Group F Exceeds Expectations in Champions League

By Zachary Holden
Witters Sport – USA TODAY Sports

When the group stages were drawn in August for the UEFA Champions League, there were two standout groups of death. Group F contained Champions League runner-up Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Napoli and Olympique de Marseille, while Group H had Barcelona, Ajax, Celtic and AC Milan. Group H teetered off midway though the group stage, but Group F embraced its group of death status and wasn’t decided until the literal final minutes of the matches.

After the dust settled on the final match day of the group stages, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal advanced through and into the round of 16. But neither club’s journey came easily. In fact, Dortmund needed an 87th minute goal to qualify and subsequently win the group while Arsenal held on to its qualifying spot after a disappointing 2-0 loss to Napoli.

Let’s look at Dortmund’s path to finishing atop Group F this season. Fresh off their runner-up finish in last season’s competition, the Black and Yellows started the 2013-14 campaign with a shocking 2-1 loss to Napoli. Dortmund rebounded with a convincing 3-0 victory over Marseille and an impressive 2-1 win at Arsenal in the midst of the Gunners’ 12-match unbeaten streak. A 1-0 home loss to Arsenal kicked off the final three matches for Dortmund who then followed the loss with a 3-0 statement win over Napoli which set them up to secure a spot in the knockout stage. Going into the final match against Marseille, Dortmund needed a win to move on. Level 1-1 heading into the final minutes, Kevin Grosskreutz’s curling shot in the 87th minute sent the BVB into the Champions League round of 16.

As for Arsenal, the path to the round of 16 was a bit smoother than Dortmund’s, but it still wasn’t set until the final day. The Gunners started the campaign with a pair of wins, 2-1 at Marseille then 2-0 against Napoli to take over first place in the group. A stumble at home against Dortmund still saw Arsenal in position to qualify, but with three matches left anything was possible. The Gunners exacted revenge on Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion and followed that with another win over Marseille. Heading into the final match against Napoli, the Gunners needed a draw to clinch a round of 16 spot or needed to lose by less than three goals to ensure Napoli and Dortmund did not leap them in the table. A lackluster performance by the Premier League leaders saw Napoli win 2-0, not enough for the Blues to jump the Gunners for second place in the group.

With the group stages done, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal have an idea of the opposition they may face in the round of 16. Dortmund will face one of the following: Galatasaray, Olympiacos, Manchester City, Zenit or AC Milan. As for Arsenal, the potential matchups aren’t as favorable. Reigning Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, current Champions League holders Bayern Munich, La Liga titleholders Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid await the Gunners in the round of 16.

Regardless of whom the two teams advancing from Group F are drawn against, one thing is for sure; the group of death lived up to its name. In the round of 16, the two survivors of death could very well have another deadly matchup on their hands.

Zachary Holden is a Soccer writer for Follow him on Twitter (@Zachary_Holden), “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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