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The Week in Women's Football: Champions League qualifying - Arsenal, Juventus bounced out

This week, we present part 2 of our annual look at the qualifying rounds of the UEFA WCL for 2023-24. We focus on the key players and imports, particularly for those teams that were eliminated over this first weekend of UEFA WCL play, and then following the winners through subsequent matches.

This week in part 1, we look at groups 6-11 from the Champions path and Groups 1-4 from the League Path.



WCL First Qualifying Group Stage—Part 2

This week we continue our focus on the key players and imports, particularly for those teams that were eliminated over this first weekend of UEFA WCL play, and then following the winners through subsequent matches. This week in part 2, we look at groups 6-11 from the Champions path and groups 1-4 from the League path (see: The Week in Women's Football: Are you ready for this? Mega-bucks Saudi Pro League planned for 2025 - Tribal Football).


Group 6:

Semi-finals
BIIK-Shymkent (KAZ) 0 vs SFK Rīga (LVA) 1
SL Benfica (POR) 8 vs Cliftonville (NIR) 1

Third-place match
BIIK-Shymkent 4 vs Cliftonville 2

Final
Benfica 4 vs SFK Rīga 0

Group 6's semifinals saw another upset as former powerhouse BIIK of Kazakhstan lost to SFK Riga of Latvia on a 69th goal by Latvian youth international Marina Telukevica (17). In the other match, host side Benfica blasted eight goals past UEFA WCL debutants Cliftonville of Northern Ireland. U-17 Portuguese international Lara Martins (16) scored twice while full NI international Caitlin McGuinness (21) scored Cliftonville's historic first goal in Europe just after the hour mark.

On September 9, BIIK defeated Cliftonville 4-2 for third place, with their long-time Georgian international forward Gulnara Gabelia (38)—who has won six consecutive titles with the club—scoring the winner in the 73rd minute, after Cliftonville fought back from a 2-0 deficit at the 20 minute mark to tie the game in the 68th minute. 2023 WWC Finalist Irene Lungu (25) of Zambia, who joined the team this summer from Green Buffaloes at home, scored a brace during the match. In the Final, host side Benfica defeated SFK Riga 4-0, with young forward Kika Nazareth (20), who was so impressive this summer at the WWC Finals for Portugal, scoring a brace by the 7th minute and all of Benfica's goals came in the first 21 minutes of the match.

Cliftonville of NI played their first two ever WCL matches. Their only import registered on the roster was goalkeeper Rachel Norney (19) from the Republic of Ireland, but has represented Northern Ireland at the youth level. Norney started both WCL games.

BIIK, when Kaloyan Petkov was the head coach there, liberally imported from the U.S. and Africa as well as Eastern Europe. Now the side is primarily comprised of players from Africa plus one import each from Belarus, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. From Africa, five came from Ghana, three were from Nigeria, two hail from Zambia and one was from Cameroon.

Riga used an all-Latvian roster except for two from Finland:

  • Goalkeeper Josefina Langstrom (21)
  • Defender Pelliina Pekkanen (21)


Group 7:

Semi-finals

Valur (ISL) 2 vs Ankara BB Fomget Genclik (TUR) 1

Vllaznia (ALB) 4 vs EP-Hajvalia (Kosovo) 2

Third-place match
EP-Hajvalia 0 vs Ankara BB Fomget Genclik 6

Final
Vllaznia 1 vs Valur 2

In the semifinals, Valur built a 2-0 lead by the 33rd minute and, though Ankara pulled one back in the 47th minute, Iceland's reigning champions advanced to the Group Final. In the other semifinal match, host side Vllaznia in Shkoder defeated neighbors and friendly rivals Hajvalia of Kosovo 4-2, with Albanian international midfielder Gresa Berisha (25)—but who was born in Kosovo and previously played for the Mitrovica club there—scoring twice for the winners.

