For a few short seconds last week, Arianna Caruso felt like a whole lot of us who had just watched Juventus Women claim a last-gasp 2-2 draw against Wolfsburg in the Bianconere’s third game of the Women’s Champions League group stage. Caruso, Juve’s 22-year-old star in the making, gave Cristiana Girelli, the player responsible for both of the Bianconere’s goals, the hug of all hugs. Caruso pulled back for a second, almost with a look of awe on her face in regard to what Girelli just did.
And maybe what the second half of her two-goal night meant to Juve as a whole.
Girelli’s late-game heroics not only sent the 10,000-plus in attendance at the Juventus Stadium into quite the frenzy, but it kept Juventus Women’s hopes of advancing to the Women’s Champions League knockout round an actual possibility heading into the second half of group stage play. It’s a picture that will become a little more clear when Juve travel to Germany to face that same Wolfsburg squad on Thursday night.
Now, it won’t be easy, and that is just the truth of the matter when you know full well that Chelsea and Wolfsburg are currently doing what the two favorites should do — be above Juve in the standings. And while I haven’t personally asked first-year manager Joe Montemurro if this is the kind of situation in Group A that he would have been OK with at the midway point of the group stage, I have to think he would have been pretty OK with (all things considered) it knowing what’s still to come.
This shows what the value of Girelli’s 91st-minute goal truly is. If the score had stayed 2-1 in favor of Wolfsburg, Juve’s going into the trip to Germany with one win and two losses to their group stage record and four points out of second place in Group A.
But because Girelli did what she did — and then celebrated like Alessandro Del Piero because it was Pinturicchio’s birthday and she idolized ADP growing up — the distance between the second- and third-place teams in the group looks a whole lot different now.
And that means that Juve’s chances of advancing are still very much alive.
Of course, Juve will need to not only not lose against Wolfsburg on Thursday night but also get a little bit of help from Chelsea before the group stage comes to an end. They are still a point behind Wolfsburg, and even if the two sides draw Thursday night then they will definitely need help from Chelsea in their second match with Wolfsburg next month.
The chess match between Montemurro and Wolfsburg manager Tommy Stroot will be a fun one to watch considering these two teams played each other all of a week ago. Montemurro admitted in his pre-match press conference that he knows Wolfsburg will be a tough out for the simple fact that they’re now the ones playing at home.
What the Juve women have working against them is the fact that their two remaining away fixtures are against the two toughest teams in the group. Sure, it would be great if Juve had already made the trip to London or Germany already, but with two of the biggest group stage games already having been played at the Juventus Stadium, now Montemurro’s squad is tasked with the reality that trying to get any kind of points in the next two European fixtures will have to be done away from home.
It’s not going to be easy.
It never was going to be easy.
That’s just what happens when you’re in Pot 3 and two of the best clubs in Europe end up being in the same group that you are.
But to make a legitimate run at being one of the final eight teams left standing in the Women’s Champions League this season, this is the time for Juve to make their move and make things interesting as hell. Or, shoot, more interesting than they already are.
So much of the reason why Montemurro was hired was due to the fact that the Juventus Women front office wanted to become more of a competitive team in Europe and to potentially make some sort of run in the Women’s Champions League. When you’ve gone over 50 games domestically without suffering a loss like this team has following last weekend’s 5-0 shellacking of Lazio, it’s only natural to think that way.
As we know, beating Wolfsburg will take a truly special kind of effort, and Juve needed some stoppage-time Girelli heroics just to get a point the first time around. But if they do manage to keep things interesting on this latest European night, then the hopes can be extended — at least another round.