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All four quarter-finals this week promise to be brilliant watches and are all huge games for those involved, but the meeting of Wolfsburg and Rosengard is arguably the biggest and most highly anticipated. The idea of Marta, Nilla Fischer, Anja Mittag, Alex Popp, Elin Rubensson, Ramona Bachmann, Yuki Ogimi, Therese Sjogran and Lena Goessling sharing a pitch and competing against each other is any women’s football fan’s dream and therefore everyone will have their eye on this big game. But this is not the only reason why people are looking at this game as a big one.
Wolfsburg are unbeaten in Europe. That’s right, they have not lost a game in European football, ever. Their first appearance in the competition was in the 2012-13 edition, and they breezed through it by winning eight of their nine games – the other being a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their last sixteen tie with Norwegian side Roa. In the 2013-14 season, they successfully defended their title by again winning eight of their nine games, the remaining one being a goalless draw in the second leg of their semi-final against Turbine Potsdam. Up to this point, Wolfsburg have played twenty-two games in Europe, winning twenty and drawing two. To add to this, Wolfsburg’s last defeat in all competitions came on 26th February 2014 in a 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the league. They are unbeaten for over a year and without a doubt the favourites to win the tie.
However, Rosengard are seen as the best team left to threaten this record. They carry a star-studded squad with some incredible names who will certainly pose problems for their opponents. Marta is a word-class talent whose name is well-known to football fans in general, not just those interested in the women’s game. The Brazilian can produce some spectacular moments that change games and she has proved this constantly in her career with her club at domestic and European level, as well as on the international stage. On her own she is deadly, but partnered with German forward Anja Mittag the two create a formidable goal-scoring force which is certainly one to be reckoned with. Ramona Bachmann is another attacking talent that Rosengard can boast, whilst Elin Rubensson has broke onto the international scene recently with Sweden as a superb full-back who offers plenty going forward, and she has been doing this with Rosengard for years. Almuth Schult rarely has much to do in the Wolfsburg goal, but she will certainly have her work cut out for her this weekend.
On the contrary though, Wolfsburg have an even stronger squad. It’s difficult to pick out particular names as so many of them are so talented, but what speaks wonders about their outfit is that Nadine Kessler, the current FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, is only marginally missed, whilst players like Vanessa Bernauer, Lina Magull, Caroline Hansen, Verena Faisst and Zsanett Jakabfi often find themselves only able to make the bench due to the depth of the squad. The quality of their defence in particular is something that stands out though and the reason that they have been so solid at the back this season is not because the standard of the Frauen-Bundesliga is poor, but because their defence deals so well with their opponents. Nilla Fischer was not on this year’s shortlist for the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year for the sake of being there; she is arguably the world’s best defender and she spearheads and leads Wolfsburg’s back line. She lines up alongside German international and Babett Peter as well as promising Swiss teenager Noelle Maritz in the world’s strongest back four; one which has conceded only fifteen goals during their unbeaten year. Luisa Wensing’s absence through injury will be a big miss, but Rosengard will still face a tough task in breaking down this back line. They certainly have the talent to do so, but Wolfsburg have the talent to counter it so it promises to be an intriguing watch.
On the other hand, they also face a huge challenge in keeping their own clean sheet. Rubensson is a great talent on the flanks, but she needs to ensure she does not get carried away going forward or the space she leaves unguarded will be exploited by Wolfsburg. England international Anita Asante is a solid force in the centre of defence alongside Swedish international Amada Ilestedt, whilst Ali Riley also brings international experience into defence from her eighty plus caps with New Zealand and Lina Nilsson will join these, a player who boasts a half century of appearances for Sweden. For a clean sheet to be kept, the defence simply need to communicate with each other to stay organised, whilst talking to their midfielders and wingers and ensuring they are tracking back and helping out. It will take a huge team effort for the Swedes to keep out their opponents, but it is not an impossible ask and they will have the determination to do so to cause an upset.
With Nadine Kessler injured, Vanessa Bernauer has been given plenty of opportunities to establish herself in this star-studded team and she has not disappointed. Composed on the ball with a great eye for a pass and equally good distribution, Bernauer has proven to be a more than competent enough replacement for this year’s FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. She has the ability to control the tempo of the game and is instrumental in any attacks Wolfsburg construct with her ability to pick out a teammate in a great position. With great energy that allows her to be an asset both on the offensive and at the back, Bernauer’s performances mirror her team’s and so she will have to put on a solid one in both legs of this tie to ensure Rosengard do not spoil their unbeaten record.
Whilst some teams do offer a good threat, Nilla Fischer is not always challenged in the Frauen-Bundesliga and some games there is no doubt she will be found hoping for more to do. However, as they say, “be careful what you wish for” as this weekend she has an almighty task. She and her defence have the pleasure of trying to contain the deadly duo of Marta and Anja Mittag, and so the Swede will have to be fully focused to ensure she can lead her back four to achieving this. A brilliant tackler and reader of the game, Fisher will pose a challenge for her opponents and will have to be tough to beat in order for Wolfsburg to progress. Offensively, she will cause problems too, both with her aerial threat and ability to convert a free-kick precisely. Overall, she could be a decisive figure at both ends in this tie.
Everyone knows about Marta and the quality she brings to the table, but Wolfsburg need to know about this quickly at the weekend if her side are to stand any chance of progressing to the next round. The Brazilian is going to have to pull a performance right out of the top drawer on Sunday in order to inspire Rosengard to a surprise result, though she is likely to have some trouble doing so as her opponents are bound to keep a close eye on her and take her talent into account when planning their tactics for the game. However, regardless of the precautions Wolfsburg take, there is no doubt that Marta will still have a say in the outcome of this tie, it’s just up to her to make sure it’s a decisive one.
One area that Wolfsburg will target to attack this weekend is the left flank as they will be well aware of how much Rosengard’s right back Elin Rubensson likes to get forward. And with good reason too as she is a fantastic asset offensively for her side with great pace and dribbling ability, as well as being able to put in a perfect cross nine times out of ten. However, her commitment to getting forward means she is sometimes caught out at the back. Rubensson will need to be full of energy this weekend in order to be able to get up and down the wing all game, as asking her to not get up and support her forwards will limit Rosengard’s firepower. With a lack of match fitness it is a big ask of the Swedish international, but it is a crucial ask and she will need to oblige for her side to get the best out of her.
These two clubs have met before, though just the one time when Rosengard were still known as Malmo in last season’s edition of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Obviously, Wolfsburg were victorious on their road to retaining their title, winning 5-2 over two legs, but Rosengard will be seeking for revenge under their new name and identity. Both sides are so talented that it seems like a game that will be won purely by having the superior desire and determination to do so, though Wolfsburg will be favourites having been drawn as the hosts for the first leg and because they have the match fitness that Rosengard do not with their season not starting until April 11th. If they are victorious in this game, Rosengard’s chances of qualification will be very unlikely despite the second leg being on their own patch as the German side are so good at protecting leads and defending them. Overcoming a deficit against the reigning European champions is an extremely big ask and so Rosengard need a good result this weekend. However, I simply cannot see them getting one.
Hi, I’m Ameé, I write reguarly about the English Football League on my blog, A Pitchside View, and also women’s football at A Women’s Pitchside View. If you liked this post, please feel free to rate it and also check out other pieces I’ve written on these sites, as well as on Fanthem. Thank you.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Ameé Ruszkai