At the end, Alexandra Popp grabbed a megaphone, stood on a small ledge in the stands and sang with the fans. When she jumped, holding the megaphone in the air, she held on to a railing with her other hand in an exemplary manner, after all, a grandstand is so high that a fall must be prevented. The amazing thing about these scenes was less that Popp was thinking about her safety while celebrating, and more that she still had the energy for this kind of after-work party after almost 100 minutes of play with VfL Wolfsburg against Paris Saint-Germain.
Apart from the official break, there were virtually no recovery phases at 1-1, the intensity of this encounter would have justified it if Popp had made the mood with the megaphone while sitting on the bench. But the small party after reaching the Champions League semi-finals became a kind of announcement to the next opponent FC Arsenal: The white-green battery doesn’t run out that easily.
It was the 31-year-old who secured progress with her goal in front of 14,367 fans in the Wolfsburg Arena. After a 1-0 win in the first leg, a draw was enough for the two-time Champions League winner. The fact that coach Tommy Stroot gave Popp a more offensive role than last time in the top Bundesliga duel against FC Bayern did her and the Wolfsburg game good. Her driving force came into its own and made a difference in a game that the Wolfsburg team had to fight their way into. “We’re in a phase where we don’t really play football with the self-image we’ve had in the last six months,” said Popp. “Accordingly, we are also a bit dissatisfied with our own performance.”
“If we had been a bit smarter, we would have had a more relaxed evening,” says Svenja Huth
Paris dominated from the start and pushed the hosts into their own half. It almost seemed as if VfL was threatened with a surprise attack similar to that of Bayern on Wednesday evening when they lost the Champions League against Wolfsburg’s next opponent, Arsenal. If Kadidiatou Diani hadn’t been just offside before her ripped-off shot from close range into Merle Frohms’ goalie corner, PSG would have duped the Wolfsburg team directly after eleven minutes. But then it was Popp who, after a counterattack, threw herself into the finish in her typical way and, in the 20th minute, almost sunk the ball from the edge of the penalty area out of nowhere.
The next attempt by the Parisians from Diani with a header (30th) was valid and made the Wolfsburg defense look bad. The striker had to be substituted after a duel with severe shoulder pain. Otherwise she would most likely have scored more often that evening. Your failure from the second half weakened Paris noticeably. The Wolfsburg women, on the other hand, helped the short meeting in the dressing room, they seem more self-confident, became more compelling in attack and created one chance after the other. Popp, Lena Oberdorf and Sveindis Jonsdottir hit the wood three times alone. “If we had been a little smarter, we would have had a more relaxed evening,” said Huth.
But perhaps such dramaturgy with the clear increase has a corresponding effect on one’s own self-image in the upcoming games. The Wolfsburg women started this week with the bitter 1-0 defeat against FC Bayern, which meant they lost their lead in the Bundesliga. If the championship has already been lost, then by no means fail internationally at an early stage – that should have been the motto. Because the Munich team is out now, there will be no German semi-finals, but Arsenal’s most recent memory is more positive anyway: Last season, VfL Wolfsburg made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League after beating the English 1-1 and 2-0 moved in.