With Oliver Buff: Lithuanian club makes football history

Oliver Buff (far right) makes football history in Lithuania.IMAGO / Bildbyran

28.07.2022, 12:5328.07.2022, 17:26

FK Zalgiris Vilnius is probably unknown to many Swiss football fans. That’s no surprise, after all, the reigning Lithuanian champions haven’t broken any big ropes internationally yet. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, the Baltic underdogs threw out Swedish champions Malmö FF in Champions League qualifying, who reached the 2018/19 and 2019/20 Europa League round of 16 and made it into the group stage of the Champions League in 2021/22.

Zalgiris won the first leg at home 1-0, the second leg in Malmö, whose captain Anders Christiansen was sent off, yesterday even 2-0. It is already clear that Vilnius is at least in the Conference League group stage. It’s the first time ever that a team from Lithuania can qualify for a European group stage.

And right in the middle: a Swiss. Oliver Buff, once U17 world champion with Switzerland, moved to Vilnius last March. Two weeks ago he was optimistic in the “Luzerner Zeitung” and said: “In terms of quality, we should qualify for European competition. It probably won’t be the Champions League. But at least the Conference League should be in there.”

In the sensation against the Swedish champions, Buff was in the starting XI in both games. Yesterday he initiated the victory with the assist to make it 1-0 for the guests.

Buff launches teammate Mathias Oyewusi, who scores 0-1 for Zalgiris. Video: streamja

While the big jubilation storm broke out in Vilnius, frustration dominated in Malmö. The Sweden side were whistled at by their own fans and coach Milos Milojevic in particular received boos and calls for his resignation. The Swedish newspaper “Aftonbladet” wrote of a “fiasco” and that the team “didn’t even come close to progressing”.

That shouldn’t matter at all to FK Zalgiris Vilnius. He put Lithuania, where basketball, not football, is the most popular sport, on the UEFA map. That leaves just 11 UEFA members never featured in a European group stage (for as long as we can remember): Liechtenstein, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Malta, Wales, Andorra, Montenegro and San Marino. (aboo)

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Europe’s record champions in football

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Europe’s record champions in football

quelle: keystone / rodrigo jimenez

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