In the Group Final, Valur advanced with a 2-1 win over the experienced Albanian side—which was playing in their 13th UEFA tournament (all in a row) but made the Round of 32 only once in 2019-20—who survived a 91st minute goal from Albanian international forward Mego Doci (26), who has won the last seven consecutive league titles with Vllaznia.

Fomget won the third place match 6-0 over Hajvalia, with American midfielder Danielle Marcano (25) scoring twice, with their Bosnian and Herzegovina international Eva Sabanagic (25), Anti Violari (26) of Cyprus (a full international) and Montenegro international forward Sladana Bulatovic (29)—who played at Mynavi Sendai of Japan's WE-League last season after spending the previous three seasons at Rayo Vallecano of Spain— scoring once, along with a goal from their promising young Turkish international forward Birgul Sadikoglu (23), who played last season at Galatasaray, scoring 9 goals in 17 regular season games and was with Zhytlobud-1 in Ukraine in 2021-22.

Marcano played at the University of Tennessee, then in Iceland, and joined Fenerbahçe in Turkey for last season. Sabanagic is also from the States and played collegiately at Purdue University in Indiana before signing professional forms in Iceland.

Image

Ena Sabanagic, in the colors of HK of Iceland, her first professional side.

She now plays with Ankara BB Forget and internationally with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo courtesy of University of Purdue Athletics.


Ankara BB Fomget made their European debut this year and utilized a number of imports, besides those mentioned above, including players from Ukraine (2), Azerbaijan, Canada, Israel and Montenegro—a second besides Bulatovic. Midfielder Marian Awad (26) has been playing for the full national team of Israel since 2017, and previously played at Villarreal CF in Spain.

EP Hajvalia used a squad based entirely on Kosovo nationals.

Vllaznia had nine imports: five were Brazilian, two were from Kosovo and two were Americans.


Group 8:

Semi-finals
Gintra (LTU) 2 vs Cardiff City (WAL) 0
Glasgow City (SCO) 2 vs Shelbourne (IRL) 0

Third-place match
Shelbourne 3 vs Cardiff City 0

Final
Glasgow City 3 vs Gintra 0

On September 6, Gintra of Lithuania defeated Cardiff City 2-0 in Siauliai with Juliet Basey (23) of Nigeria scoring goals in the 20th and 49th minute, the first from the penalty spot. Glasgow City defeated Shelbourne by the same 2-0 scoreline in the other semifinal, with goals from Brenna Lovera (26) of the U.S. and Scottish international Lauren Davidson (21) in the 54th and 65th minute, respectively.

Shelbourne took the third place match with a 3-0 win over Cardiff City, with Noelle Murray (23) scoring twice; she has been capped by the Irish senior side and played with their semifinal opponent Glasgow City in 2017, where she won a league title to go with two in Ireland—one with Raheny United and last season with Shels.

In the Group Final, American Brenna Lovera scored Glasgow City's winner in the opening minute of the game as City defeated Gintra 3-0. Lovera joined City this summer from the Chicago Red Stars, where she was a national team replacement player and only played in one game during the Challenge Cup. She has also played in Iceland and Portugal and at Northwestern University in Chicago.

All of Cardiff City's players were from Wales, except for forward Molly Kehoe (19) from the Cayman Islands. In January, she was named by Inside Caribbean Football as the Cayman Islands 2022 female player of the year. She played internationally for the Cayman Islands in football and rugby. She also played roller hockey, flag American football and competed in swimming and track and field. She explained: "Growing up, I've always played a lot of sports, always been very athletic, and I think each sport helped each other in a way.

They are kind of tied into each other, but football is my main sport." In March she led her football club team Elite to the CI President's Cup and scored every goal for her side, winning the Golden Boot with nine tallies. She scored all five of Cayman's goals during the 2021 CFU Qualifiers for the CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship, as her side made the Finals by defeating Anguilla 3-0 and Bahamas 2-0.

