let me dream a little dream…

 

had a really bad week and lost one year out of his contract: bayern coach louis van gaal, great in football, bad in relationships...

bayern munich is in a crisis. in the most important week of the season so far, the most successful team in germany lost their bundesliga home match against virtual champions borussia dortmund by 1×3. the win was deserved for dortmund, but bayern wasn’t really worse, they were unlucky in front and had some mistakes in the back. this season, it has been a normal occasion that almost every defensive mistake results into a goal against bayern, maybe with the exception of the internazionale match in the champions league.

after that disappointment, bayern would entertain schalke 04 at home, for the german cup semifinal; last year, in the same matchup, bayern beat schalke in gelsenkirchen with a dream-goal by arjen robben; but robben wasn’t able to deliver, always playing against to oponnents in the defense, and bayern lost after a goal early in the first half. this time, bayern was the better team, but they just didn’t manage to score a goal, which would probably have seen them through. the pressure was on for the next match, since bayern had fallen to 4th place in the bundesliga, right behind hannover 96, and need at least 3rd place to qualify for the champions league. qualification for next year’s european competition is a must, since the final will be in the allianz arena in munich, and bayern wants to be there. and the team wouldn’t disappoint; one can lose the cup, and even to be beaten by borussia dortmund this season is no real bummer, although it is an image problem, since bayern claims to be germany’s number one. but the matches before those two defeats were almost all very well played, and mostly won – even the deserved 1×0 victory against the holding champions of europe, internazionale milano. so this away match against 3rd placed hannover was a good way out of a mini-crisis, getting 3rd place back with a convincing win.

 

possible or even likely coach for 2011/12 season? jupp heynckes, bayern coach from 87-91 and in 2009, and a good friend of club president hoeness (left)

but what happened was the worse of the three defeats. hannover deserved the victory even more than dortmund a week earlier, and 3rd place is now 5 points away, with 2nd place (guarantees a spot in the group phase) now a whopping 7 points away (bayer leverkusen). uli hoeness, who really doesn’t like his dutch coach louis van gaal, had said in an interview in the beginning of the year that if 2nd place came into danger, things might get complicated for the coach; he even mentioned jürgen klinsmann’s sacking two years ago, as a warning example.

after the defeat in hannover, president hoeness left with only one comment: “now is no time to talk, it’s time to act”. it can’t get much clearer than that. but since karlheinz rummenigge, bayern’s boss, is responsible for the decisions, reason beat emotion.

 

hoeness' and my dream coach after 2012: jürgen klopp, currently borussia dormtund.

yes, bayern has lost three key matches, and in a row – first time this happened in 11 years. and it does seem that louis van gaal is to stubborn to change his tactics, which have not only been figured out by the opponents, but also finally reacted to, tactically. it seems that you only need to double robben and ribéry on both sides, have a midfielder follow müller, and another one attacking the defensive midfielder who has the ball, either schweinsteiger or luiz gustavo (prajnic); since those are loosing balls due to the pressure, the opponents have been able o create counter attacks, and most of them have been deadly; i wouldn’t even blame the defenders, it just is a very offensive tactic that van gaal follows, in his persuit of attractive football. schweinsteiger, lahm and badstuber have been out of form lately, and brazilian defender breno spoiled his increasing chances with his red card in hannover.

bayern munich decided not to sack louis van gaal, but he will leave the club at the end of the season. van gaal is a brilliant coach, maybe the best football teacher bayern has ever had. but his personality is a problem; his arrogance has made things difficult with quite a few players who left the club because of him (lucio, van bommel, demichelis) and with some that still are in the team (butt, van buyten, ribéry and even robben). van gaal has a tendency to criticise players who he feels are being too celebrated by the media (as done recently with young goalie kraft or earlier with thomas müller); he also thinks he’s always right, which makes life difficult with his bosses christian nerlinger (team manager), kalle rummenigge (club boss) and uli hoeness (club president), all ex-internationals and highly decorated football specialists. this without mentioning honorary president franz beckenbauer! his inability to have that extra sensibility for situations and feelings have cut his stay at bayern shorter than expected, and this is sad.

 

why not jogi? löws contract with germany ends after euro 2012; maybe he wants to go back to club football after that?

but it is also an opportunity. van gaal can’t win the bundesliga or the german cup on his way out, but he is proud enough to do everything he cans to leave on top – with a champions league title! he reached the final last year (besides winning both titles he’s lost this year), but lost the final to inter; next tuesday, bayern has a huge chance to eliminate inter and continue to dream of the title. and after these turbulent days, either everyone (players and coach) reacts in a negative way (the coach has been demoralized, the players don’t feel they need to follow him) or in a positive way – now or never! bayern’s chances of winning the champions league, in my optimistic opinion, have just increased with these three defeats and the whole debate about sacking van gaal; and the players will surely want to show character, since other defeats will only lead to the conclusion that the team is weak in personality.

the second dream concerns who might join bayern. ideally, jupp heynckes (or even ottmar hitzfeld) would join bayern munich for a third stint. jupp is a close friend of uli hoeness and understands how the bayern family works. he’s pretty advanced in age and would only be able to stay for one season; currently, he’s been successful with bayer leverkusen, so he still has the goods. and after 2012, jürgen klopp or even jogi löw could take over as head coach, to start a new era at bayern. personally i’d hope for klopp, who is currenlty leading dortmund to a fantastic bundesliga title. after the glory, things might be complicated for him next season, and bayern would then grab him for 2012.

the other candidates being discussed are matthias sammer (i don’t want him), guus hiddink (great, but another dutch, really?), martin jol (also dutch, but i like his style and persona) or even frank rijkaard (yes, yet another dutchman). from the bundesliga, thomas tuchel would be kind of a bet, but i would sign on. no one has mentioned him yet.

but here’s the dream: champions league glory with van gaal, then a year of good old jupp, and finally jürgen klopp; but jogi löw would do, too. 😉

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 13:35  Leave a Comment  
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thank you, mark van bommel!

he will be missed: bayern's ex-captain van bommel announced the move o ac milan today.

i’ve been a fan of mark van bommel as a football player for a long time. since his days at psv eindhoven, mostly that semifinal campaign in the 2004/05 season, when the dutch player was a strong leader and led the team into the semifinal of the uefa champions league, alongside veteran phillip cocu. van bommel had started his career at fortuna sittard, from where he moved the the national top club at the age of 22. after his great season in 2005, fc barcelona hired the  high scoring defensive midfielder (around 60 goals in 320 appearances). it wasn’t the best of seasons for van bommel, who wanted more playing time at his prime age for playing football. although he played and won the uefa champions league final against arsenal in 2006, van bommel decided to move to bayern munich, hoping that he would get more playing time and still add some highlights to his career.

today, after 4 and a half great years for the club and a great performance last weekend, van bommel announced he’s leaving the club. at age 33 and quickly moving to 34, bayern had told their captain (since 2008) that he would not get a new extension. ac milan bought the “old” star, who is still younger than his landsman clarence seedorf and might replace him in the italian’s midfield. van bommel, who became national team captain after the world cup, probably received an 18 month contract. his role in the bayern family might someday bring him back to the club, though.

