Champions F91 Dudelange have fallen by the wayside, but Luxembourg's UEFA Cup representatives are battling to keep the Grand Duchy's European dream alive.
For Luxembourg, the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League campaign ended on Wednesday night, with Dudelange failing to recover from a 1-0 home defeat against NK Domžale, with Luka Žinko scoring twice to seal a 3-0 aggregate win in Slovenia. "We wanted to keep the score at 0-0 in the return leg for as long as possible and then launch into attack mode in the last 15 minutes, but the first goal from Žinko knocked us out of our rhythm," admitted French coach Michel Leflochmoan
Defeat marked the end of an intensive training campaign for the seven-time Luxembourg champions, who will look to claim a fifth successive crown in the new season. Having spent time in Houffalize, Belgium, preparing for the match, the amateur side did not disgrace themselves against Domžale but their dream of progressing to the second qualifying round - as they did following a 4-1 aggregate win against Bosnia-Herzegovina's NK Zrinjski in 2005/06 - is over.
The final edition of the UEFA Intertoto Cup had previously brought some happiness for Luxembourg, with FC Etzella Ettlebrück surprisingly making it through to the second round, drawing 0-0 at home and then 2-2 away against Georgia's FC Lokomotivi Tbilisi. Their reward was a second round tie - ending in an emphatic 8-1 aggregate defeat - against Russia's FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast, who are 1-0 up in their final round fixture against VfB Stuttgart.
However, the European campaign is not quite over for Luxembourg, with two more sides still competing in the UEFA Cup, with ties concluding next Thursday. League runners-up RFC Racing Union Luxembourg are prepared for the worst, after playing well but losing the home leg of their tie against Sweden's Kalmar FF 3-0. Cup winners CS Grevenmacher, however, still have plenty to play for, having lost by a narrow 3-2 margin in the away leg of their tie at FH Hafnarfjördur.
Grevenmacher had led the game 2-0 at one point, but the Icelandic side will travel to the Josy Barthel Stadium on 31 July knowing that a goal for the home side could be decisive. "Unfortunately we were unable to hold on to our 2-0 lead," said coach Claude Osweiler, who is determined for his side to be in the second qualifying round draw, which takes place on 1 August. "We will play to the maximum. In the return leg my team will be psychologically even stronger."
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