Given their less than sterling record in European competitions, it’s usually no surprise when Roma comes up against a completely unfamiliar opponent. After all, the sooner you get bounced out, the less teams you play. However, much to my surprise Roma and Atletico Madrid had squared off before, way back in the spring of 1999. It was a simpler time back then, instead of fearing nuclear armageddon sparked by two pudgy men entangled in the world’s most pathetic overcompensation contest, our greatest fear was Y2K, a time when an extra integer threatened to bring the world to its knees.
In March of that glorious year, Roma and Atletico squared off in the quarterfinals of what was then known as the UEFA Cup, which has since been rebranded as the Europa League. 18 years ago the Olimpico looked pretty much the same as it does today, but in a testament to exactly how long ago that was dig this starting lineup:
Chimenti; Cafu, Antonio Carlos, Aldair, Pierre Wome; Luigi Di Biagio, Dmitriy Alenichev, Eusebio Di Francesco; Paulo Sergio, Francesco Totti, Marco Delvecchio
EDF, Delvecchio and a 22-year-old Totti in the starting lineup with Tommasi and Candela coming off the bench; not too shabby. While Roma would lose to Atletico 4-2 on aggregate, Roma seized the initiative in the first leg thanks to a Marco Delvecchio goal in the 32nd minute. However, in grand Roma fashion, a second half collapse would virtually doom their chances of advancing, as they conceded two crucial away goals.
So as we await Atletico’s first trip to the Olimpico in the 21st century, I present to you, for purely nostalgia’s sake, the highlights of Roma’s 2-1 loss that day.