classic van bommel...

after all, the time at bayern did provide him with some career highlights, almost crowning it last may:

  • van bommel was elected bayern player of the season 2006-07, his first season at the club, beating favorites makaay, scholl and kahn
  • he won the bundesliga and the german cup in may of 2008
  • after oliver kahn’s retirement in 2008, he became the first non-german to captain bayern munich, selected by jürgen klinsmann and confirmed by louis van gaal in 2009.
  • in may 2010, van bommel won the bundesliga and the german cup for the second time, first time as the captain and the one to receive the trophies. he also played the uefa champions league final, which he lost to inter.
  • in july, he played in the world cup final, probably the biggest match in his career; he had a good tournament, but had a bad final, only appearing to the public due to his violent playing style

mark van bommel has earned great respect and admiration from bayern fans anywhere mostly for his behavior outside of the pitch, with his good humor, seriousness, wise words and natural leadership. his playing style is sometimes a little rough (and he gets a lot of yellow cards), but he has a great eye for passes into the holes of the defense and great organizational skills.

bayern need not worry, in terms of quality. luis gustavo will grow into an important role for bayern, anatoly tymoshchuk also deserves a chance in his favorite position; i even think the ukranian has a tad more quality to offer. and the hierarchy without the captain is okay, with schweinsteiger being the chef on the field, and lahm the new and good captain (great media work). for phillipp lahm, it is a dream come true: to become the captain of his home team, in his home town; almost more important than being captain of the german national team. but, as mentioned before, it is bastian schweinsteiger who will take over on the pitch.

bayern in the hands of the bavarian: captain lahm and chef schweinsteiger were both born in munich.

still, van bommel will be missed for the remainder of the season. i wish he’d stayed to try for a champions league title, but his decision to move to milan now is actually the best one for him, at his age. thanks for all, though.

(yes, if you didn’t know it, i am a bayern munich fan)

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 13:06  Comments (1)  

my most intense sport moments of 2010

notice that this is a personal list of how i perceived this year’s sport events. the most intense sport moments of 2010, in chronological order.

february 16, whistler (canada)

anastasiya kuzmina from slovakia had won the first gold medal of the olympic games in female biathlon, just two seconds ahead of german star magdalena neuner in her first olympic games. but right in the beginning of the pursuit race, neuner passes her rival and increases her advantage after two error-free shootings to an incredible advantage. in the fourth and last shooting, neuner makes her second mistake and kuzmina has a perfect shooting, but it is not enough -12 seconds advantage at the end give the young bavarian her first ever olympic gold medal.

february 21, whistler (canada)

in the 12.5 km mass start, only 13 of the 30 starters make a mistake in the first shooting – and neuner is one of them. after her perfect second shooting, she was now in 8th place, still dreaming of a medal, but another mistake in her third shooting made it look tough. thanks to a perfect fourth shooting and her incredible pace on the slopes, magdalena neuner manages the incredible and wins her second gold medal – an even more exciting race than the one five days earlier.

march 9, fiore (italy)

in a cold, windy day, the people from fiore were all there, seemingly. it was the greatest day in football for this italian town, that had had european glory, but never in the main competition, the champions league. to eliminate bayern would be their biggest success ever, and the players knew it; bayern couldn’t control the wind or the opponent, and early in the second half, fiorentina were up by 2×0. mark van bommel managed to score a lucky goal at the mark of 60 minutes, but the dream of extra time vanished only minutes later with jovetic’s second strike against a desolate defense, 3×1. the italians looked like the certain winners now, but just a minute later, arjen robben silenced the crowd with an incredible masterpiece of a shot. with luck and robben, bayern were through to the quarterfinals.

march 24, gelsenkirchen (germany)

what a semifinal match between schalke and bayern for the german cup. the kind of 0x0 that lifts the soul, good football and very nerve breaking. but even with the stress in the weeks before, and with only a few minutes to play in extra-time, arjen robben takes the ball, dribbles passed five people and concludes with a perfect shot – the goal of the year, and once again such a decisive one!

march 30, munich (germany)

it didn’t look good at all for the home team. rooney had scored an early goal, and bayern were trying to get the best possible result since then; they dominated the match, but weren’t able to convert their advantage into goals; only ribéry was able to score a goal against the favorites and 2008 champs, and that goal only came in the 77th minute. in stoppage time, the 3-minute mark was coming close as mario gomez won a ball against rooney in midfield and somehow got it to the united box, where evra lost orientation for a second and olic scored the most exctiting goal of this life. incredible! 2×1 and munich now had a chance!

april 3, gelsenkirchen (germany)

schalke against bayern – the decisive match for the title race in the bundesliga, where felix magath’s team could’ve made a great leap towards the title with a simple victory over their pursuers. bayern, though, scored twice in the first half, conceded a goal and got a red card very early in the game. but they were able to play the match so well and united that schalke did not have one goal scoring chance in the second half, running away with the victory and, finally, with the leadership in the table.

april 6, barcelona (spain)

lionel messi wrote his name in golden letters that evening. historians might call this the greatest performance ever by a football player, in history. against arsenal fc in the quarterfinals of the uefa champions league, messi’s game was near perfection even without scoring a single goal; but he scored four, after arsenal had scored the first goal of the match. 4×1 final score, four messi goals in a perfect night for the argentinian, who marked his name as the best of the world – and applied for the “best of all time” category, although he’ll need a world cup victory to state that claim.

april 7, manchester (england)

what a day. manchester seemed to show that olic’s last-second goal wouldn’t matter at all. they demonstrated modern, fast and agressive football in the first 45 minutes, scoring three goals even without a good rooney (but with a great nani), and even olic’s goal right before the break didn’t seem to change that fact. in the second half, bayern were more present, but still found it difficult to score what would be a decisive 2×3. but they did: corner kick ribéry, volley from 20 meters by robben – perfect goal, a third all-decisive goal of the year for the incredible dutch! after that, bayern controlled the game and manchester had no answers. olic’s goal from the first leg was worth gold, after all.

april 28, barcelona (spain)

the last ten minutes of fc barcelona’s semifinal second leg match against internazionale milan were some of the best sporting minutes of the year. inter had held  0x0 for a long time, and they could lose 0x1 and still advance to the final; but after piqué scored a beautiful goal, the nou camp became an inferno for the italian team (playing without a single italian player); attack after attack rolled onto julio cesar’s goal, and some luck was involved, mixed with a lot of talent. in stoppage time, barcelona scored for the second time, which would see the holders of the title advancing to the final. but the goal was disallowed, and inter advanced. what a match!

may 15, berlin (germany)

what a match. bayern played almost perfect football in the german cup final against holders werder bremen. beautiful, efficient, dominating, fast. 4×0 was the final score, and the second title was in the sack for bayern; trully a great moment for louis van gaal and his football philosophy.

