With the final whistle, the Wolfsburg soccer players fell to the ground, some buried their faces in their hands or cried like captain Alexandra Popp. Barcelona’s players, on the other hand, danced exuberantly, cheered by their vociferous fans. After a spectacular 3:2, the Catalans celebrated their second triumph in the Champions League. The 2-0 lead at break was not enough for VfL Wolfsburg for the third title after 2013 and 2104. “We were so close,” said Svenja Huth on ZDF. “It just really hurts.”
After Wolfsburg goals from Ewa Pajor (3rd minute) and Alexandra Popp (37th), the Spanish champions turned the game around in Eindhoven. Patricia Guijarro (48th/50th) and the former Wolfsburg player Fridolina Rolfö (70th) shot their team to the second premier class title after 2021.
VfL coach Stroot is still proud
Wolfsburg head coach Tommy Stroot, while disappointed, said his side’s ability to compete with the better-funded clubs at the top of Europe was a source of pride. “A few years ago we were wondering how long Wolfsburg could keep up,” Stroot said after the game. “We’ve found a way to stay at that level and this final confirms that. We have players like Lena Oberdorf and other young players who are taking their steps forward here and becoming world-class in Wolfsburg.” One of these former players is Rolfö, the goal scorer.
Stroot’s pride betrays the very problem Wolfsburg are struggling with to remain competitive in the ever-evolving landscape of women’s football: while other teams are willing to shell out big bucks to bring in the best players from around the world, Wolfsburg remains an elite club that offers young players and German internationals a stepping stone.
Competitor FC Bayern is upgrading
The situation is different with the national competition. FC Bayern Munich, who snatched the championship title in the Bundesliga from the “wolves” this season, apparently intends to attack at the top in Europe as well. Bayern announced the signing of two superstars last Thursday: Pernille Harder from Denmark and Magdalena Eriksson from Sweden are coming to Munich from Chelsea. In addition, another top player joins Bayern with the Scottish international Samantha Kerr. Particularly painful from a Wolfsburg perspective: Harder played for Wolfsburg from 2017 to 2020 and won the double of championship and DFB Cup with VfL four times and was top scorer in the Bundesliga twice. In 2018 and 2020 she was voted Europe’s Footballer of the Year.
A similar transfer offensive is not to be expected in Wolfsburg. In addition, the club – despite all the old successes and the conditions created there in recent years – has a locational disadvantage. The club infrastructure and the club’s staff are of the highest standard, but in the eyes of the best players in the world, that’s not necessarily enough to make them decide to move to Wolfsburg. “We have to compete with many big cities to attract people to the club,” admitted VfL defender Dominique Janssen after losing the final. “I don’t think Wolfsburg is the most attractive city.”
Now the World Cup in view
VfL ends the season in which the treble would have been possible, now “only” with victory in the DFB Cup. Nevertheless, there was praise: The club “represented German football in Europe in an outstanding way,” said DFB President Bernd Neuendorf: “This final was a worthy conclusion to a fantastic season in women’s football in Germany.” At the World Cup from July 20th to August 20th, they want to continue this success story with many women from Wolfsburg in the squad.
FC Barcelona – VfL Wolfsburg 3: 2 (0: 2)
Gates: 0-1 Pajor (3′), 0-2 Popp (37′), 1-2 Guijarro (48′), 2-2 Guijarro (50′), 3-2 Rolfö (70′)
Spectators in Eindhoven: 33.147 (sold out)
The article was updated on June 4th.