This evening, London plays host to the showpiece match of European women’s club football as Lyon and Wolfsburg meet in the Champions League Final at Stamford Bridge. Contested in its current form since the 2009/10 season, the Women’s Champions League finds its genus in the relatively short-lived UEFA Women’s Cup, which ran from 2001/2 to 2008/9 and sits at the pinnacle of European women’s club football.
Tonight’s match sees Lyon contest their fourth consecutive final with the French champions looking to become the first ever side to mount successive defences of the trophy. To do so, they will once again need to overcome German opposition, having defeated FFC Turbine Potsdam and FFC Frankfurt at the final stage in the past two seasons. Wolfsburg, meanwhile, have defied expectations to reach the final on their competition debut, but will look to continue a proud tradition of German success in European club competition; German clubs having won the trophy on six prior occasions.
The reigning French and European champions are women’s club football royalty, having effectively redefined the parameters by which domestic and European success are measured since reformation as the women’s section of Olympique Lyonnais in 2004. Division 1 Feminine champions for six seasons in a row, the club never made a UEFA Women’s Cup final appearance, but since the competition relaunched as the Women’s Champions League in 2009, have been ever-present finalists, winning the trophy on each of the last two occasions.
One to Watch
Lyon’s current squad reads like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of French women’s football talent, yet it is their understated rock star of an international import who surely represents the key to Lyon taking an unprecedented third consecutive European title. Megan Rapinoe, she of the US Women’s National Team and *that* goal against Canada in the London 2012 Olympics (she also scored directly from a corner in the same match) is an absolute Royles Royce of a footballer. Marrying stunning technique with an ability to ghost past players almost unchecked, pick a killer pass, or unleash an utter rocket of a left or right foot (yes, she is entirely two-footed), Rapinoe’s four goals in her 13 game for Lyon to date paint only a fraction of the picture of just how dangerous she will be tonight.
Should that not be frightening enough for Wolfsburg, if they do manage to keep Rapinoe quiet (no easy feat, we assure you), they only need to worry about four Lyon players in the top 8 goal scorers in this season’s competition. Crikey.
Route to the Final (aggregate scores): 12-0 vs. Pallokerho-35; 11-0 vs. Krasnogorsk; 8-0 vs. Malmo; 9-1 vs. Juvisy
Founded in 2003, VfL Wolfsburg’s journey to European title challenges has been an astronomic decade-long rise. Having achieved their first ever Bundesliga runners-up spot in the 2011/12 season, the team managed their first ever league title this season, as well as reaching the German Cup Final for the first time and beating hot favourites Arsenal in the semi-finals of the Champions League to mark their debut appearance with a journey all the way to the final. Despite their relative lack of European pedigree, though, this is no David vs. Goliath encounter, the new German champions welcoming more than 8,000 spectators to their second leg CL semi final against Arsenal.
One to Watch
A veteran, now, at 34 years of age, Wolfsburg’s German forward Conny Pohlers’ reputation as a global women’s football star is finally emerging in the twilight of her career. Cursed to have played in a similar time to German legend Birgit Prinz, Pohlers would surely hold more than her current haul of 63 international caps had she not had to play second fiddle or out of position to one of the greatest women footballers of all time. With Prinz now retired, Pohlers’ own club record reveals itself to be astonishing, the striker’s haul of 171 goals in 151 games for FFC Turbine Potsdam revealing her own lethal eye for goal.
With 8 strikes to her name in this season’s Champions League campaign, Pohlers’ lethal finishing and intelligent movement through the channels brilliantly complements her effervescent junior partner Alexandra Popp who (should she play up front – the German international is equally capable on the wing or even in an attacking full-back role) will also present a significant threat to Lyon’s defenders.
Route to the Final (aggregate scores): 11-2 vs. Raciborz; 5-2 vs. Roa; 4-1 vs. Rossiyanka; 4-1 vs. Arsenal
At the time of writing, tickets are STILL AVAILABLE. And they cost a tenner! Ticket information here – do yourselves a favour. Get to a great game of football for a tenner. You really won’t regret it.
Image from OLFeminines.tumblr.com – Thank you!!