Eternal rivals Wolfsburg and Lyon meet again in Women’s Champions League final
On Sunday, the eternal rivals of European women’s football, VfL Wolfsburg and Olympique Lyonnais, will face each other once again in the final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Both teams have already won their national league and Cup titles, neither team has lost a single game this season, something has to give San Sebastian.
Remarkably, this will be the fifth consecutive season in which the two teams meet in the competition and after competing for the trophy in 2013, 2016 and 2018, they will face each other in the final for the fourth time. Wolfsburg won their first meeting seven years ago, but since then Lyon have emerged victorious on every opportunity.
Swedish striker Fridolina Rölfo scored the goal on Tuesday that saw German champions VfL Wolfsburg advance to their fifth Champions League final with a victory over FC Barcelona. In a game in which the Spanish champions dominated possession, Rölfo scored the only goal of the game at home against the general run of play. “Yeah, I would say it was one of the most important (of my career),” she says. “I just felt happiness and it was also great that we could get the result we wanted.”
Many observers felt that last year’s finalists Barcelona were unhappy about losing. Rölfo admits that for Wolfsburg the game did not go as planned. “We were hoping to have a bit more of the ball, but we knew we were playing against a very good team. To be honest I thought Barcelona played really well, but football isn’t always about keeping the ball. We have shown that we can also create chances even if we don’t have too much of the ball ”.
In Sunday’s final, Wolfsburg will face defending champions Olympique Lyonnais, who also won their semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain with just one goal in the second half. Lyon, who have won a record-breaking six titles including the last four in a row, jump into the game seeking to emulate the legendary Real Madrid men’s team record of the 1950s by winning five consecutive European Cups.
So how do you stop a team undefeated in 24 Champions League matches and undefeated outside France for seven years since Wolfsburg themselves beat them in the 2013 final. “That’s a good question! », Says Rölfo. “We’ll see what our plan is. I hope we can bring our hard-working mentality with us and win a lot of duels and also have the ball more than in our last game. I hope we have the opportunity to win against them and also to be effective as we have been this season. We have scored a lot of goals, so we have to bring that confidence with us to score goals while remaining strong defensively ”.
The ten-day final phase was played in the neighboring Basque towns of Bilbao and San Sebastián. Even though the eight teams were close to each other, the players were operating in designated bubbles, shuttling between hotels, training grounds and stadiums, as Rölfo explained, “we are not allowed to see the other players, so at the moment we are enjoying each other’s company here. It’s great so far. “
Three of the eight teams have registered players with positive tests for COVID-19, Rölfo admits traveling to a country that continues to have worrying infection rates has been a concern. “Of course you think about that when you go abroad, especially to Spain when there was a risk here, but I think everything here has been very well organized and we have been tested before every game, so I think calm sense that everything is working well ”.
Wolfsburg have played their two matches at Anoeta, venue of the final, while Lyon have played two matches 77 km behind Bilbao. However, Rölfo doesn’t think familiarity with the stadium will give the German side any advantage on Sunday. “No, I don’t think so. Both teams are really good. It’s not that big of a difference. It will be the same for us as for Lyon playing in San Sebastián.”
England’s dynamic right-back Lucy Bronze has already revealed she will be leaving Lyon after Sunday’s game. If she wins the Champions League again, Bronze will become the first female footballer from her country to win three consecutive European Cups. Left-hander Rölfo will play directly against her and remembers meeting bronze in international matches. “We had a few games against each other. She is absolutely a great player but I can’t wait to play against her and her team ”.
Wolfsburg’s star player is her protean Danish forward Pernille Harder, who has scored nine goals in the competition this season, including four in last Friday’s quarter-final victory over Glasgow City. Rölfo, who joined Wolfsburg from Bayern Munich, now trains alongside Harder after playing against her for three seasons. “She is absolutely a classy player. You can see that she is a player who always wants the ball and that she has this mentality that she always wants to win. The combination of having very good qualities and her mentality makes her one of the best in the world ”.
Interest in the Women’s Champions League has grown exponentially in recent years, so it’s unfortunate that current social distancing regulations mean that the Anoeta with a capacity of 36,730 will have its doors closed to fans. for the final. Rölfo, who first played in the competition for Linköping in 2014, is happy that the growing demand for the sport means the match will be televised live around the world. “It’s such a big difference if you compare what it was back then. I can now see how interested the media broadcasters are in showing the game and you can read a lot about it. Even though we don’t have spectators in the stadium, it still feels like we have some here. At least people can watch the game and I’m happy with that ”.
For the loyal fans who cannot be there in person, Rölfo had this message “we are thinking of them, we are happy to have such great support from home that we are grateful for. Even if they are not there, they are still in our heart and it means a lot that they support us ”.