She briefly played at the Darlington School Soccer Academy in the U.S. (in the State of Georgia) until she returned home during COVID-19. In August, she signed professional forms with Cardiff City. Cayman will play Curacao and Anguilla in 2024 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup.


Molly Kehoe

Forward Molly Kehoe of Cardiff City is the first women's import from the Cayman Islands to make a UEFA WCL roster.

Photo Courtesy Cayman Islands Football Association/Cardiff City.


Shelbourne had six imports this season, three from the U.S., two from Denmark and one from Canada:

  • Defender Margaret Pierce (22) of the U.S. played at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
  • Midfielder Elizabeth Moore (22) of the U.S. also played at UNCC.
  • Forward Morgan Rees (23) is the third American on the side and played at the University of Maryland—Baltimore County.
  • Defender Cathrine Graversen (25) grew up in Denmark and has played internationally for Philippines—she has also played in Italy, Cyprus and Sweden.
  • Forward Natasha Shirazi (27)—she is a naturalized Danish citizen, and was born in Uganda and also qualifies to play for Iran—she has played for clubs in Denmark, Israel, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
  • Forward Christie Gray (24) is from Canada and last season scored 4 goals in 19 matches for Swedish Elitettan (2nd division) side Ravasen; she played collegiately at Kingston University in Kingston, Ontario.

Head Coach Noel King directed the Republic of Ireland's Women's National team for a decade at the turn of the century and briefly was an interim head coach for the men's national team as well.

Gintra of Lithuania utilized four Americans, three Nigerians and two Canadians:

The American imports were:

  • GK Adrianna Schroeder (22) played at Rose State College in Oklahoma and Dallas Baptist University.
  • D Natalie Oronoz (26) played at Cal State-Fullerton in California and is now a high school women's football coach in Whittier, California and played in Denmark for AaB Aalborg.
  • M Allyson Pauletto (25) played at Colorado State University.
  • M Rachel Diodati (23) played at Colgate University in New York and Michigan State University.

The two Canadian imports this season were:

  • D Kalin O'Brien (23) played at home at Bishop's University in Quebec.
  • M Seina Kashima (27) was with Trinity Western University in British Colombia.

The trio from Nigeria included:

  • D Abigail Sunday (22)
  • M Juliet Sunday (25), who played at home at Rivers Angels in Nigeria.
  • F Juliet Basey (23), who played at home with Bayelsa Queens in Nigeria and in Kazakhstan before moving to Lithuania in February.

See our interview from June with Gintra's Bulgarian head coach Kaloyan Petkov, who talked about the WCL and other interesting topics about European women's football: The Week in Women's Football: Profiling Kaloyan Petkov; Celtic welcome Chinese starlets; Euro League reviews - Tribal Football.


Group 9:

Semi-final
PAOK (GRE) 6 vs Racing FC Union Luxembourg (LUX) 1

Final
St. Pölten (AUT) 3 vs PAOK (GRE) 0

On September 6, Asa Emelie Helmvall (30) of Sweden vaulted to the top of the WCL goal scorers table with four goals (all in the first half) for PAOK in their 6-1 win against Racing FC Union Luxembourg in St. Polten, Austria. This is her second season in Greece after playing three seasons in Italy with Sampdoria (one) and Pink Sport Bari (two). She has also played a season in Norway and at home in Sweden.

In the Group Final on September 9, St. Polten's Austrian international forward Melanie Brunnthaler (22) scored the ultimate winner in the 14th minute and their Slovakian international forward Diana Lemesova (22) scored her side's third and final goal of their win over PAOK by the 29th minute. Austrian youth international Valentina Madl (17) scored the second goal in the 22nd minute.

