One year ago European debutants VfL Wolfsburg captured the UEFA Women's Champions League title with a 1-0 defeat of holders Olympique Lyonnais at Stamford Bridge, part of a dream season which also included a German double for a club that had never won a major trophy before.
Midfielder Lena Goessling was player of the match against Lyon in London, her partnership with Nadine Kessler the fulcrum of the success, just as it was for Germany two months later at UEFA Women's EURO 2013. Wolfsburg are now in the final again, this time facing newcomers in Sweden's Tyresö FF in Lisbon next Thursday, and Goessling, 28, spoke to UEFA.com about the extra challenge of being holders, their epic all-German semi-final with 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam and her understanding with Kessler.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to make the final again?
Lena Goessling: Of course it was a great joy for us. It was our goal to once again get as far as possible. That we made it to another final is great, because we also noticed that it is more difficult to defend the title than to win it.
UEFA.com: Last year you were the hunters, this year the hunted ...
Goessling: Maybe our opponents underestimated us a bit last season and didn't take us seriously. Now they give 110% in every game and they all want to beat us. So I would say it is always a big challenge to defend it.
UEFA.com: How would you describe your run? FCR Malmö was a tough round of 16 tie.
Goessling: Yes, we could easily have lost in Malmo, even though we were the better team in any case. That was a tough one. They also have very good players in their lineup. We were just happy to win against Malmö. And then there was Barcelona in the quarters. Of course we respected Barcelona because we knew they're a team with strong players.
And then with Potsdam, a German duel is always a 'hot' one. Of course we didn't want to play Potsdam in the semis. But I would say we've had some difficult opponents this year, so we've deserved to make it to the final.
UEFA.com: Does it help to have had such a tough semi-final as the one with Potsdam?
Goessling: Every player and every team trains for games like that and wants games like that. Of course the tie came at the right time. It has been a difficult season for us but we still want to win the German championship. Potsdam was just a great game from us [4-2 in the second leg after a 0-0 away draw] – every player had been waiting for that game, for that German duel.
UEFA.com: The Potsdam return leg did not actually start well; did you ever doubt you would make it?
Goessling: No, I always had faith. It was really important that we found two quick equalisers [in the first half], cancelling out their advantage each time. If we had been trailing for longer, it might have been different, maybe we wouldn't have had that faith. But since we scored so quickly, we always kept believing in ourselves.
When you have an atmosphere like that – such a great game played at great pace – I believe it was great publicity for women's football. Potsdam also contributed to that. Considering how they took out Lyon this year, of course we respected Potsdam.
I think games like this should happen more often in the Champions League. If you look at the first round, there were some very one-sided matches. I think women's football needs games like the Potsdam one.
UEFA.com: Last year you were considered outsiders in London against Lyon – is it the opposite this time?
Goessling: I actually think that is why we won the title against Lyon. I also think that, even though we are the favourites, we can't underestimate Tyresö. They have proven they have top-quality players.
UEFA.com: Does having played the final 12 months ago give you an advantage?
Goessling: We went to London without any expectations last year. That was definitely an experience you would not forget easily. Being able to repeat it so quickly is, of course, something you dream of doing. Of course now we know what is waiting for us, and I think that might give us a little bit of an advantage.
UEFA.com: What did it feel like to win?
Goessling: I can't really put that into a few words, because there were feelings – we just couldn't believe what we achieved that year. Look at all the trophies we got. We were just so overjoyed, I don't think we could really believe what we achieved. Looking back now, we still feel joy about it.
UEFA.com: How have the team developed?
Goessling: Looking back over the years, we've developed year on year. The coach has always made us stronger, and not just by adding more players. That is also the secret recipe, not rotating too much within the team. That way, the team can keep developing. That has been built upon year by year at Wolfsburg, and now it is bearing fruit.
UEFA.com: How would you describe your own role as midfielder with Wolfsburg alongside Nadine Kessler?
Goessling: I think Nadine and I complement each other greatly. We score goals, are very strong offensively. We get along great, we understand each other without words. We have taken on greater responsibility as we've gone along, including in midfield. It is fun – I am glad to be playing and enjoying it.
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