International Soccer
FA Cup is destined to leave us disappointed

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Stoppage Time Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Everybody loves a good Cinderella story, and no competition in soccer serves up as many feel-good tales as the FA Cup.

Only in the FA Cup can plumbers and electricians doubling as soccer players get a chance to live out their childhood dreams by playing on one of the most hallowed grounds in Europe.

While this may sound like the plot of another cheesy inspirational sports movie, it actually happened in January when a club called Havant and Waterlooville, made up of part-time players, took to the field against mighty Liverpool at Anfield.

Imagine one day you are repairing a car engine or unclogging a drain and the next you are lining up across from some of the top soccer players in the world.

Although Havant and Waterlooville was knocked out of the competition 5-2 by the Reds, it was still fun to see them holding a 2-1 lead into the 44th minute, making their millionaire opponents sweat a little bit.

Much like the NCAA Tournament in college basketball, the FA Cup usually gives us one or two underdogs to cheer for as they go toe-to-toe with one of the sport's heavyweights.

Barnsley has already eliminated Liverpool and Chelsea.
This year's darling so far has been Barnsley, a club that is in 19th place in the 24-team English League Championship standings.

Although Barnsley is a club that has won just 10 of its 36 games in England's second division, the team has already eliminated two giants of English soccer, Liverpool and Chelsea, in successive rounds.

Brian Howard's last-second goal at Anfield gave Barnsley an unlikely 2-1 win over Liverpool and put them through to the quarterfinals, where they were handed another mountain to climb in defending FA Cup champions Chelsea.

Kayode Odejayi took his turn as the hero of that match, scoring the lone goal in Barnsley's stunning 1-0 win this past Saturday in a game that was played on Barnsley's home ground of Oakwell.

Odejayi's goal came in the 65th minute, providing a final 25 minutes of edge- of-your-seat action.

When the final whistle blew, fans rushed from the stands to congratulate their triumphant heroes, while Chelsea players walked from the field, heads down, as if on their way to a funeral.

It was quite a scene at Oakwell and was perfectly summed up by Odejayi, who after the game sounded more like a disbelieving lottery winner than an FA Cup semifinalist.

"It is like a dream and we are going to Wembley," Odejayi said. "I have never been there before and it is what dreams are made of. It has not sunk in."

However, before the Walt Disney company starts negotiating for the movie rights, they should probably take a look at the other three teams that will join Barnsley at Wembley in the semifinals.

The club was drawn with fellow Championship side Cardiff on Monday, a team that is only two points better in the league than our lovable underdogs.

The other semifinal also features a Championship team, fourth-place West Brom, meeting the only Premiership team left in the competition, Portsmouth.

In any other year, Cardiff or West Brom would be the big story, but this season they are just another small fish in a small pond.

Barnsley already earned a 1-1 draw with Cardiff back in September, and with no real David vs. Goliath storyline, is there going to be any real interest in how this thing ends?

While Portsmouth is certainly the favorite to hoist the Cup in May, it would not be a shocker to anyone if ninth-place Pompey was knocked off by West Brom, a team that could be joining them in the Premiership next season.

For the first time since 2004, a non-Premiership team will appear in the Cup final. That year, third-division side Millwall was matched with Manchester United, setting up the possibility of a monumental upset.

The game felt like the 1986 movie Hoosiers, only this time, South Bend Central crushed tiny Hickory.

Despite the result, the game still held plenty of intrigue because of its Cinderella element, something this year's competition will be sorely lacking.

Underdogs are great, unless there are no favorites left, and that is what makes the remainder of this year's FA Cup so uninteresting.

It will be a great story if one of the lower-division teams takes home the title, but much like a good movie with a bad ending, it will ultimately leave us unsatisfied.

Tim Keeble Comments? Criticism? Applause?
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