may 22, madrid (spain)

the uefa champions league final was too important to really be a fantastic game. bayern had the ball possession, inter the wit and experience; diego milito and wesley sneijder made the difference on the positive side, daniel van buyten and martin demichelis on the negative one. 2×0 to inter, in a game that seemed more like a 0x0.

may 30, istanbul (turkey)

in the most exciting championship race in history, race 7 had everything to be spectacular. mark webber and sebastian vettel led the pack with equal points but more wins for the australian, who had just won monaco. alonso had 75 points, only 3 points behind the duo, and button had 70, with felipe massa at 61. lewis hamilton, the most spectacular driver of the year thus far, wasn’t even in the top five. and it was a battle between red bull and mclaren, between webber (pole man) and vettel, between hamilton and button. and between all four, who were racing on similar pace through the circuit during most of the race. vettel an edge faster than the leading team mate, and with hamilton pressing him. so he attemped a pass, encouraged by his mechanic – but webber didn’t know of it, closed the door, and the two drivers crashed. vettel was out, webber still managed third, but the race was not over; in sight of the red bull drama, mclaren advised their drivers to “save fuel”, in other words, hold positions. hamilton thought he was okay, but button still attacked him and passed with an incredible move. hamilton was determined not to let that happened and answered in specatular fashion. incredible! great race, and hamilton now emerged in third place in the standings – two places ahead of vettel, with mark webber still leading the pack.

june 11, johannesburg (south africa)

a pretty good opening match, but what  a goal by tchabalala, to erupt the stadium and the hearts of all african people. a singular moment in this sport year.

june 13, durban (south africa)

finally the world cup gets started in terms of quality. germany plays a perfect match and impresses the whole world with its incredible speed and light way of playing, a new kind of “beautiful game”. 4×0 against australia, who didn’t lose after that and had a good world cup in 2006. mesut özil, now at real madrid, appears to the world for the first time, even without scoring a goal – that’s how well he played.

june 23, london (england)

john isner against nicolas mahut. no one could have guessed that this might have been one of the most exciting moments in tennis history, but it was. round 1 in wimbledon, court 18. the match had started one day earlier, with four sets completed and a fifth set in need; darkness was the reason for the ending of the playing that day. basically what happened is that the american and the frenchman played the whole day and still didn’t find a winner between them, due to the rule that you have to outscore your opponent by two games in a grand slam fifth set match, no tie breaks allowed. 59-59 was the astonishing score after that day, and for the second time, darkness impeded that match to be concluded. the match was concluded a day later, with an incredible 70-68 scoreline.

june 23, pretoria (south africa)

another american victory on the same day, and what a victory: landon donovan’s deciding goal in stoppage time was one of the most deserving lucky strikes in this sports year and in any fifa world cup. the us had been denied a couple of decisive goals and would face elimination without the life-saving strike by the american soccer star.

june 24, johannesburg (south africa)

the reigning champions are eliminated in last place of their group, after a gripping second half in the match against slovakia, who qualified for the knockout stage with an incredible 3×2 victory – many beautiful goals, lots of drama and an italian team playing like it should have during the world cup only in the last 10-15 minutes. the typical too litte too late.

june 26, rustenburg (south africa)

asamoah gyan is a world cup star. he had a great group phase, but his decisive and beautiful goal against the us team kept african dreams alive, and it was in extra time after a 1×1 tie during the match. one could feel the whole continent united supporting the black stars.

june 27, bloemfontein (south africa)

arguably the best soccer match of the year. the first half was the best half of football i can remember watching, mostly because of the incredible performance of the german team in the first 35 minutes (and their 2×0 lead, more than deserving) and the great english performance after the 1×2, including the disallowed goal by frank lampard, the answer the the wembley-goal from 1966. germany shook, but didn’t fall. england’s pressure was on in the beginning of the second half, but after one of those incredible and fast moves, germany scored with müller. 3×1, and shortly thereafter, 4×1, again müller. a pitty that i watched that game by myself.

july 2, port elizabeth (south africa)

brazil had impressed me and the whole world with their focussed performances in the group phase. it was a different brazil, a more intelligent brazil, but a much less beautiful one. against chile, one could only come to the conclusion that this team could only beat itself, and that it wouldn’t. so brazil were favorites against holland, not only by tradition. and the first half was a demonstration of the new brazilian way of playing: very firm in the defensive midfield, combative, efficient and cool. the 1×0 advantage could have easily been a 2×0, holland had not even seen julio cesar in the match. but the brazilians beat themselves; a goalkeeping error by julio cesar, very rare indeed, enabled an own goal by felipe melo later credited to free kicker wesley sneijder. melo saw the red card after the whole team had become nervous, and the game was now gone. the netherlands dominated the second half and won the game, 2×1. brazil was out, and the country didn’t even care too much about it. a sign of how the public viewed the “new brazilian football”.

july 2, johannesburg (south africa)

what a match between ghana and uruguay, and what dramatic moments at the end. muntari had scored a beautiful goal right before the half time break, but forlan equaliezed in the beginning of the second half. ghana were stronger in he first half, uruguay had a better second half. but ghana was the team pressuring the south americans in extra time, and then it happened. after quite a lot of confusion in the uruguaian box, a defender saves from an shot, and a header is fished out of the goal by uruguay star attacker luiz suarez. red card, penalty, but no decisive 2×1 right before the penalty shootout. asamoah gyan could score it from the spot – but the ball hit the aluminium and went out. drama was not over, more penalties were one the program now. this time gyan scored, but two of his team mates didn’t – africa cried, uruguay celebrated – mostly bad-boy suarez.

july 3, cape town (south africa)

i’d watched argentina’s 3×1 win over mexico and was not impressed. no tactics, only talent. a lot of talent, sure. but enough to beat germany’s beautiful and efficient fast-paced way of playing the game? after 2 minutes, shooting-star and world cup golden boot winner thomas müller answered with the first goal. bastian schweinsteiger played the match of his life, eliminating lionel messi from the game and even organizing all attacking moves. he played it like a true quarter-back, and the runners scored another 3 goals. 4×0, and title favorites maradona were out. germany had convinced the world that they can actually play the most attractive football on the planet, not only the most efficient one.

july 7, durban (south africa)

germany couldn’t play. spain didn’t let them. it was as simple as that. and when germany finally started to have a little chance after after almost 70 minutes, the spaniards found their goal – after a corner, with a header. the deserving winner with perfect timing and somewhat boring, but extremely exact and perfect passing style. efficient enough for he germans not to get into the game at almost any time.

july 11, johannesburg (south africa)

there were only two good things about the final: it was thrilling and the right team won. the football was pretty poor, the netherlands weren’t even try to play football most of the time, which is totally contrary to the country’s football history and philosophy. they played more german than the germans, and they could’ve won – robben missed the decisive goal twice. but spain was strong in the beginning and in extra-time, in the rest of the match they were only able o control the game. the goal by iniesta was deserving, the title as well; the best team won!