Racing FC Union Luxembourg is in their fourth consecutive WCL campaign and they always have had a large group from France. This year they had 12 imports from France, they also had forward Karolina Kohr (26) of Germany (ex-Koln in the first and second division at home) and goalkeeper Elena Blaser (27), who played at home at Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz and Bad Neuenahr in the German second tier, along with second year imports from the Republic of Ireland in sisters Aoibhe (18) and Clodagh (17) Moran. Twelve of the side were Luxembourg nationals.

PAOK utilized six imports this season:

  • GK Paula Myllyoja (39) Finland was capped on a few occasions for her full national team and played in Italy and Spain after a long career at home.
  • GK Dani Neuhaus (30) Brazil has played at home and in Portugal with Benfica for three years from 2018-21; she has been capped at the senior level and played at the 2008 and 2010 U-17 and 2012 U-20 WWC Finals.
  • D Ashshan Ahmadova (23) Azerbaijan started her professional career with Okzhetpes of Kazakhstan and also played in Turkey with ALG Spor and Caykur Risespor; she has been capped at the youth and senior levels by Azerbaijan.
  • F Esse Akida (30) is a Kenyan international who is in her third season with PAOK and previously played in Turkey, Israel and in Kenya.
  • F Emelie Helmvall (30) Sweden (see above)
  • Sharon Esinam Sampson (20) Sweden; she was born in Sweden but plays internationally for Ghana. Last season she played for Telge United of the Swedish second tier Elitettan.


Group 10:

Semi-final

Dinamo-BSUPC (BLR) 9 vs Agarista Anenii Noi (MDA) 0

Final

Ajax (NED) 3 vs Dinamo-BSUPC (BLR) 0

Dinamo of Belarus built a 3-0 lead over Agarista Anenii Noi of Moldova by the 17th minute and cruised to a 9-0 win on September 6 in Orhei, Moldova. Their Belarusian international defender Ksenia Kubichnaya (24) scored three times in her first season after three previous seasons with Minsk and a short spell in 2021 with Ryazan of Russia.

Ajax won the Group Final 3-0 with their 2023 Dutch WWC Finals midfielder Sherida Spitse wrapping the game up from the penalty spot just before halftime for a 2-0 lead, between two goals from Romee Leuchter (22), who is in her third season at Ajax and a Dutch international, though she did not make the WWC team this summer.

Agarista Anenii Noi played their fifth season in the WCL and is still looking for their first victory. Agarista CSF Anenii Noi used an all-Moldovan side except for forward Yelyzaveta Indycha (20) of Ukraine, who is in her fifth season with the Moldovan club, having one three league titles and a runners-up finish in 2021-22.

Dinamo used all Belarus natives except for two players, with one from Russia in goalkeeper Ekaterina Ulasevich (32) who is in her third season with Dinamo; she played for years at home with a variety of clubs in the Russian league and had a spell in Turkey.

Their other import was Ukrainian defender Alina Skydan (28), who joined the side after three seasons in Ryazan in Russia, and scored seven goals in 19 league games. She has also played with FC Martve Kutaisi of Georgia. Both imports started the club's two WCL games this season. Belarus sides typically always brings in imports from Africa and Dinamo had four last year—two from Cameroon, one from the Ivory Coast and one from South Africa—who did not return this season, with the war in neighboring Ukraine likely contributing to their departure.

Claudia Dabda of Camerron moved to Toulouse in France in January; midfielder Colette Ndzana Fegue (22) of Cameroon—who is a full international and played with her country in the Olympic Games Intercontinental Playoffs against Chile last year—moved to Granadilla of Spain this summer. Ivory Coast international midfielder Nadege Cisse was on her nation's 2015 WWC in Canada and moved to Saint Etienne of France.


Group 11:

Semi-final
Breznica Pljevlja (MNE) 0 vs Birkirkara (MLT) 1

Final
Zürich (SUI) 3 vs Birkirkara 1(MLT)

In the Group 11 semifinal, Birkirkara scored a 92nd winner over Breznica Pljevlja in Ta'Qali in northern Malta. Edith Garcia (21) of Uruguay scored the crucial goal to send the host side into the Group Final versus Zurich of Switzerland. Garcia is the first Uruguayan to play in the Women's Champions League. She played for Defensor Sporting at home.

