Key events

18 min Fiorentina’s centre-backs have been all over Michail Antonio, trying to win the ball aggressively whenever it’s played up to him. Because of that, West Ham’s defenders are getting much respite.

17 min It’s exactly as we expected, with Fiorentina probing patiently and West Ham on the lookout for counter-attacking opportunities. There haven’t been any chances but it’s an interesting tactical battle.

13 min Coufal’s long throw is headed away as far as Rice, lurking in the D. He crunches a shot that veers away from Terracciano and bounces a few yards wide. As the excellent co-commentator Don Hutchison says on BT Sport, it was trapped between his feet which meant he couldn’t get a clean connection.

12 min Paqueta releases Bowen on the right with a nice pass. Bowen cuts into the area, hugging the ball on his left foot, and stands up a cross that is headed clear by Ranieri (I think).

12 min Dodo is fine, and play resumes.

11 min Dodo has a bit of blood coming from his nose after a clash of heads with Benrahma, so there’s a break in play while he receives treatment.

9 min Mandragora shoots well wide from distance. West Ham aren’t seeing much of the ball at the moment.

7 min Plenty of early possession for Fiorentina, as we expected, though almost all of it has been in front of the defence. In other news, it has started raining in Prague.

5 min Fiorentina’s shape is similar to Manchester City’s, with the brilliant Sofyan Amrabat in the Rodri position and therefore closest to Lucas Paqueta. West Ham are playing 4-2-3-1 as expected.

4 min Rice, back on the left of centre now, makes a desperate but vital challenge on Gonzalez in the penalty area. Gonzalez has stayed down holding his face. He was caught by a flailing and may have been accidentally poked in the eye. It wasn’t a foul though.

Nicolas Gonzalez goes down in the box.
Nicolas Gonzalez goes down in the box. Photograph: Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters

3 min Nicolas Gonzalez has started on the right wing, with Christian Kouane on the left. The official Fiorentina team graphic had them the other way round. Declan Rice has also started as the right-sided central midfielder, which from memory isn’t usually the case.

2 min “What fourth trophy is Carragher on about?” asks Trevor Bond. “I feel I must be being a bit daft and have missed something, but despite a few others having raised the same query in the comments on Twitter I can’t see any clarification. Help?

“In other news, Hammer of 39 years here – named after the winning goalscorer the last time we won anything so that tells it’s own story (yes I was there for the Intertoto, no it doesn’t count). Watching this in a pub in Chelsea territory, ‘for my sins’ – where weirdly they have the main event on 50% of the screens and Kent v Essex in the T20 Blast on the others. I love my cricket, but that seems a weird choice.

“Irons!”

I assumed he means the Super Cup, 2001 and all that.

Liverpool in 2001
Liverpool win the big one in 2001. The Super Cup, that is. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

1 min Antonio has a long-range shot saved comfortably by Terracciano after 37 seconds. It came from a good West Ham break after an equally dangerous Fiorentina attack.

1 min Peep peep! Fiorentina kick off from left to right as we watch.

The players are lining up for the usual pre-match guff. Fiorentina are in their classic purple home strip. West Ham, sans sponsor, are wearing in their white third strip.

“Watching under burning skies here in New York,” writes Graeme Jamieson. “The only question I had about the West Ham starting XI was the full backs. I think Moyes has made the right call, and I’m now less nervous about Gonzalez.

“Still, we need a big game from Palmieri and Aguerd. And I expect Kehrer may follow speed merchant Ikone onto the field. I hope West Ham start fast and stay calm, because it’s likely we won’t see a lot of the ball and may have to come from behind or rely on purple profligacy. I hope that Paqueta and Benrahma can be the difference!

“Come on boys!”

A reminder of the teams, who are about to emerge from the tunnel. This is it.

Fiorentina (4-3-3) Terracciano; Dodo, Milenkovic, Ranieri, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Amrabat, Mandragora; Kouame, Jovic, Gonzalez.
Substitutes: Cerofolini, Saponara, Cabral, Ikone, Terzic, Venuti, Martinez Quarta, Duncan, Bianco, Barak, Brekalo, Igor.

West Ham (4-2-3-1) Areola; Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Paqueta, Benrahma; Antonio.
Substitutes: Fabianski, Johnson, Cresswell, Fornals, Lanzini, Downes, Cornet, Ings, Ogbonna, Kehrer, Potts, Mubama

Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande (Spain).

“Actually,” says Matt Dony, “ I’ve just remembered how much I loved Batistuta, particularly in those magnificent Fiorentina strips. Sorry, Moyes. I hope Fiorentina win. The fickle nature of the football fan.”

Another plug for Nicky Bandini’s guide to AC Fiorentina (2022-23 version)

I’d love West Ham to win @europacnfleague tonight!

Too many clubs in England have gone generations without lifting a trophy, so it would be nice to see WH put that to bed. Only four clubs in Europe can win 🏆each season, so this trophy is well worth winning for any English club…

— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) June 7, 2023

The Fortuna Stadium may be cosy, by European final standards, but the atmosphere sounds spectacular. They are currently being entertained by what looks a bit like a ZZ Top tribute band, except there are about 12 of them, and they’re playing Seven Nation Army.