august 29, spa-francorchamps (belgium)

this has always been my favorite race (and i plan to watch it live next year), and it didn’t disappoint; at least not in the spectacle, which had vettel trying to win the race. he was the fastest on the track, once again, and as it was getting dry, he tried to pass jenson button; but he crashed into him, provoking widespread criticism. lewis hamilton won the race and took over the lead of the championship after 13 races, ahead of mark webber. at this point, it seemed that the two of them would decide the title race, but things changed quite a lot after that.

october 4, newport (wales)

a ryder cup final day on a monday was uncharacteristic, and it is not every time that the decision goes to the last hole. the young american zach johnson kept the us-hopes alive, and their great final day seemed to be able to produce a historical comeback after trailing by three points on sunday. at the end, greame mcdowell kept his cool under enormous pressure: the us open champ of 2010 beat hunter mahan and gave europe another title in this, the arguably greatest competition in golf.

october 10, suzuka (japan)

fernando alonso had won the last two races and was back in the title race after a great end-of-summer run. japan was the last chance for sebastian vettel to still run for the title, with hamilton also in front of him and webber leading the standings. and he had a simply superb weekend (just like a year earlier) to claim a fantastic victory in the land of the rising sun. kubai kobayashi gave his home crowd an incredible show and made five passing moves, making it his own personal show and finishing in 7th. vettel had now passed hamilton, but alonso was still ahead of him – and so was leader and team mate webber.

october 24, yeongam (south korea)

the championship leader had held on to his lead without winning any of the previous four races, but this time, his nerves cost him the top spot. after a mistake, he crashed out and tried to take then-second placed fernando alonso with him, but actually hit nico rosberg. vettel now was the virtual leader, since he completely dominated the race; it would have been his first championship lead of the season, the sixth man to do so. but it was not to be, since his motor failed and alonso went on to win the race and become the runaway championship favorite. with only two races to go, vettel was a race victory (25 points) behind, webber only 11 points – a team order seemed the logical strategy for brazil and abu dhabi. but that also was not to be!

november 7, são paulo (brazil)

the podium was vettel, webber, alonso. which was curious in this order, since alonso remained on the top of the standings, only needing a second place in the emirates to win his 3rd title. but webber was denied the team order privilege, since his team mate still had slim chances himself. so vettel won an exciting brazil race, and went into the final race having to leave team mate webber and alonso behind him – and not only that!

november 14, abu dhabi (emirates)

vettel cries. he’s done he impossible, and thanks the team for the opportunity to do so. he wins the race, webber finishes back in 8th (worst race of the year for him), alonso in 7th. schumacher has a frightening accident right at the beginning, ferrari ignores rosberg and petrov going to the box (i’d seen it all along!) during that safety-car phase, and their second mistake is to “mark” webber, who goes early into the pits after hitting one of his wheels. alonso goes to, worried to lose his spot in front of that red bull, and gets stuck behind petrov. vettel wins with luck and superb driving, after a year of some mistakes and lots of bad luck. and he cries. the youngest f1 champions ever, what a career so far!

november 28, london (england)

what a year it had been for rafael nadal. although there was no nadal x federer final in a grand slam, in 2010 (the first time this had happened for quite a few years), nadal had won the last three slams and is going for a “false” grand slam in australia, to make it four in a row, but not in the same year. nadal finally met federer in the atp world tour finals, the inofficial world championships of tennis. and federer taught the spaniard a lesson of who still hasn’t given up on the dream of coming back to become number one – and maybe even winning the grand slam itself. after this superb match, 2011 can come in the tennis world!

here some high class tennis, maybe the best there has ever been:

my personal top five moments:

5- ivica olic scores the winning goal for bayern munich against manchester united in the first leg, seconds from stoppage time.

4- arjen robben scores a spectacular volley to eliminate manchester united in old trafford, making olic’s goal count.

3- lukas podolski’s 2×0 against england, a fantastic goal as an example of the new german game (great work by thomas müller) and virtually eliminating the until then astonished englishmen, traditional rivals.

2- sebastian vettel passing the finish line in abu dhabi and, half a minute later, realizing he’s the world champion, breaking into tears.

1- arne friedrich’s goal against argentina, eliminating the gauchos with the 3×0; bastian schweinsteiger’s brilliant assist was the reason, and of course the tension breaking after another incredible performance of the best german team that ever played.

thomas müller – what a career!

 

thomas müller has had quite the career so far...

the day is friday, august 15, 2008. jürgen klinsmann is bayern munich’s new coach, but the team is having some injury problems right in the beginning of the season, after a pretty successful euro 2008 for the germans. bayern had played the uefa cup in the previous season, for the first time since the 1998/99 season – and they’d lost in the semifinal against tymoshchuk and his zenit st petersburg. klinsmann was supposed to give the team some new inspiration after the end of the second ottmar hitzfeld era. that era ended with tears for the old “general”, tears of emotion at his and oliver kahn’s departure. klinsmann came to make all things new.

but on said friday, the first matchday of the brand new bundesliga season, some players were still not fit, and others are injured. klinsmann invites 18-year old thomas müller to sit on the bench. lucio still plays for bayern, so does zé roberto. toni kroos is younger than müller and hasn’t moved to leverkusen yet, and lukas podolski is still at bayern. all of them start in the season opener, at home against hamburg. schweinsteiger and podolski, germany’s best known friends at the time, score for bayern, but hamburg ties the game before an hour is over. 2×2 seemed like a pretty unsatisfying result. klinsmann reacts – after 79 minutes, miroslav klose goes out, and thomas müller comes in.

thomas who? another young talent to fail at bayern, or one oif the few who make it? he didn’t really make an impression in his first bundesliga match, and he didn’t play for the the first team again until his much more memorable appearance almost seven months later; bayern thrashed sporting lisbon 7×1 at home in the champions league round of 16, and müller came in at the end, assisting to a van bommel goal a minute after he entered, and scoring the last goal of the evening. this time, fans and media had noticed him somewhat.

 

louis van gaal and his protegee thomas müller, early in the 2009/10 season.

klinsmann was soon sacked, and former bayern and real madrid coach jupp heynckes took over for the remaining matches. he too gave thomas müller some playtime, in the two final matches, decisive for bayern’s ambitions to clinch a champions league spot and even rally wolfsburg for an unlikely title. thomas müller was made a pro (he was a regular and a goal scorer in the amateur team) and began the new season under louis van gaal as the number five striker.

van gaal was not the first one to see the talent – klinsmann and heynckes had played müller in some big matches, despite his young age. but he was the first one to bet on it, and after just a couple of weeks, müller was the favorite to play the “10” position schweinsteiger wanted – and so did ribéry and josé ernesto sosa. it became clear that van gaal was totally convinced of müllers exceptional talent: he played him as a “10”, as a right winger, as a left winger, as an attacker – müller was put in every position but the bench. he started every single game under van gaal, in cup, champions league or bundesliga matches. and he trully showed his value, even at such a young age (19 to 20). his momentum was so incredible that müller only played once for the national team before the world cup, in a friendly against argentina. maradona, the gaucho coach, even thought that the guy next to him in the press conference was some ball boy. how ironic, since it was müllers 2nd minute strike against argentina which defined the coach’s destiny.