In the Group Final, Zurich was in control throughout the match, building a 3-0 lead with ten minutes to go, before Malta youth international defender Valentina Rapa (21) scored in the 93rd minute.

Breznica Pljevlja had a roster comprised entirely with players from Montenegro except for two imports from Serbia.

Birkirkara had four imports—two from U.S. and one from Italy and Uruguay (see above):

  • Marta Grosso (21) Italy—she is in her second season with Birkirkara and played at home with Tavagnacco.
  • Caitlin Rogers (24) U.S.—she played at the University of Montana
  • Arianna Del Moral (24) U.S.—University of Minnesota/St. Cloud State. She played for two seasons in the summer W-League with the Minnesota Aurora, who have been fabulous with their attendances and in fundraising. Over two seasons, Del Moral played 21 games and had 4 goals with 4 assists; she helped Aurora to back-to-back Heartland Division titles and the Central Conference championship in 2023; the Aurora were W-League runners-up in 2022.idfielder Arianna DelMoral signs Pro contract



League path:

Sixteen teams entered at this stage: the runners-up from the associations ranked seventh to 16th and the third-placed teams from the associations ranked first to sixth.


Group 1:

Semi-finals
Twente (NED) 6 vs Sturm Graz (AUT) 0
Levante (ESP) 4 vs Stjarnan (ISL) 0

Third-place match
Sturm Graz 0 vs Stjarnan 0 (6-7 on penalties aet)

Final
Levante 2 vs Twente 3

The Netherlands' Twente and Spanish side Levante faced little difficulty in making the Group Final, with a 6-0 win over Sturm Graz of Austria and a 4-0 win over Stjarnan of Iceland, respectively. Liz Rijsbergen (21) had staked host Twente to a 2-0 lead with a brace by the 17th minute; she is in her first season with the club after playing the past three seasons with ADO Den Haag and has been capped by the Netherlands at the U-20 level. For Levante, Gabi Nunes (26) of Brazil scored three goals—she is in her first season with the club after moving from CF Madrid over the summer. She won a Copa Libertadores Feminina title in 2019 with Corinthians of Sao Paulo and was on the Brazilian side at this past summer's WWC.

In the third place match on September 9, Starjnan won after 120 minutes of a 0-0 tie with Sturm Graz after nine penalty kick rounds (7-6). In the Group Final, Levante took a 2-0 lead by the 20th minute with goals by Spain's Paula Tomas (21) and Alba Redondo (27), who won a Women's World Cup this summer, but tied it up by half time; defender Sophie te Brake (20) of the Netherlands scored the winner in the 69th minute.

Sturm Graz of Austria used six imports from around Europe: Croatia (2), Denmark, Germany, Kosovo and Slovenia. Forward Modesta Ukda (24) is a Kosovo international who has been with Sturm Graz for years and was born in Austria. Their new head coach this season is former Austrian national Sargon Duran, who was an assistant coach to the Austrian WNT in 2021.

Stjarnan's two imports both have played in multiple Women's World Cups:

  • GK Erin McLeod (40) of Canada played in three Women's World Cups (2007, 2011 and 2015).
  • M Betsy Hassett (33) of New Zealand, who was on their 2023 WWC Finals team, which was her fourth consecutive tournament side.

Levante utilized three imports from CONMEBOL (two from Brazil and one from Colombia) along with three from Europe (one each from North Macedonia, Romania and Sweden).


