The Champions League isn’t for everyone, the Europa League isn’t for everyone but the Europa Conference League group stages — they are still within Linfield’s reach.
Zurich, who took Qarabag to extra time after two legs, look poised to march on in the Europa League and take their passionate travelling support to Edinburgh where Hearts await.
The Swiss champions did what Bodo/Glimt couldn’t do at Windsor Park — they turned up.
Linfield saw a few chances come to nothing but their opponents had flair, firepower and were in no mood to suffer the same fate as Bodo.
Zurich, roared on by their merry band of boisterous fans in the North Stand, have endured a lacklustre start to their title defence but there were little signs this was a wounded animal.
A few early raids down the flanks underlined the Blues’ desire to stamp their authority on the contest but a polished move from the slick Swiss wasn’t in David Healy’s perfect script. One clever back-heel, one cool finish and the men in black were in charge.
Aiyegun Tosin punctured the Linfield backline and gave their noisy following reason to keep singing.
Linfield behind at Windsor Park? Was this really happening?
Pressure from Zurich led to a yellow card for Ben Hall but there was almost a first Linfield goal for Robbie McDaid as keeper Yanick Brecher managed to scoop the ball to safety.
Linfield needed to tread carefully. The desire to strike back was natural but Franco Foda’s boys carried a genuine attacking threat and the tie could have slipped away fast. Jonathan Okita’s curling effort almost inflicted more damage.
Zurich have a healthy dose of pace and tricks in their ranks and are dangerous on the break. In possession they are composed and rarely panic.
McDaid was forced off with an injury but Joel Cooper replaced him as the home side made a confident start to the second half.
Cooper’s driving runs into the box had the fans on their feet but when he crashed to the ground as a challenge came in, referee Marco di Bello waved away the penalty shout.
The dangerous Wilfred Gnonto was given time and space to make it 2-0 and Linfield were pushed back on the ropes. When Stephen Fallon drove a decent chance over the bar, it was another indication this wasn’t going to be the Blues’ night.
But Healy’s men are still in the group stage fight.
Just as Northern Ireland’s athletes step up at the Commonwealth Games, Linfield still have a golden opportunity to put a League which has been neglected and ridiculed for so many years on the European map.
Group stage qualification would raise the League’s profile to new heights and send out a message to cynics that this is a party that is worth joining.
It wouldn’t be arrogant to suggest that the Europa Conference League clash with RFS (Latvia) or Hibernians (Malta) is winnable for Linfield.
It’s 1-1 in that one and on a bigger knife edge than this tie.
That potential clash certainly looks a less complicated assignment than this Zurich side, though on the European stage you can underestimate no one.
There will be some atmosphere at the impressive Letzigrund which has a capacity of just shy of 31,000 and the players should bring their ear plugs.
After what happened in Norway, Linfield will be anxious to avoid another heavy loss but you could forgive them for already looking beyond their Switzerland journey.