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Performers on the pitch before kick-off.
They’ve got guitars, they know how to use them. Photograph: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

“It’s 4.40am in Queensland and I’m about to wake the children, who have almost finished high school, for their first West Ham final,” writes Peter English, my colleague at Wisden a couple of lifetimes ago. “It’s been a long night already. I hope Fortuna Stadium isn’t a hiding omen.”

See, that’s the quality of pun you get from Wisden alumni. Well, some of them.

Another plug for Jacob Steinberg’s preview

“Whatever about the quality of fare offered up tonight (and God knows it can’t possibly be worse than last week’s festival of anti-football), at least we have two of the finest club strips in European football contesting the final,” says Justin Kavanagh. “Prince’s Purple Rain will surely be aired at the trophy presentation.”

Either that or his little known B-side, Claret and Blue Rain.

“‘It’s what I do. I win.’ David Moyes. December 2019,” begins Matt Dony. “How we laughed. Then he led West Ham to sixth and seventh-place finishes, and a European final. It hasn’t been pretty (to say the least), and there have certainly been some negatives this season, but what a job he’s done. The Man United job was the very definition of a poison chalice, Sociedad and Sunderland burned up any remaining shreds of his reputation. But here we are. Hope does it. Hope he wins.”

Especially as there is plenty of talk that he’ll be sacked if they lose! Not sure why I used an exclamation mark there tbh.

“Not sure if you’re interested in a minority opinion amid all the build-up excitement,” writes Paul Tanner, “but I’m a West Ham away season ticket holder so I had a ticket for tonight in Prague if I had wanted it.

“However, and I know it’s a (very) minority view, I just can’t get excited about the Conference League. It’s a Mickey Mouse cup, the sole benefit of which is the right to be in the Europa League proper next season. Everybody getting excited and comparing tonight to the 2006 FA Cup final is ludicrous. We’ve steamrollered our way through European minnows nobody has ever heard of in front of low attendances at the London Stadium. It’s like the League Cup but worse.

“Thirteen wins out of 14 played in this competition, when you consider how poor we were in the league this season, says everything to me about the quality and prestige of the UECL. As was the case for previous rounds I won’t even be watching on TV tonight.”

Crikey. I mean, I don’t agree but it’s an interesting view and I understand the argument. Ultimately this is still the third European competition. If that’s not worth winning, football has gone seriously wrong.

(It has gone seriously wrong, but that’s for another day.)

David Moyes’ pre-match thoughts

[On the selection] It was a difficult decision. Thilo Kehrer and Aaron Cresswell have played really well, so it was a tough call. But I felt [Vladimir Coufal and Emerson Palmieri] will go forward, they’re good in attack, and they can supply crosses and balls into the box.

We’re fresh coming into the game. The players are in good spirits, we’ve been ready for the game for a few days now. Hopefully we can show it. We’re really excited to be here. It’s a great achievement for the players. But now we want to win it. There’s huge West Ham support here and we hope we can do them proud.

We’ve scored a lot of goals in Europe this season, we’ve been attacking, and I hope we can do that. We’re up against a good opponent – they’re a decent possession side and we’ll have to deal with that at times. But overall I hope we can go about the job like we did in the earlier games.

“My 30th birthday today and all I’ve been able to think about is tonight’s game,” says Jon Jenner. “Waiting in an East London pub to watch the game feeling incredibly nervous, and horribly hopeful alongside it. Think it will be a ridiculously tight game – let’s hope this ends up being the present of all presents, rather than the misery of 2006!”

“Lest West Ham fans think that Fiorentina’s right back Dodo is a reference to an extinct, flightless, probably somewhat hapless bird,” begins Peter Oh, “let me provide a quick pronunciation guide. The nickname is actually Dodô, pronounced something like doh-DOE.”

This will almost certainly be Declan Rice’s last game for West Ham, at least in his first spell at the club. There’s a script with his name on it.

“Calling this a ‘major’ European final would imply there is a ‘minor’ final out there somewhere,” says Adam Hazell. “What other competition am I missing?”

I’ll give you a clue: the Intertoto Cup, which West Ham (and Juventus and Montpellier) won in 1999.

Don’t expect tonight’s game to be a triumph of the Corinthian spirit. This is Football 2023, after all.

On the plus side, there’s surely no chance the game will be as cynical as last week’s Europa League final.

“Evening Rob,” says Roger Kirkby. “This competition has such a long name, they should change it to the Fans’ Cup, as the interest in it definitely stems from long suffering teams all over Europe finally having their own cup to go for. And there’s a cherry on the cake, the winner qualifies for for the Europa League next season. So win tonight and West Ham are about 40 games from winning the Champions League in two years time.”

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West Ham last won a major trophy in 1980, which was also the year David Moyes was first involved in senior football. In the last 43 years he’s played for Celtic and managed Everton and Manchester United among others. This is the game of his life.