Group 2:

Semi-finals
Juventus (ITA) 6 vs Okzhetpes (KAZ) 0
Eintracht Frankfurt (GER) 1 vs Slovácko (CZE) 0

Third-place match
Slovácko 3 vs Okzhetepes 0

Final
Juventus 1 vs Eintracht Frankfurt 1 (4-5 penalty kicks aet)

On September 6, Italy 2023 WWC Finalist Cristiana Girelli (33) scored twice as Juve tallied three times in each half in a canter of a 6-0 win over Kazakhstan's Okshetpes. In the other semifinal, host side Eintracht Frankfurt was held to a lone goal by Czech Republic side Slovacko, with Slovenian international forward Lara Prasnikar (25) scoring the winner in the 24th minute for Frankfurt.

Eintracht Frankfurt upset favored Juventus 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 tie in 120 minutes in the Group Final on September 9. Juventus fell at the Round of 16 stage last season. Slovacko defeated Okzhetpes (3-0) in the Third Place match.

Slovacko of Czech Republic utilized 6 imports from Slovakia and one each from Finland and the U.S.:

  • Midfielder Emmalina Tulkki (23) of Finland—she had one stint abroad in 2017-18 and won a league title with Linkoping in Sweden.
  • Forward Emily Mcnesby (23) of the U.S.—she played at the University of Maryland—College Park.

Okzhetpes of Kazakhstan used more imports than they have in their past WCL tournaments, using none in 2021/22 and 6 in 2022/23; this year they had seven from Europe and Africa:

  • D Anyuta Galstyan (22) Armenia—a full international.
  • D Zoubida El Bastali (21) Morocco—she joined Napoli in Italy in 2018 when they were in Serie C, where her sister lived, and then played on loan with Serie B sides Pomigliano and Roma Calcio. She returned to Morocco in 2021-22 with SCC Mohammedia for a season and last season with played with Wydad AC. She is a youth international.
  • M Oksanna Pizlova (22) Armenia—she has played at the youth and full national team level for Armenia and moved from Gyumri at home for the 2023-24 season.
  • M Pauline Agbotsu (23) Liberia—she started with Libera Determine Girls and is a full international; this season she became the first Liberian to play in the UEFA Women's Champions league. She has also played with BIIK in Kazakhstan.
  • M Klesha Rosa Darroux (24) England—the London native played collegiately at Louisiana Tech and Eastern Florida State College.
  • F Faustina Akop (22) Ghana.
  • F Yetunde Folashade Balogun (18) Nigeria.

Juventus, coached by Australian native and former Arsenal head coach Joe Montemurro, won three titles in his first season at the club in 2021-22 (Serie A, Italian Cup and Supercoppa Italiana) and made the WCL Quarterfinals, but lost the league title last season to Roma and didn't make it past the Group Stage in the WCL. This shocking Champions League elimination may force his club to win the Serie A title again or he could be let go by the club following the 2023-24 campaign. Juventus had 11 imports, including 5 from France, 3 from Sweden, and one each from Canada, Iceland and Netherlands. New this season are Estelle Cascarino (26) of France, who played last season with Manchester United of the WSL and was on France's WWC side this summer in Australia/New Zealand. Though not registered for the WCL games, Bosnia and Herzegovina international defender and teenager Gloria Sliskovic (18) has joined from SK 2000 at home, where she won the last two league titles.

French international midfielder Ella Palis (24) joined Juve this season after three seasons with Bordeaux, following on from four seasons at Guingamp. Also joining this season from Bordeaux is fellow French international midfielder Maelle Garbino (27), who played the past five seasons at Bordeaux following spells with Saint-Etienne and Olympique Lyonnais. French international forward Lindsey Thomas (28) joined Juve for the 2023-24 season from AC Milan, where she played the last two seasons and spent the two previous seasons at AC Roma, scoring 15 and 11 seasons respectively during her tenure at each club.


