them. It’s hard to keep track of such minnow teams with so much hype surrounding the four big teams in the Premiership. Moreover, it would be understandable to overlook the FA Cup when Man U and the Blues are going at it for the biggest title in Europe.
Nevertheless, it’s best to clarify things for the record. Portsmouth is in the Premier League and hails from the south of England. Cardiff City is a Championship team (the league below the one Portsmouth is in) and is based in Wales.
At least there will be some names that could stand out in people’s minds. Sol Campbell of Portsmouth should be recognised for his heydays at Arsenal while Cardiff’s Robbie Fowler is revered in most circles for his glory days in Liverpool.
Both sides earned their spots in the final. Portsmouth comes into the match with wins over three Championship clubs, a shocking upset of Manchester United in the quarter finals and a nail-biting win against newly-promoted Premiership team West Bromwich.
Meanwhile, Cardiff City claimed its spot with wins against two sides outside of the top two leagues and then a triumph over Championship rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers. Thereafter the side took down premiership team Middlesbrough before defeating Championship team Barnsley.
Once you look past the lack of hype, the contest is basically about which team can use its players best. Portsmouth has a squad with loads of experience at every position and to boot boast a lethal offence led by striker Kanu. Cardiff City is a group of speedsters that have the talent to hang around in games.
For me, the most telling indication of who’s in the best position to win is their performances during the season. Throughout their Premiership campaign Portsmouth has been near the top five of the table. It ended up in its highest-ever Premiership rank of eighth.
Meanwhile Cardiff City has been firmly in the middle of the pack and struggled to win on the road. It finished 12th and had just four road wins.
In my opinion, I feel Portsmouth has the tools to pull out a victory. Its experience, players and level of competition faced are far superior to what Cardiff brings to the table.
Cardiff is a gutsy team and Fowler should inspire them to play well. However, I don’t think they’re on the same level as Portsmouth. In fact I don’t think it would have had much of a chance against Man U if it faced them.
Ultimately there’s one last fact to bear in mind before tuning in or out of the FA Cup. No matter who wins, a team will walk away with just its second FA Cup title in the last 70 years and it will be the first time since 1995 that the winner will not be one of the top four teams in the Premiership.
Those expecting an FA title game with easily recognised teams will be sorely disappointed. But those after an exciting match should be pleased.