 

müller scores for germany in the world cup 2010, where he became the golden boot winner.

müller played and played. he won the german cup, scored 13 goals in his first real bundesliga season from the right midfield position (and inumerous assists added to that), and after the quarterfinal against argentina, one of the main discussing points in the brazilian media (!) was thomas müller missing the semifinal due to a yellow card, and germany’s lesser chances against spain because of it. that’s what i call a career on the fast lane!

thomas müller came back for the 3rd place match and scored the first german goal, winning himself a trophy last won by gerd müller, his name-buddy and former coach in the amateur team: the golden boot of best striker of the world cup was his.

he got it today. congratulations, a physical evidence of his fast rise to the top.

 

müller with his golden boot, alongside forlan and casillas, who also won prizes from fifa.

by the way, everyone was curious to watch him play in his first match for bayern after the whole world cup and incredible first career season, where the lad got to play a champions league final! if you haven’t gotten the chance to see his goal against wolfsburg in the first matchday of this bundesliga season, check this out. two years after his appearance in he bundesliga opener, he produces this after only 8 minutes of new season football.

 

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 15:32  Leave a Comment  
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manuel neuer – a legend in the making

young manuel neuer, in 2006.

march 27, 1986, manuel neuer was born. in germany. in the city of gelsenkirchen. that’s where a special football club comes from, fc schalke 04, one of the two best supported teams in germany. at the age of four, neuer already started playing for his home town club; up to his teens, who would defend all the youth teams of the club, and watch the bundesliga matches from the stands. at the age of 20, already as a professional player, he finally made his debut for the first team, substituting the injured frank rost. when the experienced goalkeeper returned from injury right in time for the home match against bayern munich, neuer retained his position and was allowed to play. his brilliant performance guaranteed a 2×2 tie in that match, and neuer had just become the starting keeper. frank rost, widely considered one of the top five keepers in germany for many years, would leave the club, and neuer was already seen as a future number one for the german national team, since jens lehmann wasn’t getting any younger.

 

neuer in action, 2009

since then, manuel neuer has had a few weeks of bad form, but mostly memorable performances and important matches. it seems that when the pressure is the highest, neuer gives his best performances. in the champions league against fc porto, in a season when schalke reached the quarter finals (2008); for the sub-21 german national team during the euro 2009 won by germany and having neuer as their mvp; or, more recently, for schalke against bayern, holding the gelsenkirchen club in the match in a fantastic first half by bayern munich, and even assisting in the first goal. even in the recent world cup, manuel neuer, who inherited his deserved number one position from a rene adler injury and a tragic robert enke suicide, did a pretty good job; a little bit of a mistake against serbia, but some great performances against ghana, england (where he assisted to klose’s first goal), argentina and spain.

neuer is on the way to becoming the world’s best keeper – a title currently belonging to iker cassillas, but still somewhat up for grabs. the brazilian julio cesar has been outstanding for internazionale, another brazilian (gomes) was considered the best goalie in england, and the young lloris, goalkeeping for lyon and france, are in the running. but the now 24 year old manuel neuer has a great future. and he deserves to spend some time of his career outside of his hometown. in england, maybe? or in munich? the decision should be announced in the next few months.

but right now my advise is for you to watch the round of 16 match involving schalke, in february. it doesn’t matter against whom, but you’ll probably understand what i’m talking about when you see neuer at work. his great qualities, besides the obvious one-to-one situations and great reflexes, are his “footballer qualities”, his precise long passes and long throws, his calm personality and his increasingly good antecipation. he’ll be the german number one for at least another decade, and he will be the world’s best goalkeeper by the time the next world cup is played.

bayern münchen – the future can come!

 

another five years for schweinsteiger and bayern. great news for all bayern fans!

after the 3×0 win over st.pauli, this afternoon, bastian schweinsteiger took the microphone and announced to the fans that he just prolonged his contract for another five seasons. that was, by far, the greatest applause of the afternoon.

with phillipp lahm and bastian schweinsteiger, both players owned by bayern munich since their teens, two key players have not only declared their loyalty and love towards their home club. it is also a signal to europe: bayern munich wants to be not only a top team in europe, but the top team in europe. lahm could’ve gone to fc barcelona, schweinsteiger to chelsea or real madrid. but they decided to stay and be part of a team capable of reaching uefa champions league semifinals every single year. that’s their main motivation for not leaving the club.

and i believe they might be right. let’s look at what the future european champion might look like:

 

he wants to win the champions league too... better go to bayern, manuel neuer!

goalkeeping: manuel neuer seems to have agreed to move to munich for next season. neuer deserves a post for himself, he is most certainly the coming best goalkeeper of the world. number one in germany since rene adler’s injury and robert enke’s suicide, he’s had spectacular games and basically no mistakes, mostly against bayern last week. butt will probably move to management, talented number two keeper thomas kraft will probably leave the club, so bayern has to find a good number two.

central defending: he’s still being criticized, by i firmly believe that breno will make the race to become holger badstuber’s partner on the right side of the defense. badstuber, like schweinsteiger and lahm, plays for bayern since the junior team and will be a fixing point in central defense. breno, at bayern since the age of 18, is currently being tested and might just pass – i surely hope he does, since he has great quality, but needs to be more firm. daniel van buyten and martin demichelis are history, the latter might even leave the club in the winter. so new signings are needed, probably two.

 

just like schweinsteiger, lahm has a contract from 2016.

defensive wings: there is probably no right back in the world better than phillipp lahm, and he has another advantage: the captain of the german national team is never injured and always plays the full 90 minutes in very match. it could be a big blow for bayern if he is ever injured, since there would be no one to actually replace him;  new signing is needed there, someone young and who can play both in central defense and right back, ideally. the left side has been the problem since lahm moved to the right, but this season there are actually two players doing a great job there: daniel pranjic, brought by van gaal from holland, and diego contento, from the bayern junior team. no problems there, for the future (which should belong to contento).

defensive midfield: van bommel, the captain, and bastian schweinsteiger, the true captain, had a very successful season in 2009/10 on this position. but things have changed. schweinsteiger has been so effective that van gaal put him one position forward, and toni kroos has been playing in his place now. which i think is a great decision, mostly for kroos, who’s talent really florishes from that important position. van bommel, for me, is history and probably won’t get a new contract; anatoliy tymoshchuk should take over for van bommel, but maybe schweinsteiger will come back and become make up a german duo with kroos – who, yes, you guessed is, has been owned by bayern since his junior team days. daniel pranjic and andreas ottl are good options for the bench, so no real need for new signings.

