Athens (dpa) – Marcel Schäfer could hardly believe it. “The disappointment is enormous,” said the VfL Wolfsburg sports director after missing the Europa League.
“We’ve always stressed that our goal is to play in Europe. We couldn’t and it’s hard to put into words.”
The Bundesliga club, like last year, would have had to survive three qualifying rounds to reach the group stage of this international competition. But in injury time of the third game, the totally unexpected end came. Iranian striker Karim Ansarifard scored 2: 1 (0: 1) for the Greek top club AEK Athens (90th + 4).
“It’s incredibly bitter when you get 2-1 in the last action. We really wanted to win the game in regular time and then we were countered,” said coach Oliver Glasner. The half time due to a goal by Admir Mehmedi (45th + 1), the two previous victories against FK Kukesi from Albania (4-0) and Desna Tschernihiw from the (4-0): All this was no longer worth anything to VfL. On Sunday (3.30 pm / Sky) he now has to play a home game of the Bundesliga against FC Augsburg. Then the club gets some distance from the stressful first weeks of this season during the international break.
The failures of these qualifiers are nothing new for a Bundesliga club. Hertha BSC lost at this level once to Brondby IF from Copenhagen. Mainz 05 (against Gaz Metan Media from Romania) or SC Freiburg (against NK Domzale from Slovenia) were even eliminated against much less known opponents.
But at VfL the fall was particularly high. Lower Saxony only lost sixth place in the rankings on the last day of the last Bundesliga season and with that a direct qualification for the Europa League. Being able to profile yourself internationally is very important for the parent company Volkswagen in football. It was not until the day of the match in Athens that the club signed Mainz 05’s German U21 national player Ridle Baku for around ten million euros, also to better cope with the hoped-for Europa League burden against Christmas.
But the six group matches from October 22 to December 10 have now been canceled at VfL. Also for achieving preliminary round income of approximately three million euros. In fact, this amount could have increased significantly due to points and victory bonuses. “Sporty and economical, it makes a huge difference whether you are there or not”, sports director Jörg Schmadtke told the “Sportbuzzer” before this bitter departure.