The Perfect 7: What we learned from the Champions league final

Janine Anthony

Reigning champions Olympique Lyon had to claw their way to a 7-6 win on penalties over bitter rivals Paris Saint-Germain. By doing so, they etch themselves in history books with a double-treble (Championship title, League Cup and UEFA Champions League two years in a row).

When the curtains fell on a what has been a remarkable year-long campaign, here are the takeouts from the June 1st final in Cardiff.

1. France have everything to be proud of

There’s been one single-nation final in the UEFA Women’s Champions league and that was the 2005/2006 season when eventual winners FFC Frankfurt, faced off with Turbine Potsdam. Germany were once again thrilled to an all-German affair seven years later, when Bayern Munich took on Borussia Dortmund in the men’s champions league. The women once again, led the way.

Now, France has engraved itself in the history of the tournament by producing quality teams, strong finalists and worthy champions. Not even PSG, Monaco, Marseille or Lyon have made it a two-way battle in the men’s tournament. And it’s by no stretch of the imagination easy. One-nation finalists are a rarity and when they do as much as grace the stage, it’s an evidence of sheer hard work and distinction.

With 16 French players in the final (eight apiece from each club), these are indicators to where France are headed in women’s football, and as such, how close they are to a podium finish whether it’s at the World Cup as 2019 hosts, or the Olympic games.

2. Who can stop Lyon?
If history is anything to go by, then Wolfsburg would be in the running to make it three Champions league titles but, titles aren’t won with names. With PSG effectively out of the running by finishing third in the French Championship, chances are now blown wide open. Bayern Munich, Montpellier, Linköping, Rosengård, Manchester City, Chelsea, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Rossiyanka, Zvezda Perm, Fiorentina, Brescia, Brøndby IF, Fortuna Hjørring, Slavia Praha, St. Pölten, Glasgow City and Lillestrøm are all through to the 2017/2018 Round of 32, alongside Lyon.

One thing’s certain, it won’t be an easy ride for the reigning champions to do the unprecedented treble-treble.

3. Bibiana gives Bundesliga a sneak peek

For a career spanning 18 years, it’s gratifying to see Bibiana Steinhaus get the credit and adulation (not the Pep Guardiola standard) she deserves. The 38-year-old referee from Bad Lauterburg was announced some weeks back as the first female referee who will be officiating in the German top flight league, the Bundesliga, from the 2017/2018 season

”She’s fierce, She’s feisty, She’s B.B!”

I sang every time she gave a call. Many people regarded her as whistle-happy but if you’re officiating a very tense final between two quality sides, you’ve got to nip the craziness in the bud. It was a good, controlled display and maybe with more help from the assistants, it could have been the perfect night.

4. Morgan has won everything. So, What next?

Firstly, the script didn’t go according to plan. Nursing a recurring hamstring injury, Alex Morgan who is on loan from Orlando Pride in the American Soccer league (NWSL) featured in just 30% of Lyon’s game on the final and that sparked off concerns on twitter.

However, all that is irrelevant as the 27-year-old star revels in the result of a risk worth taking.

Back to the question of what’s on the horizon for the forward whose stock rises every year. Well, one can’t look beyond the immediate future.

She’ll head to the NWSL to help a struggling Orlando Pride

But importantly, nurse herself to recovery

Enjoy life a little more with a healthy payout

Or take another risk by listening to her courting fans.

5. It’s been quite a ride Ebere, Time to pack up and leave

What a statement PSG made in the summer of 2015. Capturing one of Nigeria’s best defenders Ngozi Ebere, after the Women’s World Cup in France. It was a good time for Nigerian Football; lots of players had been snapped up by foreign clubs after a disappointing but memorable campaign and the 23-year-old was one of them.  Fast forward two years and the 2016 African Player of the year nominee is nowhere to be found. Not part of the squad who finished third in the French Championship and almost predictably, not in the Champions league. In 2015/2016, she made a miserly eight appearances all season. She’s not on loan and no injury reports of note. She’s deemed not good enough with all the fierce competition for places. At 25, she has lost her place in the Super Falcons team, with the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations and the 2019 World Cup qualifiers beckoning.  Not all dreams pan out the way we imagine yet, if she makes hay, there’s still loads of chances to dream again. Just not in Paris.

6. Campaigns, Hashtags, Turnouts and more

This has been some final to remember off the pitch. The week started off with girls and women in football campaigns which quite frankly had us (me) in tears.

We Play Strong

Then, Mastercard and Goal made it all worth it

Hashtags from #WePlayStrong to #Priceless took precedence just before kick off but when the tackles came flying in, Twitter trends #OLPSG and #UWCLFinal began taking shape.

Incredible Support and Turnout were on hand throughout

And the TV Numbers were staggering

The Dailies were not left out as well. Pre-final National FrontPage

FrontPage on the morning after. It’s official, We love L’Equipe

And most importantly, people from across the globe were able to enjoy the benefit of a crisp online live feed with the numbers yet again, impressive.

7. FIFA, Over to you 
Nothing more to be written. The women’s game is vastly improving, get that study done.

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