Teamwork makes the dream work

UWCL speaking factors: Last 4 confirmed, France dominates

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The 2023-24 Girls’s Champions League is all the way down to the ultimate 4. With the quarterfinals seeded for group winners vs. group runners-up, it was no huge shock to see the larger groups in Europe seal their place within the latter levels.

Eight-time winners Lyon cruised previous Benfica 6-2 on combination, whereas defending champions Barcelona overcame SK Brann 5-2.

Then we noticed Chelsea punish Ajax for a poor first-leg show and are available away with a 4-1 win, with Paris Saint-Germain taking the ultimate spot with a 5-1 win over Swedish shock bundle BK Häcken

We requested our writers Sophie Lawson, Julien Laurens and Emily Keogh to reply a few of our burning questions from the quarterfinals.

Stream on ESPN+: NWSL, LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)


Semifinals:

April 20-21: Barcelona vs. Chelsea and Lyon vs. Paris Saint-Germain
April 27-28: Chelsea vs. Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain vs. Lyon


1. What stood out for you most throughout the 2 quarterfinal legs?

Lawson: Throughout the 180 minutes of every two-legged tie, the disparity was clear and you’ll pinpoint the place every match acquired away from the unseeded groups. Nonetheless, in the event you think about that Benfica, SK Brann, Ajax and BK Häcken have been all anticipated to complete third or fourth of their respective teams, and that every one 4 have been venturing into new territory within the knockouts with weaker squads on paper than their seasoned opposition, the best way all 4 “minnows” carried out themselves was admirable.

Not one of the 4 shied away from the scale of the duty forward of them and all discovered a method to play their recreation, whereas managing to attain in opposition to a few of Europe’s most cussed defences.

Laurens: The inevitability of the outcomes and the domination of the 4 greatest groups in Europe proper now was clear. Chelsea, Barcelona, PSG and Lyon are forward of everybody else within the competitors and so they confirmed why in these quarterfinals.

With seven wins and one draw (Chelsea drew 1-1 with Ajax after profitable the primary leg 3-0), it was a stroll within the park and there was nothing that the unseeded groups may do.

Keogh: What stood out to me was how managed and direct Ajax and SK Brann have been typically. Going through the likes of Chelsea and Barcelona, each would have been conscious that they have been up in opposition to two of the hardest of opponents within the quarterfinals, but demonstrated a sheer battle and dedication that left followers questioning if this may be the second that an underdog turned victorious. Whereas that story must wait for one more day, the thrill they delivered to the knockouts stood out.

2. Which underdog group impressed you probably the most?

Keogh: It must be Ajax. Making it out Group C forward of Bayern Munich and Roma was not simple and the Dutch facet had a number of possibilities to open the scoring in opposition to Chelsea within the quarterfinal first leg, however lacked scientific ending. They are going to have discovered loads from the best way Chelsea confirmed persistence to climate the storm and address the stress.

Going into the second leg 3-0 down, it will have been simple for such a younger squad to have felt discouraged figuring out they wanted a miracle to qualify for the semifinals. Ajax didn’t make it simple for Chelsea although, and had constant possibilities that caught the Blues off guard and completed with a good 1-1 draw — a mammoth consequence for them.

In comparison with the place Ajax have been within the qualifiers final season, the expansion and improvement they’ve proven since means they’re now certainly one of Europe’s greatest groups.

Lawson: Benfica most likely managed to regulate extra of their tie in opposition to Lyon than the opposite underdogs did in theirs. The Portuguese champions have been fired up for each legs, however between tiring and being unable to deal with Lyon’s substitutions they light shortly in each video games.

Ajax confirmed actual character of their second leg draw vs. Chelsea to right lots of what went fallacious of their residence recreation, whereas Häcken have been higher at residence and except for two lapses that value them a 2-1 defeat to PSG, dealt with their first recreation effectively.

And, though the tie in opposition to Barcelona ultimately acquired away from Brann, midfielder Signe Gaupset continued to impress and goalkeeper Aurora Mikalsen put in one of many performances of her profession within the first leg.

Laurens: All of the favorites acquired by fairly comfortably. Nonetheless, Benfica have been most spectacular in opposition to Lyon. They took the lead at residence within the first leg and have been in entrance till previous the hour mark. Regardless of dropping 2-1 within the first recreation, they have been stage at 1-1 on the break within the second leg and completed the match with extra possession and extra passes accomplished than the French champions, which by no means occurs to Lyon.

Regardless of a 6-2 defeat on combination, the Portuguese champions confirmed their progress and left the competitors with their heads held excessive.

3. After two French groups made the semis… is France one of the best place for girls’s soccer in Europe?

Laurens: Jean-Michel Aulas, the previous Lyon proprietor who did a lot for the ladies’s recreation on all fronts and is now the top of ladies’s soccer in France, mentioned final week that he wished to make the Division 1 Féminine (D1F) one of the best league on the earth. It’s not there but and there’s a lot of labor to be performed to overhaul England’s Girls’s Tremendous League and America’s NWSL, however the progress is obvious.

Lyon and PSG being within the Champions League semifinals reveals it. They are going to face one another within the semifinals, which signifies that France are assured a membership within the ultimate. And with the third drive of French soccer Paris FC rising to knock out the giants of Arsenal and Wolfsburg within the Champions League qualifiers earlier this season, the dynamic is tremendous optimistic.

Lawson: In a phrase: non. Lyon have been a powerhouse of the ladies’s recreation for near 20 years and in that point the panorama has advanced a lot. The French giants have helped map the trail into the skilled world, however there are different groups that may supply gamers the identical requirements that made Lyon so leading edge for thus lengthy, and the house league is stuffed with disparity.

As Jules factors out, Aulas is eager to push the envelope with D1F, doubtlessly breaking the Lyon/PSG duopoly and ushering in an period of professionality throughout the division. However because it stands immediately, even with that juggernaut of ladies’s soccer in Lyon main the cost, D1F is not a vacation spot league.

Keogh: On paper, France definitely look to be main the pack within the Champions League, no less than this season. However final season, there have been two English groups within the semifinals. The UWCL is an ever-changing local weather.

Lyon have been such a powerhouse for thus lengthy, whereas PSG have tried to imitate the success of the lads’s group to little impact. One factor is for sure: there will likely be a French group within the ultimate. Wanting on the greater image, with Paris FC’s triumph to achieve the group stage, France is definitely up there in relation to improvement and historical past within the competitors. Nonetheless, the structural integrity of the league and sustainability of the current development must be judged within the coming seasons.