While mainstream football recovered from Euro 2012 smaller teams, i.e. completely unknown to most football writers, started their Champions League 2012/13 campaign with the preliminary round on July 3. Since then two rounds of qualifying matches as well as two play-off rounds have been played.
Red Bull Salzburg will miss out on Europe
The biggest upset in the second qualifying round was certainly the defeat of Red Bull Salzburg against F91 Dudelange from Luxembourg. The final score was 4-4 with Dudelange progressing on the away goal rule. This must be their biggest success in their history. They will now face NK Maribor from Slovenia.
Ironically, they played NK Maribor last year losing 5-1 on aggregate. Progress to the group stage is some way off but nonetheless this is a remarkable success for a club considered to be a minnow in comparison to Red Bull Salzburg, whose squad is worth €32m (compared to €3.5m for Dudelange). The current Austrian champion will miss out on Europe this season, which certainly will have consequences. After last season’s considerable success in coming second behind Athletic Bilbao ahead of Paris St. Germain, this is surely seen as a huge disappointment. How much this will fall back on the sporting director Ralf Rangnick remains to be seen.
Biggest Success in Luxemburg Football
In the third round for the Champions League the names get bigger and better known as FC Basel who managed to keep Manchester United at bay, Dynamo Zagreb, Partizan Belgrade and Helsingborg will enter the fray. The biggest name in this round are Celtic who as Scottish champions will face HJK Helsinki. So far Dudelange are the first team from Luxembourg to go this far in any European Competition.
Historically, Dudelange have not played a major role in Luxembourgian football. This has changed however when the millionaire Flavio Becca invested his money in the club and since has turned the club into a trophy winning machine. Since 2000 Dudelange have won 10 national league titles and have added 5 Cup triumphs, managing the double in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012.
Although NK Maribor proved once more too much for F91 Dudelange, they have nonetheless qualified for the Europa League play-off against Hapoel Tel Aviv. In doing so, Dudelange have gone further than no other team from Luxembourg in any European Cup competitions. Even though they failed to reach the group stages against Tel Aviv, they nonetheless have made history and had full media attention after they have eliminated Red Bull Salzburg. The champions of Luxembourg are one among the many teams that start their season without big media attention the likes of Barcelona, Milan or Arsenal receive for their Champions League campaigns once the competitions commences ‘for real’ on September 18. The first round started in July when most observers were still coming to terms with the final of the Euro 2012.