 

ribéry has contract until 2015... and is getting back to top form!

offensive midfield: franck ribéry also has a 5-year contract, and he’s a star and starter on the left side. arjen robben has been injured all of this season, but was the player of the last season and will be a star and starter on the right side. schweinsteiger is playing in the middle, but if he ever moves back to his preferred position, thomas müller should take over that role – and he really can, another great talent, and, yes, at bayern since he was 11. altintop has shown to be a valuable player, but it is not known if he will get his contract renewed. toni kroos is actually an offensive player and could play any position, too. if another talent (maybe from the junior team) is added, that should be enough; mehmet ekici, currently on loan at nürnberg, would be a candidate for that. ivica olic can also play on the left wing.

attack: mario gomez. i’ve always had faith in him and he has been showing his importance for the team. he’s got another good 4 to 6 years in front of him, so he’s the number one; currently, klose is at bayern, but if he doesn’t want to be a bench player, he’ll have to leave. ivica olic is a great option, thomas müller can play the position, too. so bayern only needs replacement if klose leaves, and that replacement could come from the amateur team. let’s see.

this team could be a future european powerhouse, comparable to barcelona, real, and manchester:

neuer – lahm, breno, badstuber, contento – kroos, schweinsteiger – ribéry, müller, robben – gomez

with tymoshchuk, pranjic and olic really close to the first team.

to end this post, bastian schweinsteiger’s answer to the question why he didn’t want to go to real madrid:

[to the reporter] “let me ask you a question: for whom do you think i’d like to win the champions league, for madrid or here? this is my home, winning that title with this club would mean infinetely more to me.”

this is why bayern will have the strength to become great in europe again: players identify with the club because they just feel well there (robben, ribéry) or because they’ve played their since their teens (lahm, badstuber, breno, contento, kroos, schweinsteiger, müller).

Published in: on December 11, 2010 at 18:10  Comments (3)  
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in focus: ukraine captain anatoliy tymoshchuk

 

ukraine's team that failed to qualify for their first world cup in 2001, with a young and long-haired tymoshchuk (4) right next to the number 10, shevchenko

the rise of ukranian football falls into the time of the rise of one anatoliy tymoshchuk. many germans still remember the matches when ballack first proved his importance for the nationalmannschaft. it was november of 2001, and after a tough qualifying competition for the next world cup, the first one to be held in asia, germany were on the brink of not being able to qualify for the very first time in its history. the playoffs were underway, and the opponent ukraine seemed a real test for the future. the up-and-coming ex-soviet country had a few stars in their lines, mostly those who brought main team dynamo kiev to the semifinals of the 99 champions league. andrey shevchenko was now a big star at milan, and he wasn’t the only one (rebrov being the other europe-wide known player). that cold day (november 11) also marked another cap for the only 22-year old “timo”, as he is now called by his team mates. he’d entered the team a  little more than a year earlier, and made it into the starting eleven pretty soon. playing for shakhtar donetsk since the age of 19, tymoshchuk was not part of the dynamo kiev lobby existing at the time; and he would soon become the captain of the only team to snatch away national titles from the now arch rivals of the capital.

 

tymo has captained every team he played in; here defending shakhtar, in 2007, right before his move to st petersburg.

ukraine scored first, but ballack scored the equalizer in the first half. and in the home leg, in dortmund, ballack scored twice in the 4×1 victory over the inexperienced ukrainians. for the second time in a row, the big country east to poland had failed to qualify for a world cup in the playoff stages, but it did work out for 2006, where ukraine reached the quarterfinal. timo was then already the vice-captain of the team, subbing in for shevchenko whenever he was out injured (which has been a regular occurance); anatoliy was one of the big winners of that world cup, and teams all over europe were looking to sign him for the 2006/07 season, but the faithful ukranian stayed home for another season, rejecting offers from juventus turin, as roma and others.

in 2007, timo moved north to zenit st petersburg, after winning three ukranian league titles. the 15 million euro transfer was then pretty big for a russian team, and it payed off: zenit were russian champions for the first time in history, and tymoshchuk won a popular vote as the best player in the russian league. as their captain, he led zenit to a much celebrated uefa cup title, eliminating “favorites” like villarreal (spain), olympique marseille (france), bayer leverkusen and main title candidates  bayern munich (with a 4×0 at home). in the final, they beat traditional scottish side glasgow rangers with a clear margin and thus repeated rival cska moscow’s success from a few years earlier. zenit went on to beat manchester united for the uefa super cup. only a few months later, ukraine’s and zenit’s captain agreed to join bayern munich for the 2009/10 season, thought as a replacement for zé roberto and mark van bommel.

 

zenit won the uefa cup 2008 with tymo as their captain - he scored twice against bayern in the semifinal; of course they bought him half a year later...

tymoshchuk's first year was frustrating for the leader in prime football age.

tymoshchuk’s arrival was not worthy of his career. the new coach van gaal referred to him (and mario gomez) as “not his transfers”, made mark van bommel the team captain and started using a system with only one defensive midfielder. timo was soon out of the race for van bommel’s spot, getting the occasional chance from the bench or when van bommel was either injured or suspended. and sometimes not even that, since other players would get a shot at the “6” position, too. so in some matches, tymo was tested on the right side of the field, but with little success. finally, he was a regular bench player, not being utilized as often as he had wished, and when he got to play, it was rarely in his ideal position. since the young holger badstuber was started to being used as a left back and breno didn’t have the coach’s confidence, the ukranian would sometimes play as full back. even when bayern changed the system to 4-2-3-1, it was schweinsteiger who would play alongside van bommel; and when one of them couldn’t, van gaal’s transfer daniel pranjic, actually a left midfielder or left full back, would play the part; even hamit altintop would sometimes play instead of the increasingly frustrated ukranian star.

after his first full season in a western league (and his first titles for bayern), tymoshchuk seemed to be leaving the club, after almost not playing at all for the team in the second half of the season.  it must have been tough to not play for so long, for the very first time in his career. he captained shakhtar (europa league champions last year), then zenit, the ukraine team. all with quite a lot of success. he didn’t need to be the leader at bayern, but it was bad enough that he didn’t even get to play or feel his coach’s confidence.

