Growing character takes European champions Barca to next level
Barcelona displayed their mental growth as they conquered Europe for the second time with a stunning comeback victory over Wolfsburg in the women's Champions League final.
After suffering a defeat labelled "traumatic" by captain Alexia Putellas against Lyon in last season's final, Jonatan Giraldez's side seemed to be collapsing again in the season's showpiece event in Eindhoven.
However Patri Guijarro's brace and Fridolina Rolfo's winner helped the Catalans triumph 3-2 at the PSV Stadium, with a remarkable second-half turnaround showing they have progressed to the next level.
Coach Giraldez said that kind of steely mentality was something which the team had been working on attaining this season.
"In football there are sometimes more important things, it's not enough just to play well," Giraldez told reporters.
"Today, character was key. They did not let themselves sink. They came out with an incredible attitude and that is important.
"We have worked on that through the season, that in the bad moments you have to give the best version of yourself."
Defeat would have been a big set-back, with the club determined to dominate women's football, reaching four of the last five finals.
Barcelona played their first Champions League final in 2019, when Lyon steamrollered them 4-1, netting four goals inside the first 30 minutes.
They won their second in 2021, inflicting the same misery on Chelsea -- hitting four by the 36th minute.
Last season it was their turn to collapse against Lyon, conceding three in the first 33 minutes, with Putellas pulling one back in a 3-1 defeat.
After Ewa Pajor and Alexandra Popp struck early on for Tommy Stroot's Wolfsburg, history seemed to be repeating itself once more.
Barcelona's mentality is not the same now as it was then, though, with the club taking steps forward each year in their bid to lead women's football in the 2020s, as record eight-time winners Lyon did in the 2010s.
Barcelona defender Lucy Bronze made a mistake for Wolfsburg's opener, giving the ball away under pressure from Pajor, who finished well.
However she said her team always believed in themselves to come back, despite how difficult a task it was.
"I don't think we were ever worried about scoring three goals, which is a crazy feat, and that's the talent of this team," Bronze told DAZN.
Giraldez hailed Bronze's ability to brush off her mistake and play the 90 minutes.
"One of the most important things after making a mistake is how you react," said Giraldez.
"The winger didn't beat Lucy at any time -- some players can go down (in morale), Lucy's reaction was magnificent."
Player of the match Guijarro said coming from two goals behind in a final is "so difficult", but praised the team's mental strength.
A superstition called the "theory of two" was shared by Barcelona fans in the lead up to the game, with the players also discussing it among themselves.
The theory supposedly indicated Barcelona were going to win the Champions League because it was their second, while Putellas has two Ballons d'Or and the game was two years after their last triumph, among other lighthearted 'two' related reasons.
"On special days we are used to taking small beliefs and keeping them in mind, to give us strength," Guijarro told reporters.
"In the first Champions League win, we played with this all the time, we did silly things to bring us luck.
"With the theory of two, it set our minds in the way they should be. These are things that don't make you win, but they give you a vibe and a connection with your team-mates, it adds something. It's something that helps the mind."
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