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This Week In Football: Antwerp in the Champions League, Breiðablik take Iceland to Europe & more

Continental competitions once again dominate the agenda of our column as the UEFA qualifiers drew to a close and the second legs of the CONMEBOL quarter-finals were played out.

Here are the five biggest matches and results:

🌍 UEFA Champions League Qualifiers: AEK Athens 1-2 Royal Antwerp (1-3 on aggregate)

The UEFA Champions League qualifiers finally ended after a long summer, and the biggest story was the success of Royal Antwerp.

Having lifted their first league title since 1957 in incredibly dramatic fashion at the end of last season, they still had some work to do to seal a spot in Europe’s premier club competition for just the second time in their history.

They were quite fortunate to come away with a 1-0 win at home because AEK missed a lot of chances, especially after Antwerp went down to 10 men.

The Greek side were made to regret them even more in the second leg, as they could not convert their dominance into too many good chances this time and ultimately went down to goals from Gyrano Kerk and Michel Ange Balikwisha late in the second half.

Drawn in Group H with Barcelona, FC Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk, Antwerp might fancy their chances of a European knockout run as well this season.

🌍 UEFA Europa Conference League Qualifiers: Breiðablik 1-0 FC Struga (2-0 on aggregate)

We have been banging on about how the Europa Conference League is the best thing UEFA have ever done, but we have good reason to continue this week.

As Breiðablik got the better of FC Struga, Iceland became the ninth different nation to get a first-time representative in a UEFA competition since the Europa Conference League kicked off.

This season alone, we have had a couple of others in the shape of Bosnia and Herzegovina through Zrinjski Mostar and the Faroe Islands through KÍ.

This was also a huge result for Nordic football, as each of the UEFA-recognised nations in the region will have a team in continental groups for the first time – and the last time in quite a while at least.

🏆 Copa Libertadores: Olimpia 1-3 Fluminense (1-5 on aggregate)

Olimpia made some big waves in the Copa Libertadores’ Round of 16 by sending Brazilian giants Flamengo packing, but their run has come to an end now at the hands of the other Rio de Janeiro giant Fluminense.

There must have been an element of revenge in the visitors’ motivations, not for their local rivals but for themselves as they had suffered elimination from the Copa Libertadores at the hands of Olimpia in both of their previous meetings.

They made sure no such thing happened this time with a comfortable 2-0 win at home backed up by a 3-1 success in the second leg.

Given their historical standing, it may surprise some to learn that this is just the second time ever that Fluminense have advanced past the quarter-final stage of the Copa Libertadores.

The last time they did so was in 2008 when they went one step further before losing the final to LDU de Quito.

🏆 Copa Sudamericana: Fortaleza 2-1 América MG (5-2 on aggregate)

There was more success for Brazilian sides in the Copa Sudamericana, where two of the four semi-finalists are from the country.

We were guaranteed at least one when Fortaleza and América MG came across each other in the quarter-final, but progression would mean a lot for either side individually.

Both of them won a continental tie for the first time in the competition this season, so they were now looking to get to a semi-final for the first time.

Fortaleza got the job done quite comfortably in the end with a 5-2 aggregate victory, and unsurprisingly given the fact that they have been much better domestically.

This result might not be too bad for América MG, who need to get their act together in the league where they are rock bottom and eight points from safety.

🌍 UEFA Europa League Qualifiers: Aberdeen 1-3 BK Häcken (3-5 on aggregate)

Let us circle back to Europe for our last match for the week, which is a Europa League play-off tie.

Swedish champions BK Häcken secured their continental group stage debut in the second-tier competition with a crucial win away in Scotland.

After getting knocked out of the Champions League at the hands of Faroese champions KÍ, they have done well to stay in the Europa League at least by beating Žalgiris of Lithuania and now Aberdeen.

This is not the worst of results for the Dons who will stay appear in Europe this season in the Conference League, but it contributes to what has been a horrific week for Scottish clubs in UEFA qualifiers.

In addition to this loss, Rangers were knocked out of the Champions League by PSV Eindhoven, Hearts got thrashed by PAOK and Hibernian took a hiding against Aston Villa in the Conference League, so the coefficient has taken some serious hits.

Stats courtesy Transfermarkt.

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