 

his second year is turning out to be much better, and he might have snatched himself a position in the team. here he celebrates his frist of two goals against frankfurt, two weeks ago.

but he wanted to stay, and he finally got his shot when mark van bommel was injured. the bayern versus holland clash (over robben playing the world cup badly injured and not having played a minute for bayern this season yet) escalated when van bommel, injured, was used in a netherlands match and then wasn’t able to play for his team for over a month. finally, tymoshchuk, who was being used instead of martin demichelis as a full center back, got to play his position; and he did it with the quality that he simply has! the two goals against eintracht frankfurt a couple of weeks ago are only the highest peaks of steadily great performances over the last two months, and it seems that anatoliy has finally arrived in munich.

with van bommel coming back, it will be interesting to see which changes van gaal will make to the team. against schalke, he put tymoshchuk back to the central defense, leaving last year’s champions league duo van buyten and demichelis on the bench. breno had a decisive slip in that match and might lose his place against st. pauli, so it is possible that the “double-six” will continue to be van bommel and toni kroos, with either van buyten or breno defending in the back with tymo. schweinsteiger has been playing more advanced, since he has been a decisive goal scorer and assister for mario gomez up front. in my ideal bayern-team, with robben back and ribéry playing his best, i would have the following starting eleven, with pranjic and kroos very close to the team:

 

no one played more matches for the ukraine than the current captain: here tymo during the 2006 world cup.

butt – contento, badstuber, breno, lahm – schweinsteiger, tymoshchuk – ribéry, müller, robben – gomez

the bench would have kraft (second goalie), van buyten, pranjic, van bommel, kroos, altintop, klose and olic – not bad at all!

my point is that anatoliy is better than captain mark, and that he should start instead of the dutch international, who hopefully won’t get his contract extended. and it is only worthy of a still 31 year old player to get a few years of top football before retirement. one landmark is already done: tymoshchuk has just passed shevchenko to become the countries most capped player of all time.

Published in: on December 8, 2010 at 08:56  Comments (2)  

mario gomez – the most talented german striker

it had become a running gag. not only here in bremen, where i live, but basically everywhere in germany. playing football with your friends, someone has a perfect chance and misses the goal incredibely – and someone will shout his name. “mario gomez”, followed by some laughter. but how did this relatively young striker get to become the laughing stock of a nation?

young mario gomez

to find that out, one has to go back. quite a few years, actually. mario gomez emerged as another young talent from the greatest talent producing club of the decade, vfb stuttgart. many young players in many positions really started showing first promise playing for the team from south germany. phillipp lahm might be the most famous one; although he always belonged to bayern, it was during his loan at stuttgart that he became a bundesliga player and a national team player. kevin kuranyi is another example. he started his career at stuttgart and scored many goals for them. kuranyi left stuttgart for schalke 04 after three superb seasons, where he scored 39 goals in 94 matches. who would replace the german brazilian?

hopes were high for the young mario gomez. he was born in south germany, to a spanish father and german mother. when kuranyi left, gomez was still 19 and had only played a hand full of matches for his home club. the first season after kuranyi marked gomez’ rise into the main team. 30 matches and already six goals for the youngster showed promise. the season 2006-07 catapulted him to stardom, 14 goals in 25 matches and his debut for the german national team. he was surely the promise for the german attack, to finally replace aging miroslav klose. and he couldn’t have done better in the season right before euro 2008: he scored 19 goals in 25 matches, made the squad and started in the first match against austria.

 

gomez has often been frustrated when playing for germany...

that’s were the image began to appear. mario gomez managed to miss a certain goal in that match: 2 meter in front of the empty goal, he shot the ball over the bar towards the night sky. after that, he was so nervous that he didn’t get anything right in the match. germany won it, but gomez, still 22, lost his spot. and became the tragic figure of that team.

gomez went back to business for stuttgart, though. he had his best season to date, scoring a whopping 24 goals in 32 matches, much more than any other german player. but he spent that whole season without scoring even once for the german national team, and reporters started to pick on that. mario gomez had proven himself in the season after the tragedy in austria, but he still was very unlucky on international duty for germany. even his eight goals in ten international matches for stuttgart, with whom he won the german championship in 2007, didn’t seem to rid him from the tragic image. people were now trained to focus on the goals he missed, and not on the goals he scored.

 

the success in stuttgart continued, though...

this is why his move to bayern munich was blessing and risk at the same time. a blessing, because the 35 million euros payed from munich to stuttgart, the highest ever fee in the bundesliga’s history, showed his importance. if bayern wanted you and paid a record fee to get you, you must be good. and the numbers showed it: 82 matches from age 21-23, and 57 goals – in the bundesliga alone! for a young player, this is a spectacular record. and its reasons were easy to explain. mario gomez is an intelligent player, strong physically, solid technically. and he is rare in that his left shot is as good as his right shot, and that he is tall and a great header; so basically he can score goals from any situation, and that he did!

the risk was two-fold. would he be able to perform as well at the high pressure existing at bayern, much higher than in stuttgart – and with the price tag? and with a team tactic that wouldn’t be taylored for him, after the new coach louis van gaal declared that buying gomez wasn’t his idea. and when the dutchman arjen robben arrived, the change in tactics would really be to gomez’ expense. bayern would play a 4-3-3, which meant two things: only one central attackar (either klose, or luca toni at the time, or gomez), and two attacking wingers (robben & ribéry) who like to shoot on goal and not cross the ball to the center. tough times for gomez or klose? well, even under those circumstances, the young striker used his chances and scored a total of 10 goals in the first half of the season. he then was injured, and klose did a good job after that. since gomez is a horrible “joker” (never performing well when entering the match late), he almost lost his place in the 2010 world cup squad – and it was klose, even after a bad season, who started for the german national team, with great success.

 

things are going well for him now, at bayern...

gomez was the looser again. bad second half for bayern, bad joker at the world cup. his time was supposed to be there, and things looked even worse, since klose came back from the world cup as the starting attacker for bayern. mario gomez even though about joining liverpool and leaving munich, but he stayed, klose got injured, and then the following happened: 8 goals in 12 bundesliga matches, 6 goals in 5 matches at the champions league, and even 2 goals in the last 3 national team matches. spectacular numbers for a truly gifted striker.

by the way: that “mario gomez” jokes have vanished from the amateur football fields in germany.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 22:35  Leave a Comment  
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fifa nominates 28 players – choose your top 5!

this is a short post, hopefully with some comments and controversy on who you would pick for fifa player of the year and fifa coach of the year. here is the list of players, with their respective clubs and nationalities, and then the list of the coaches. PICK YOUR TOP FIVE PLAYERS (IN RANKING ORDER) AND YOUR TOP COACH, and justify your choices, if you will! I’ll start right after presenting the list:

Xabi ALONSO (Real Madrid, Spain)

Daniel ALVES (FC Barcelona, Brazil)

Iker CASILLAS (Real Madrid, Spain)

Cristiano RONALDO (Real Madrid, Portugal)

Didier DROGBA (Chelsea FC, Ivory Coast)

Samuel ETO’O (Internazionale, Cameroon)

Cesc FABREGAS (Arsenal FC, Spain)

 

the favorite? diego forlan, atletico madrid and uruguay

Diego FORLÁN (Atletico Madrid, Uruguay)

Asamoah GYAN (Stade Rennes/FC Sunderland, Ghana)

Andrés INIESTA (FC Barcelona, Spain)

Júlio CÉSAR (Internazionale, Brazil)

Miroslav KLOSE (Bayern München, Germany)

Philipp LAHM (Bayern München, Germany)

MAICON (Internazionale, Brazil)

Lionel MESSI (FC Barcelona, Argentina)

Thomas MÜLLER (Bayern München, Germany)

Mesut ÖZIL (Werder Bremen/Real Madrid, Germany)

Carles PUYOL (FC Barcelona, Spain)

Arjen ROBBEN (Bayern München, Netherlands)

Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER (Bayern München, Germany)

Wesley SCHNEIJDER (Internazionale, Netherlands)

David VILLA (Valencia FC/FC Barcelona, Spain)

XAVI (FC Barcelona, Spain)

 

The coaches are: Carlos Ancelotti (Chelsea FC), Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Pep Guardiola (FC Barcelona), Jogi Löw (Germany), José Mourinho (Internazionale/Real Madrid), Oscar Tabárez (Uruguay), Louis Van Gaal (Bayern München), Bert Van Marwijk (Netherlands), Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC)

 

My Top 5 would be:

5- Bastian Schweinsteiger  – best performance by a single player in the World Cup (against Argentina), decisive in Bayern’s very successful year, and the boss in an impressive German World Cup team.

