- Barcelona and Lyon meet in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final
- First continental final for Las Azulgrana on Saturday
- Brazilian forward Andressa looks ahead to the match, upcoming World Cup
This week is one of the most important yet in the career of Andressa Alves.
The forward knows what it means to play at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ – an experience she will be repeating in France in just three weeks’ time – and has won two Copa America titles with Brazil. This coming Saturday, however, she faces a whole new challenge: playing in the final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, a first for both her and her club FC Barcelona.
“It’s a dream,” said the Brazil international. “We’ve been training every day for it and it feels very special to have reached the final for the first time in a Barça jersey. I’m so happy.”
The striker made the move to Spain in 2016, her signing a reflection of Barça’s commitment to its women’s team, a commitment that is now being rewarded. “They’ve made a very big investment and reaching a Champions League final is a very big deal for them too,” said the Brazilian. “It shows that it’s worth supporting women’s football, putting the money in and signing players.”
Did you know?
- FC Barcelona’s women’s team is financially self-sufficient.
- As well as Andressa, in recent years the club have signed star players such as the Netherlands’ Lieke Martens – The Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2017 – and England's Toni Duggan.
- In 2017, Barcelona’s women reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time and, like the men’s first team, went to the USA for their pre-season tour.
- Two years on, they will take on Olympique Lyonnais, the winners of the last three Champions Leagues, in Saturday’s final in Budapest.
Lyon, a near-perfect machine
Although Reynald Pedros’ side is probably the best in the world, Las Azulgranas have grounds for optimism.
Chelsea made life hard for the French giants in the semi-finals before going down 3-2 on aggregate, while Barça showed plenty of character to hold on against Bayern Munich despite being a player down for the last 20 minutes of their semi-final tie.
If Barça do pull it off on Saturday, it will be a first continental title for Spanish women’s football, all in a year in which it has attracted capacity crowds and record viewing figures.
“Things have changed a lot,” explained Andressa. “The skill level has improved and the profile’s higher too. We have all these fans coming to matches and that’s attracting even more people along. And it’s not just Atletico Madrid v Barça (a crowd of 60,739 watched the league match between the two at the Metropolitano); there’s the derbies in Valencia and the Basque country. Games are on TV too and more people can watch them.”
The best World Cup
Things are changing and not just in Spain. Though in Andressa’s view, the best is yet to come: “We’ve got the World Cup coming up now. I think it’s going to be the toughest yet, the best in terms of skill, and it’s going to get more support from the media than any other. And when it’s over, women’s football is just going to keep on growing.”
Andressa smiled as she spoke, though she knows only too well that Brazil are under a lot of pressure as they head into the tournament: “We really live and breathe football, and the fans want you to be champions.
"Wearing the Brazil shirt is massive and every player wants to be in our position. That means we have to play both for ourselves and for Brazilian women’s football as a whole, so that people can take pride, money gets invested, and incentives are created for the game to grow.”
Pressure on Brazil even greater after a long losing streak:
- Last win was a 2-1 defeat of Japan on 27 July 2018.
- The Brazilians have lost nine matches in a row since then, conceding 18 and scoring only five in that time.
“We’re going through a bad patch,” Andressa acknowledged, “but the confidence will come flooding back as soon as we have a couple of good games. We need to stay calm because we’ve got some very experienced players who can win games. We have to work hard and make sure we go into the World Cup in good shape.”
Andressa’s favourites for France 2019:
- France, because they’re at home and will have the fans behind them.
- USA and Germany, because of everything they’ve achieved in women’s football.
- Canada and Australia are both strong.
- England, Norway and Spain have had some great results.