UEFA Women’s Champions League final is set for a France-Germany contest…again!
As Riem Hussein blew the final whistle at the Charléty in Paris there was, of course masked by a local joy, a general disappointment about the course of events the UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarterfinals had taken this season, the same course of so many others.
All those not Franco-German had been vanquished, another final contested between Division 1 Feminine and Frauen Bundesliga was set for the outskirts of Milan in May. Just like those in Berlin, London, Munich, London (again!) and Madrid before them. Only in Lisbon, and the eventually self-destructive riches of Sweden’s Tyresö could buck the trend, Lisbon was their final hurrah (and match, before going bust), it ended in glorious defeat, 4-3, but nonetheless defeat: Germany victorious again.
The UEFA Women’s Cup, the Champions League’s predecessor, was filled with mis-matches, and the reform of the competition in 2010 was supposed to mean change for Women’s Football in Europe. The monopoly of France and Germany was quite clear, evident in the first four finals being Franco-German affairs, but in recent times the grip has been loosening. For the past few seasons, everyone has been waiting for a continental breakthrough. Brøndby in 2015 remarkably made the Semifinals, Frankfurt scored fourteen over two legs to end any hopes of an upset. This season however, there were also glimmers, a hard working FC Twente side defeated Bayern Munchen, Frauen Bundesliga champions, on away goals among disbelieving fans in Munich. FC Twente were eventually defeated 2-0 in a close tie to another FC Barcelona, another team that’s developed fantastically in recent years from a nation not traditionally acquainted with the women’s game. Furthermore Lillestrøm, were a penalty competition away from defeating current champions Frankfurt; the Germans progressed via the finest of margins.
The first two knockout stages are essentially preliminary rounds, before the draw becomes open (only as of this season, meaning the seeded teams have much better chance of progressing).
This season, going into tonight’s matches [30 March 2016], VfL Wolfsburg (GER) and Olympique Lyonnais (FRA), were pretty much already through to the Semifinals, leaving four teams to battle it out to be in the final quartet.
Rosengård unlike their previous successors from Sweden Tyresö and Umeå, had spent money wisely and found themselves faced with venerable side FFC Frankfurt. The latter are a club in decline, and very soon they could fase a fate similar to Duisburg, European Champions 2009, Bundesliga2 in 2015. Again, like the Lillestrøm match, this headed to penalties, and again the Germans were victorious and their loose grip on the trophy remained. Paris Saint-Germain by contrast, are backed with huge investment and a high profile squad. It took 176 minutes and a goalkeeping error for Paños to see them scrape through 1-0 against FC Barcelona. It could have been completely different if Jenni Hermoso had scored 1-on-1, Kiedrzynek saved, Barcelona eliminated.
This was the night the monopoly was so close to falling, four semifinalists from four different nations would have remarked the rapid change of women’s club football has undergone. However as of one or two breaks, c’est le sport, they were eliminated. The new Stade de Lyon will be fantastically filled for the match with Paris, that is wonderful of course. The buzz generated by another all German affair at the last four is great of course. But that is to miss the point.
Tonight [30 March 2016] would have marked the changing of the guard. Teams who being beaten by double figures are now fighting competitively in this competition. Even if the defeat is now only smaller, or in the case of Twente and others they are turning into victories. The glass ceiling is being broken, clubs traditionally nowhere in UEFA competition are making their mark, just not after Christmas and just not in the latter stages. That could have changed tonight. But yet their domination is further confirmed, everyone will of course enjoy the spectacle in the final five matches, one would be crazy not to, but if only that could be taken to a new city, a new culture, a new generation to inspire, that would boost the Women’s game yet further. In fact considering the following Rosengard and especially Barcelona got tonight over the world maybe that’s already in the process of happening. Behind the joy obviously of those advanced there is a quiet silence of disappointment, but while the day to sing for those others, the underdog, will come soon, the repetitive tune of those we already know is all there is to dance and be heard by those impressionable. Or maybe it’s to repetitive to be listened to at all.