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How social media reacted to round-of-16 redraw

In an extraordinary turn of events on Monday, UEFA was forced to announce that the Champions League round of 16 would have to be redrawn after the first attempt was marred by technical issues.

The first draw, at the scheduled time of noon CET / 6 a.m. ET sparked administrative chaos as the software utilised to instruct the UEFA officials as to which teams were eligible to face each other malfunctioned during the live event at the home of European football’s governing body in Switzerland. This led to an error, as Manchester United’s ball was accidentally left out of the pot in the draw to find Atletico Madrid’s opponents.

Problems arose when Villarreal were drawn from the pot of group runners-up and paired with United. Under UEFA rules, two teams who faced each other in the group stage cannot face each other again in the first knockout round. This led UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti to order a redraw of Villarreal’s opponents, with Manchester City coming out of the pot second time around.

United’s ball then appeared to be accidentally left out of the pot for the next draw as Atletico Madrid had their opponents selected from a reduced pool which did not contain United, despite the two clubs being perfectly eligible to face one another.

To make matters worse, Liverpool were included in the pot to potentially face Atletico despite the two sides facing each other in the group stage.

United were subsequently pitted against Paris Saint-Germain, leading to great excitement across the soccer world as it meant Cristiano Ronaldo going head-to-head against old foe Lionel Messi in the Champions League once again.

The draw was then concluded as planned, and for a brief moment in time, these were the round-of-16 fixtures for the 2021-22 Champions League.

However, when it emerged that a mistake had been made, complaints were lodged to UEFA and eventually the governing body decided to scrap the first iteration of the draw, declare it null and void, and press ahead with a fresh start.

After seeing United’s box-office bout with PSG and the prospect of a Ronaldo-Messi face-off wiped from the slate, many football fans were left to mourn what might have been. Something tells us the age-old debate is likely to rumble on regardless.

Many also drew parallels with the administrative controversy that engulfed the culmination of the 2021 Formula One championship over the weekend. Max Verstappen was ultimately crowned world champion over Lewis Hamilton in the final race of the season, but only after the FIA intervened with a questionable call that essentially turned the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix into a one-lap race-off for the title.

As you might expect, the error-strewn Champions League draw brought with it a wave of consternation from many jaded onlookers.

Some were skeptical and predicted that, given the epic scale of one of the ties produced by the first draw, it might just be in UEFA’s interest to ensure a similar outcome at the second attempt.

Meanwhile, Spartak Moscow took the unusual tack of asking UEFA for their ball to be left out of the Europa League draw lest they find themselves forced to face Erling Haaland and Borussia Dortmund.

And Spanish second-division club Leganes went one further by trying to sneak their way into European competition with a quick bit of Photoshopping.

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos simply decided to act as though the whole thing hadn’t happened, wryly asking fans for their draw predictions. Nice to see that Kroos can deliver deadpan gold just as masterfully as he delivers inch-perfect through-balls.

The redraw eventually happened three hours after the original one once the Europa League and Europa Conference League had been staged, with the latter competition having its own software malfunction.

Reigning European champions Chelsea were made to wait to see who their new opponents in the defence of their title would be — only for it to be the same as the team they were drawn against first time around.

For the record, here is the FINAL AND DEFINITIVE draw for the Champions League round of 16:

FC Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich
Sporting CP vs. Manchester City
Benfica vs. Ajax Amsterdam
Chelsea vs. Lille
Atletico Madrid vs. Manchester United
Villarreal vs. Juventus
Internazionale vs. Liverpool
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Real Madrid