UWCL 2016 – The Magic of international Women’s Soccer coming to Italy.

As a lover of women’s soccer, I couldn’t wait for this day. I’ve waited for weeks for this moment. And now I’m here. It feels like dreaming. The landscape before my eyes takes my breath away. The Mapei Stadium is filled up with people and I’m really surprised given the almost non existent spotlight on women’s soccer in Italy. The place is also all geared up with UEFA’s decorations. There are about 15,000 people. Families. Kids. Teens. Italians and visitors from abroad. Soccer fans. Loud OL and Wolfsburg supporters. The atmosphere is friendly, and the excitement for the game is clear and tangible in the air.

Italian Air Force, proud to bring the UWCL in Italy // ©AFP/Getty Images/UEFA
Italian Air Force, proud to bring the UWCL in Italy // ©AFP/Getty Images/UEFA

Patrizia Panico, former captain of the Italian WNT and one of the best female players of the country, is the ambassador for UEFA and shows the cup to the whole stadium. A few moments later, as the crowd cheers, the game starts. And the Italian Air Force shows off a bit, presenting the italian flag colors up in the sky, passing over the stadium with a aerobatic moves on their jets. It’s the 12th minute, and Ada Hegerberg scores on a perfect assist by Bremer. Lyon keeps possession, having a couple of nice chances in goal with LeSommer and Abily. Wolfsburg’s first half is tough from the very beginning. They can’t seem to get past the midfielders – and when they do, the French defense is proving to be a brickwall. At HT it was awesome to watch a group of Italian artists, wearing traditional uniforms used in ancient florentine soccer, who were spinning flags along to the sound of beating drums.

UWCL_Popp_Bouhaddi_finale
Popp earning the draw (88′), defeating Sarah Bouhaddi (in blue) // ©AFP/Getty Images/UEFA

Second half finally starts. Something starts to change when the first sub is made for Wolfsburg. Jakabfi out, Ramona Bachmann in with a fierce start. Lyon keeps being very solid in defense, Renard is everywhere, saving the team from some dangerous actions a few times as Wolfsburg begins to get through the midfield line more and speeds their game up. After a few subs for both teams and after a couple of nice chances for Wolfsburg, Alexandra Popp scores with a powerful header on a cross by Isabel Kerschowski. It’s the 88th minute. There are quite a few occasions for the second goal for both Lyon and Wolfsburg in the extra times, but eventually the game has to be decided on penalties.

The announced MVP is Lyon’s Saki Kumagai. Standing just behind the net, it is thrilling to watch the final decisive moments of the match. Fans are loud, and lots of support from the South Tribune is going mostly to Almuth Schult, the German goalkeeper, who is showing the attitude of a fighter. She had kept on asking to the tribunes for support the whole time she was between those posts, during the match. By doing so, she conquered some fans’ hearts with her personality so much that by the end the whole South section ended up shouting her name constantly. The penalties turn out to be quite eventful. The first gets immediately saved by Schult, on a spectacular Hergerberg’s effort. Eventually Bouhaddi saves two more penalties, giving great advantage to her team. Lyon finally closes the game with the successful goal of Saki Kumagai – and Schult can do nothing against that perfect shot.

The stadium explodes in well deserved applauses of support for Wolfsburg, and happy, loud cheers and chants for OL. A well deserved victory, to a team whose defense was solid throughout the whole game, and who presented an overall amazing performance. Lyon never gave up, and kept being dangerous at all times. A perfect goodbye to OL for the players Lotta Schelin, probably back to the Damallsvenskan, Louisa Nécib, who is really likely to stop her career after the Olympics and Amandine Henry, who will all move to the States, leaving Lyon the Cup as a present. I believe that most soccer fans (women’s and men’s soccer alike!) couldn’t be happier. Italy experienced for the very first time the magical atmosphere of a women’s soccer Champions League Final. Both teams made us all watch an intense game, a quality game. A game where fair play was honored.

So we all need to thank these skillful and determined players – their personality on the field made everything even more enjoyable. Thank you for these emotions. Personally, I will never forget them, and I strongly think nor will all of the supporters at the Stadium. Merci pour les émotions. Danke für diese Emotionen.

 

Images : ©AFP/Getty Images/UEFA

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