Tue, 22 Sep 2020

Having been moments away from another season of disappointment and an inevitable summer of wholesale change, Paris Saint-Germain is on the cusp of its greatest European football campaign during their 50th anniversary celebrations

Ah, the fine margins of the beautiful game.

Last season, PSG was quite literally seconds away from a fifth Champions League quarter-final in seven seasons, at the expense of Manchester United.

That was until a 94th minute tie-winning penalty successfully despatched by Marcus Rashford.

Just over a year on in another knockout clash in European football's grandest club competition, and seconds into added time, the Parisians were on the opposite side of footballing fortune.

Trailing 1-0 to Atalanta and heading out somewhat underwhelmingly in the last-eight, Marquinhos suddenly struck to level the match.

This extraordinary glimmer of hope was then followed up by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting's winner. In the time it takes to poach an egg, PSG snatched a golden ticket to a second week at the first Champions League 'finals'.

Watched on television by hundreds of millions globally, what happened deep into the duel at the Estadio da Luz was a sliding doors moment for the Parc des Princes outfit. It was potentially even defining.

Pressure

Defeat would have resulted in the firing of head coach Thomas Tuchel and the possible departures at a significant financial loss of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar - 400 million euros worth of attacking talent.

It would have been yet another failure attempting to land the prize most coveted by PSG's owners, Qatar Sports Investments.

Victory on the other hand has resulted in PSG equalling the club's best showing in the Champions League/European Cup.

But this moment of mayhem, of small celebration, will, and should, now be forgotten.

Refocus

PSG knew from the moment the Lisbon Champions League 'finals' draw was made in early July that there was a realistic route to the final and the chance to deliver the ultimate prize.

Having suffered the agony of last gasp defeat last year in the French capital, coupled with being ever so close to an early departure this summer, PSG now has a distinct advantage here in hot, humid Lisbon: the longest recovery time of all semi-finalists.

Tuchel and his phalanx of coaching, physio and conditioning experts must now get Mbappe as fit as possible for the semi-final against RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid on 18 August.

The objective? A return to the Estadio da Luz on 23 August to seek out the brightest of all lights at the end of the tunnel.

What a position to be in. Darkness was so near. Had Neymar not had found Marquinhos, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi may well have spent his final evening in Lisbon attempting to arrange a lunch en route back to Paris or Doha with the unemployed coaches Max Allegri or Mauricio Pochettino.

Those fine, fine margins.

Orginally published on RFI

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