Only the champions Napoli had more possession than Fiorentina in Serie A this season, so we know how this game is likely to pan out. West Ham, so menacing on the counter-attack, won’t mind that at all.

The first email of the night!

“Hey there Rob,” writes Rob Lewis. “The decision not to fly to Prague cost me sleepless nights, but here I am, 1000 km away in Istanbul waiting for the kick-off. I was at Wembley in 1980 for that last trophy win, and now I hope and pray that tonight we can recreate some of that 1965 style and win after all those years of pain.”

Team news: Coufal and Emerson start

David Moyes has picked Vladimir Coufal and Emerson Palmieri at full-back ahead of Thilo Kehrer and Aaron Cresswell, the only changes from the second leg of the semi-final in Alkmaar. That means the goalscorer Pablo Fornals is again on the bench.

Fiorentina manager Vincenzo Italiano prefers Luka Jovic up front to Arthur Cabral, which is a bit of a surprise. That’s one of four changes from their second-leg win in Basel. Luca Ranieri, Rolando Mandragora and Christian Kouame also start in place of Igor, Gaetano Castrovilli (injured) and Josip Brekalo.

Fiorentina (4-3-3) Terracciano; Dodo, Milenkovic, Ranieri, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Amrabat, Mandragora; Kouame, Jovic, Gonzalez.
Substitutes: Cerofolini, Saponara, Cabral, Ikone, Terzic, Venuti, Martinez Quarta, Duncan, Bianco, Barak, Brekalo, Igor.

West Ham (4-2-3-1) Areola; Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Paqueta, Benrahma; Antonio.
Substitutes: Fabianski, Johnson, Cresswell, Fornals, Lanzini, Downes, Cornet, Ings, Ogbonna, Kehrer, Potts, Mubama

Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande (Spain).

Emerson over Cresswell at left-back a big call from Moyes. Not as solid defensively. But Emerson has big match experience – started the Euro 2020 final and the 2019 Europa League final.

— Jacob Steinberg (@JacobSteinberg) June 7, 2023

Jason Rodrigues

Jason Rodrigues

West Ham are in their first major European final for 47 years. In 1976, they reached the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup but lost 4-2 to Anderlecht.

In his match report from the Heysel stadium, Brussels, the Guardian’s David Lacey said: “the turning point came two minutes before half-time when a bad mistake by Lampard [Sr] gave Anderlecht a simple equaliser”.

The Belgium side scored a second after the break, and although West Ham equalised, Anderlecht found the net two more times to lift the trophy.

Lacey gave credit to West Ham for making it a compelling final, writing that “they never abandoned their attacking traditions.” He picked out Trevor Brooking, playing wide left, as an example of this.

West Ham lose to Anderlecht – Guardian mach report by David Lacey, 6 May 1976
West Ham lose to Anderlecht – Guardian mach report by David Lacey, 6 May 1976. Photograph: Gdn/The Guardian

There have been reports of a few arrests in Prague, though BT Sport say the atmosphere is generally good

Here’s today’s Football Daily, which concentrates on the main event

In the simplest terms, tonight’s match is 8th in Serie A v 14th in the Premier League. But you probably want to know a bit more about Fiorentina. Educate yourself with the help of Nicky Bandini.

The final is being played at the Fortuna Arena, where Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek used to play their football for Slavia Prague. It has a capacity of less than 20,000, and it feels like Uefa have been surprised by the success of their own competition. Last year’s final between Roma and Feyenoord was played at the Arena Kombëtare in Tirana, Albania, with a crowd of 19,597.

With the way the competition is growing – next year’s final is in Athens, capacity 32,500 – tonight’s match might set a long-standing record for the lowest attendance in a 21st-century European final (Covid notwithstanding).

Preamble

Hello and welcome to live coverage of the Europa Conference League final between Fiorentina and West Ham in Prague. Yet another English team in a European final, eh? Well, yes, but this isn’t like the others. It’s the 29th appearance by an English team in a final since the return to European competition in 1990 – but it’s only the third by a team outside what we now call the Big Six: Middlesbrough 2006, Fulham 2010, West Ham 2023.

As such, the mood is different: all connected with West Ham – and Fiorentina – know this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for their club. West Ham haven’t won a major trophy since they beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final of 1980, and they haven’t won a European competition since the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. Hell, they’ve won the World Cup most recently than that.

Fiorentina last trophy was the 2001 Coppa Italia, though they lost this year’s final to Internazionale. Their only European triumph was also in the Cup Winners’ Cup, four years before West Ham, and their last final was the Uefa Cup of 1989-90. Fiorentina lost that 3-1 on aggregate to Juventus, a defeat made infinitely more painful by Roberto Baggio’s imminent move to Turin.

Many of us were guilty of sneering at the Conference League when it was founded in 2021. But it already feels like an essential part of the calendar – more innocent than the Champions League, less predictable than the Champions and Europa Leagues. Fiorentina and West Ham are among football’s have-nots, but the haves will probably never experience the type of excitement that both sets of fans and players are enjoying right now. For one of them, the most glorious of glories awaits.

Kick off 8pm BST, 9pm in Prague and Florence.




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