Group 3:

Semi-finals
Paris FC (FRA) 4 vs Kryvbas (UKR) 0
Arsenal (ENG) 3 vs Linköping (SWE) 0

Third-place match
Linköping 3 vs Kryvbas 0

Final
Arsenal 3 vs Paris FC 3 (2-4 Penalties aet)

In the semifinals on September 6, Paris FC defeated Kryvbas of Ukraine 4-0, with Julie Dufour (22) of France scoring a natural hat-trick; she is in her first season with the capital city club after three seasons in Bordeaux—where she scored three goals across 57 games. She has played multiple games at different French youth national team levels.

In the other match, Arsenal of England defeated host side Linkoping of Sweden 3-0, with two goals coming from 2023 Sweden WWC bronze medalists Lina Hurtig and Stina Blacksteinius, while Caitlin Foord—who's Australia team fell to Sweden in the third-place match last month—opened the scoring for the Gunners in the 53rd minute.

In the third place game on September 9, Michaela Abam—who was born in the U.S. but plays internationally for Cameroon, spent the two previous seasons with the Houston Dash and previously played in Spain for Real Betis (two seasons), Paris FC in France and in 2018 for Sky Blue FC (now NJ/NY Gotham FC) after finishing college at the University of West Virginia—scored twice for Linkoping in their 3-0 victory over Kryvbas.

Group 3 gave us another huge upset in the League Path, besides Juventus' loss to Frankfurt in Group 2, as Paris FC dropped Arsenal (3-3 and then 4-2 on penalties) and advanced to the group stage. England's 2023 WWC star Alessia Russo (24) and Mathide Bourdea (24), a French youth international who is in her seventh season with Paris FC, both had braces.

Kryvbas made their WCL league this season and utilized eight imports, with six from Africa and one each from Armenia and China:

  • G Mengdi Zhu (23) of China, played for her country at the U-17 level; she signed in August and is the first ever Chinese women's player in Ukraine and joined Kryvbas from Sichuan.
  • D Fatou Coulibaly (36) of Ivory Coast has over 30 caps for her nation and played in Cyprus.
  • D Ysis Sonkeng (33) of Cameroon has played in Israel and Sweden and been a member of the 2015 and 2019 WWC Finals sides for Cameroon.
  • D Kristina Aleksanyan (34) of Armenia has played for years in Russia and won four league titles with Zvezda Perm (2), Rossiyanka (1) and Ryazan (1).
  • M Enekia Kasonga Lunyamila (21) of Tanzania has scored 20 goals in 28 internationals for Tanzania and spent the last two seasons with Moroccan professional side Ausfaz assa Zag, where she scored more than a goal every game.
  • M Fatou Dembele (22) of Mali has played in Turkey and Morocco.
  • M Mahira Ali Eldanbouki (25) of Egypt, played last season with Wadi Degla SC of Egypt in the Women's African Champions League and the previous year won the first edition of the Egyptian Women's Cup with El Gouna. In 2018-19, she played in Canada with Ontario's Oakville Blue Devils and scored 34 goals in 21 games. She was an all-star in the Canadian summer league for both seasons and won the regular season title in 2019.
  • F Cynthia (Shilwatso) Musungu (24) of Kenya is a full international and played at home with Vilhiga Queens and with Logrono of Spain in 2020-21.
  • Coach Kostiantyn Frolov (51) is from Ukraine but has also coached in Georgia and Kazakhstan.

Linkoping of Sweden had six imports this season, two from Norway, two from Japan and one each from Cameroon and the Philippines—the latter being defender Angie Beard, who was raised in Australia and played for Philippines this summer at the Women's World Cup through parentage. She played for years for Melbourne Victory and also in Iceland and Denmark, and spent the 2022-23 season with Western United in Australia before joining Linkoping in August.

Arsenal was stocked with 18 imports, including three from Sweden, two each from Australia, Canada, Scotland, Switzerland, and one each from Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway and Spain. They are coached by Jonas Eidevall of Sweden, in his third season with the Gunners, who won three Damallsvenskan titles in two different stints with Rosengard of Malmo, Sweden.