4- Andrés Iniesta – when he was injured, Barcelona got kicked out of the Champions League. But he came back to have a good World Cup with the decisive title winning goal at the end of it, to crown a spectacular career since he was a teen.

3- Arjen Robben – an MVP for Bayern and their great success in Champions League, Bundesliga and Cup, with lots of goals, assists and beautiful moments.

2- Lionel Messi – is still the best player in the world, and showed it quite a few times this year, including some really good World Cup performances.

1- Wesley Sneijder – decisive for Inter in the Champions League and for the Netherlands to reach the final. Lots of assists and goals in important matches.

I think FIFA might pick Diego Forlan, who had a great World Cup and scored both decisive goals in the Europa League final. And he would make a good choice, but I still wouldn’t have him in my top 5, because of the quality of my picks. Even a Xavi or a Cristiano Ronaldo are tough to keep out of the Top 5, even though the latter hasn’t had too much success with his teams, only personal success.

Coach: Jogi Löw – Mourinho will probably win, and he’s had great success with Inter. But Jogi Löw revolutionized the way  great football nation like Germany plays the game, and he did it in style, beating England and Argentina convincingly. The football played by his team was the most beautiful of the year.

Waiting for your Top 5 and Top Coach.

 

mainz 05 – what’s going on in germany?

hannover's ya konan is the bundesliga's top scorer this season, and a symbol for hannover's current success.

a quick look at the bundesliga table will surprise the most curious football fans. hannover 96, almost relegated to second division last season, are currently sitting in third place and are a huge surprise in the still young season. after almost one fifth of the season, borussia dortmund was expected to do okay; but five victories in a row and the second position is more than they could’ve hoped for, and they’ve played some brilliant football. the fans (with a bundesliga leading average attendence of 80,000 every match) are dreaming of the 90s, where borussia was one of europe’s leading clubs and even beat zinedine zidane’s juventus in the 1997 champions league final. young stars kagawa, from japan, and götze, the newest german promise and a probable world cup starter for 2014, are playing in a team capable of brilliant performances, besides the wins.

but what about bayer leverkusen, who beat dortmund away in their first match? or werder bremen? schalke 04, with raul and huntelaar? vfl wolfsburg, who still have edin dzeko, and now have diego? and, even worse: where is bayern munich?

bayern's choach van gaal would love to have 10 points more - mainz's coach tuchel has them!

bayern is in a mini-crisis. they had a slow start due to the players not being quite fit yet. after all, eleven bayern players were in action until the last weekend of the world cup, and after their vacations, there as not enough time to be at 100%. some good performances (against wolfsburg, werder and roma) had been there, and the last-minute 2×1 victory at a strong hoffenheim team seemed to give bayern the momentum they needed. and it seemed ideal – their next match was against mainz 05, a small club who had won all of their matches and were leading the table. at home and during the oktoberfest, bayern would beat the league leaders and start their own attack towards the top.

szalai (left), schürrle (middle, claimed to be the new thomas müller) and holtby (right, the new özil?) are a trio of very young and successful players for mainz.

but they didn’t win. mainz deserved a 2×1 victory in the allianz arena and are now, even more than before, the team of the moment. they’ve done well over the last years anyway, but to lead the bundesliga after a win in munich is a special moment for the club.

after a crisis almost ten years ago, club manager heidel decided to sack the coach, but he couldn’t find a replacement. so he decided to make one of the players the new coach, to see how that went. and it worked beautifully; jürgen klopp is now considered to be one of the top coaches in german football, having had a lot of success at mainz. the offensive defender system, very dynamic and physical, was idealized by him and inspired by english football. with his ability to lead and motivate a group, and his great rapport with the press, it was only a matter of time for him to go to a “big” club – and one that would fit him like a glove, current 2nd placed borussia dortmund.

mainz tried out another coach, who managed to lead them back to the bundesliga after a couple of years in the second division. but things were not going well between jörn anderson and his team, and even before the first matchday of last season, he was sacked and thomas tuchel was installed. and it seemed like jürgen klopp all over again: a nobody, this time coming from the sucessful youth team. same football philosophy, same fire and emotion during a match, same courage and leading abilities. and a big surprise for the bundesliga! mainz beat bayern at home in the 3rd match of the season, and they never had to fear relegation during the entire run until may. they even managed to be unbeaten in their last five matches, and have now won six in a row. with young players, a great and team-intensive tactic and very attractive football – just like dortmund, with klopp.

thomas tuchel took over the team 4 days before last year's season started - and has had success ever since!

mainz 05 are leading the bundesliga table, and it is not a coincidence. they have played as well as their points show, and if there are no major injuries in their future, this run might even last a while.

bayern munich won’t want to let that happen. 10 points behind mainz, they have to start to score some goals and make some points. sunday, against borussia dortmund and jürgen klopp, would be a nice time to start. but currenlty, even another loss wouldn’t be too big of a surprise any more.

klopp is a legend at mainz, where he played and coached for over two decades. he is now currently right behind mainz in he standings, and will play with dortmund against bayern next sunday.

truth be said: these top teams, pre-season favorites, are not fully fit yet (since quite a few players were involved in the final stages of the world cup) and have some injury worries.

bayern’s best two players, robben and ribéry, are out of action; robben won’t play again this year, ribéry will be back in november.

werder bremen has been without their best defender naldo since the beginning of the season, and barely survived a few weeks without mertesacker and pizarro; özil is gone, new signing wesley is still finding his place.

schalke let 15 players go and got 14 new ones, also for financial reasons. the team, with raul and huntelaar, hasn’t found a rythm yet, but it has won the last two matches.

wolfsburg had problems adapting to their new coach, but now dzeko and grafite are working, and new signing diego is being integrated into the team – 3 wins in their last 3 matches.

bayer leverkusen lost michael ballack early in the season, still are without a fully fit simon rolfes – and recently had both top attackers stefan kiessling and patrick helmes missing.

hamburg started well into the season, but has gone 4 matches without winning (3 losses); due to lack of fitness, but also lack of team spirit.

so the door is still wide open for hannover, dortmund and mainz. let’s see how long they can stay up there!

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 10:15  Comments (1)  
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