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UEFA Champions League: Reasons Why You Should Be Paying Attention

In case you haven’t noticed – and judging by the lack of attention it has received, you haven’t – the UEFA Women’s Champions League cut its field down to 32 last week.

Still don’t care? That’s fair, it doesn’t really have anything to do with America, and most – if not all – of the teams that were forced to play in qualifying won’t be around very long, when they run into the Lyons and Turbine Potsdams of the world.

But one of the reasons why I love and was drawn to international soccer as a youngster was to learn about the world at large; places I’ve never seen, places I’ll never see, but places that we need to understand if we really want to know what is really happening in the 90 percent of the world that most Americans choose to conveniently ignore.

Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains The World is somewhat outdated these days, but a sequel might have more than a chapter or two on the rise of the women’s game. We don’t notice it here because – let’s face it – none of these teams will be playing any American teams any time soon, nor will most of these countries be able to stay on the same field as the United States national team for the next couple of decades.

But women’s soccer is on the rise, albeit slowly. Any every team has a story. And here are some interesting notes from the first round of the 20-12-2013 UEFA Champions’ League.

(For those that don’t know the UEFA format, 22 teams automatically qualified for the Round of 32. They all have stories, too, like Italian champs Torres, Birmingham, and FC Barcelona. Yes, that Barcelona.)

  • FC Zurich didn’t concede a goal in three qualifying games, virtually qualifying when they beat hosts Pomurje of Slovenia (who play in a little town called Beltinci on the Hungarian border) in the first game. But what’s most interesting about Zurich is that Inka Grings scored three goals for them, including the one that finished off Pomurje. Yes, that Inka Grings. After the World Cup, she retired from Germany, but pushes on for Zurich. And is probably enjoying herself.
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Olympics – Matchday 2: What We Learned – New Zealand 0:1 Brazil

Again, New Zealand huffed and puffed, but again they couldn’t knock the door down to get a result against a world power at a major competition. It was pretty cruel on poor New Zealand, too, who marginalized Marta and frustrated Brazil, only to give up a goal five minutes from the end that was really unlucky and unnecessary from a New Zealand perspective. On the plus side, a win – particularly a lopsided one – over Cameroon should still see them get through to the quarterfinals, and at that point, who knows?

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