Five Takeaways from the UWCL Semi-Finals

Let’s gear up for a final to remember.

By Alexandra Cadet

It seems like only yesterday that fans were hotly anticipating the UWCL’s knockout rounds. Now, only two teams remain in the tournament, thanks to a pair of thrilling semi-final ties last week. From Wolfsburg’s pyrrhic victory to Barcelona’s smashing of attendance records, there’s a lot to take in for football fans anticipating the final on the 21st. So here are five key takeaways from the semi-finals––as well as the lead-up to the final in the Allianz

Barcelona players after their Wolfsburg loss (and aggregate win). (Photo from ESPN)

Revenge: A Dish Best Headed in

Lyon’s second leg against PSG gave us some serious déjà-vu. Both teams were in a similar situation in 2021: facing off in the knockout rounds, with Lyon a goal up. PSG beat the odds and prevailed back then, thanks to a wondergoal from Grace Geyoro and an uncharacteristic error from Wendie Renard; they went on to lose to eventual champions Barcelona in the semis.

This time, though? Lyon wasn’t gonna let that happen. 

They were flying through the match from the start, with Ada Hegerberg getting the party started in the fourteenth minute. PSG put up a great fight, especially Marie-Antoinette Katoto. But in the end, nothing could stop Lyon––or Renard and her absolute cannon of a header––from tasting sweet, sweet revenge. 

Records Are Made to Be Broken

As it turns out, Barça has a winning touch both on and off the pitch. It’s undeniable that they’ve been logging impressive match attendance numbers during their UWCL campaign. They played their first leg against Wolfsburg in front of over 90,000 spectators, a record in the women’s game. The high demand for match tickets allowed the team to temporarily relocate to Camp Nou, the club’s flagship stadium. 

Barcelona isn’t the only squad to enjoy a packed stadium; PSG and Lyon’s second match showdown attracted a crowd of 43,000+ people. Meanwhile, Wolfsburg set a club-wide record during their return leg against the Catalans. Speaking of which…

A Somewhat Disappointing Victory

The good news for German football fans is that Wolfsburg did what was once thought impossible: they snapped Barcelona’s season-long winning streak. Originally, the match seemed pretty even, with both sides having decent chances (which, let’s be real, is an impressive feat by itself for a Barça opponent). Then, the unthinkable: the visitors made a mess of defending a Wolfsburg free kick, and Tabea Waßmuth scored a banger amidst the resulting chaos. The German side would go on to double their lead via a well-placed shot from Jill Roord. It was a hard-fought victory that should earn the pride of Wolfsburg fans everywhere.

The bad news? It still wasn’t enough to help them advance. Barcelona still had a 5–1 advantage from the first part of the two-legged tie, meaning that they went through to the final––and Wolfsburg went (err, stayed) home. 

With their elimination in mind, it would be fair for Wolfsburg to treat their second-leg upset as a pyrrhic victory. But they don’t see it that way––and rightfully so. “Of course, we’re disappointed, but I think we can also be proud of ourselves,” goalscorer Waßmuth said to after the match. “We can build on that, and we can see what potential there is in the team.” Though Wolfsburg’s semi-final tie was unsuccessful for them on paper, they toppled a giant at the peak of their powers. Not many teams (including Barcelona’s next opponent) can say that as of late. 

A Final of Two Galacticos…

Lyon have dominated the UWCL since its inception, and lead the D1F with 55 points as of last week. Not to mention, their squad is stacked with legends and young starlets (cough Catarina Macário cough cough). Barca, on the other hand, need no introduction; their previous 45-match win streak and historic quadruple speak for themselves. The final will undoubtedly be a battle between titans––and fans are all the luckier for it.

…And A Final to Remember

Naturally, naysayers will question whether a final of two big names will automatically lead to entertainment. After all, finals in football tend to be wild cards; why hype both teams if the resulting match is bound to be either supremely conservative or uncomfortably one-sided? But if you had to pick a squad to reliably serve up entertaining play, Barcelona and Lyon are your best bets. So let’s look forward to an even, tense match, with a hard-fought victory at the end of it.

“There was women’s football before Barcelona, and it was played here [in Lyon] for years,” Hegerberg said to L’Équipe in April. “We have to win again to regain our place in world football.” The stakes are high, the teams are elite, and the crowd will almost certainly be huge. We have a feeling that our hopes in the final won’t be misplaced.

Learn how to watch the UWCL 2021-22 Final (starting on May 21st @ 1 PM EST) here. 

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