New this season to Arsenal is 2023 Women's World Cup Winner Laia Codina (23) of Spain; the defender joined this summer from Barcelona. Fellow defender Amanda Illestedt of Sweden scored four goals this summer at the WWC as Sweden finished third; she played the previous two seasons at Paris St. Germain. Canadian World Cup forward Cloe Lacasse (30) moved earlier this summer to London after winning the last three league titles at Benfica in Portugal. Though not an import, England's Alessia Russo (24) was a star at the 2023 WWC for England's runners-up side with three goals in seven games; she scored 10 goals in 20 regular season games last season at Manchester United.


Group 4:

Semi-finals
Brøndby (DEN) 0 vs Celtic (SCO) 1
Minsk (BLR) 1 vs Vålerenga (NOR) 3

Third-place match
Brøndby 2 vs Minsk 1

Final
Vålerenga 2 vs Celtic 2 (11-10 on penalty kicks after AET)

Scottish international defender Kelly Clark (29) scored the only goal in the 69th minute as Celtic of Glasgow defeated Denmark's Brondby 1-0 in the semifinals on September 6. Celtic moved on to face host side Valerenga of Norway in the Group Final, in what many considered a toss-up after Valerenga defeated Minsk 3-1, after holding a 2-1 halftime lead, in the other semifinal.

Brondby won the third place game 2-1 over Minsk.

Valerenga moved onto second round after Elise Thorsnes (35) scored in dying seconds of overtime to tie up the match and send it to penalty kicks. There were 21 consecutive successful penalties made until American goalkeeper Kelsey Daughtery (26), who joined Celtic this season after playing with Alvadsness of Norway in 2022-23, missed in the 11th round. Daughtery signed a two year deal with Celtic and played last year at Racing Louisville in the NWSL and has also spent time with Chicago Red Stars, but not seeing any regular season action with either side. In 2019, she signed for Elitedivisionen side Fortuna Hjorring. During her time with the Danish club, she helped them to a league title and played in the WCL. She turned out for Damallsvenskan side Djurgardens IF in 2022 and 2023, making 35 appearances and collecting 12 clean sheets in Sweden.

Brøndby, after missing out last season, make their 20th WCL tournament. The Danish side had seven imports, mostly from Scandinavia, with two from Finland and one each from Norway, Iceland and Sweden, as well as one each from Germany and Poland

Minsk had four imports from nearby Russia and Joan Nabirye (25), a midfielder from Uganda.

Celtic used ten imports this season from the U.S. (3), England (2), China (2), France, Spain and Morocco, the latter being midfielder Nourimane Addi (26), who played at University of South Alabama last fall and narrowly missed the final 23 for this past summer's WWC and was not on the squad for last summer's Women's Africa Cup of Nations which Morocco hosted.

New this season besides Addi is French defender Celya Barclais (22), who joined from Stade de Reims and played for her nation at the U-17 level. Though not registered for the WCL games, Argentinian international defender Luana Munoz is also new to Celtic but did not make their Women's World Cup Finals team this summer.

She played at Tyler Community College in Texas and Texas Tech University; she was most recently with Racing de Avellaneda at home. Besides Kelsey Daugherty (see above), midfielder Murphy Agnew from the U.S. is also new and played at Harvard University and with the Newcastle Jets in Australia last winter. Paula Partido (18) of Spain has moved from Real Madrid and won a U-17 Women's World Cup in 2022 in India. For more on Celtic, see our review over the summer on the 2022-23 Scottish League season: The Week in Women's Football: Profiling Kaloyan Petkov; Celtic welcome Chinese starlets; Euro League reviews - Tribal Football).


Direct Entry in round 2 for Champions Path:

Slavia Praha (CZE)
Rosengård (SWE)
Roma (ITA)


Direct Entry in round 2 for League Path:

Wolfsburg (GER)
Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Real Madrid (ESP)
Sparta Praha (CZE)
Häcken (SWE)
Manchester United (ENG)



Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham is on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey




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