West Ham and Fiorentina haven’t won a European trophy for more than 50 years. (More Football News)
The drought will end for one of them when they play out the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday in Prague.
West Ham earned its lone European title in 1965, the old European Cup Winners’ Cup. Alan Sealey scored twice to beat 1860 Munich 2-0 at Wembley Stadium.
The Hammers reached the final of the same competition in 1976. En route to this, West Ham’s third European final, forward Jarrod Bowen contributed four goals and can’t wait to play it.
“I’ve played for England, but I think achieving this with your teammates who you’ve been with together to get to a final and you have the opportunity to win a trophy together, it will be a massive moment,” Bowen said.
“We’re all excited about being in the final of a European competition and this will be the pinnacle for a lot of players. It will certainly be the biggest game of my career.”
Fiorentina’s only European trophy was also the Cup Winners’ Cup, the first one back in 1961 when it defeated Rangers in a two-leg final 4-1 on aggregate.
By reaching the second finale of the Europa Conference League, Fiorentina has become the first club to contest a final in four major continental competitions.
Fiorentina was defeated by Real Madrid for the 1957 European Cup (the forerunner of the Champions League), and by Juventus in the 1990 UEFA Cup final. It also failed to win the Cup Winners’ Cup back to back, losing the 1962 final to Atletico Madrid.
Fiorentina has had a good buildup. It played the Italian Cup final two weeks ago and was beaten by Inter Milan 2-1. That’s the only loss for the Florence-based club in its last six matches. The last warmup for the Conference final was beating Sassuolo 3-1 last Friday for an eighth-place finish in Serie A.
“We needed this victory,” Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano said. “Now we have a mountain to climb but we will be aiming for the summit in Prague.”
Despite struggling to a 14th-place finish in the English Premier League, West Ham has been a European title contender for a second straight year under manager David Moyes.
Following a campaign to the Europa League semifinals a year ago, West Ham marched to Prague as the only undefeated team in the third-tier Europa Conference League. West Ham won 13 games including qualifying, and was held by Gent to 1-1 in the first leg of their quarterfinal. The Hammers were the first club to win all six group stage encounters.
At Eden Arena in the Czech capital, West Ham will face a team that scored the most goals in the campaign, 36, led by forward Arthur Cabral’s seven.
The reward for the winner of the final is not just a trophy but also a berth in the Europa League next season.
The first Conference final was won by José Mourinho’s Roma against Feyenoord 1-0 in Tirana, Albania a year ago.