While the so-called excruciatingly named “group of death” looked tantalising on paper with 4 great teams together in one group, there is always the possibility that games between big teams can be a little dull – Germany versus Portugal was a perfect example of this. Germany were some way short of the benchmark set by pre-tournament hype, and Portugal were very deep and unadventurous for the first 70 minutes. The game could have had a different complexion had Mesut Özil been more involved in the link up play from the three-quarters line.
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Italia ’90 was remembered by some for few goals and Pavarotti’s rendition of Nessun Dorma, but for Richard Pye from Headers and Volleys it also bore the stain of early bedtimes and sneaking down on the stairs. He continues our Hakuna Matata series here.
In the summer of 1990, our old brown, battered TV shone a beam of light into my world. Italia ’90. With it came my first taste of dashed hopes, but also the birth of my understanding as to why indeed this game was so ‘beautiful’.
As the tournament and England progressed, I had become obsessed with the team of David Platt, Gary Lineker and of course, Paul Gascoigne. Wanting to be just like them I’d be in the street with my partners in crime Gav and Graham, desperately trying to replicate Platt’s hooking volley, or Lineker’s ducking runs to near and far posts, attempting to latch onto the crosses of Waddle and Barnes. In reality, the only move I was able to repeat turned out to be Gazza’s semi-final tears.
When England were knocked out by West Germany, my dad threw his mug of tea at the wall and I, sat on my haunches in the middle of the sofa, was not really sure what had happened. Dad had explained to me that whilst we certainly hadn’t lost, West Germany had somehow contrived to win because Waddle and Stuart Pearce had messed up their penalties. And so the waterworks began for the first time. Being past my bed-time, I was consoled and put to bed with the comforting reassurance “it’s alright boy, there’s another World Cup in four years”. If only I’d known I’d probably still be crying now.
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A few weeks ago, a long Easter weekend trip took me to Munich. I was able to experience the sights and sounds of Southern Bavaria, but also, more importantly, get to a few football matches. I have written about my time at the games – and in Germany – for Danny Last‘s wonderful blog, European Football Weekends. We were able to take in two 2. Bundesliga games, seeing 1860 Munich at the Allianz Arena and FC Augsburg at the Impuls Arena.
Danny’s website European Football Weekends chronicles the adventures of football fans across Europe – and occasionally in the UK as well. The site is a guaranteed procrastination method, and you are likely to find yourself traversing adventures from the south of Spain to deepest Slovakia. It has been highly commended by numerous news outlets, and a personal favourite of my own.
You can read the article I wrote with fellow Football Express writer, Matt Campbell, here:
1860 München & FC Augsburg
“It is my worst day at Schalke, but it’s also one of my worst days in football,”
“I have never experienced such a start to the league. The defeats have left their marks on us. The group has lost all confidence. I have never seen that before in a team.”
Even for Felix Magath, a man not well known for his optimism, his comments following Schalke’s 3-1 loss to Dortmund seemed even more pessimistic and downbeat than usual. What is happening? Whats gone wrong? 2009-2010 was a stunning season for the blues, finishing second in the league, qualifying for the champions league with for the most part, an unremarkable side. A side built on hard work, uncompromising defence and high energy levels. They were drilled to win, not to entertain. An efficient machine which made the most of set pieces. The start to this season however has been disastrous for a team expected to challenge for the league. Four successive losses have led some to start sharpening their knives and questioning Magath’s position as head honcho.
Magath: Means business.
Like an ageing despot clinging to his throne, Magath has reasserted his authority throughout the summer. The main bone of contention for the fans was his sacking of the club’s supporter liaison officer Rolf Rojek. Some Schalke fans were not happy with this, Rajek had been in the job for 20 years and was well liked within the club. Magath dismissed these protesters as ‘a small group’ of supporters. In response, 3000 fans turned up for the season opener against Hamburg with t-shirts calling themselves “the small group”. Magath’s autocratic style also extended to his transfer dealings, with a complete overhaul of his squad. His revolving door policy has led to 14 arrivals and 15 exits. Solid Bundesliga performers Kuranyi, Bordon and Rafinha were let go, replaced by a habitually crocked Metzelder, and 2 expensive signings in Jurado and Huntelaar (costing a combined 27million Euro). He has since claimed to have trimmed the wage budget, but spending so much money on a couple of players seemed shocking to many, especially as not long ago, Schalke were in financial trouble. Maybe he has earned the right to do things his own way, but doing so has led Magath’s Schalke to in some way lose its identity and winning mentality. The signing of Raul was supposed to usher a change in Schalke’s playing style, an adventurous and beautiful attacking game. The reality however was more akin to a botched nose job. In the Revierderby, there was only one beautiful team on display, a youthful and alluring side dressed in gold and black.
Dortmund’s young star’s may come of age this season and if they do, the manager Jurgen Klopp and managing director Michale Zorc can take a lot of the credit. Since Klopp’s arrival at the club, there has been a concerted effort to build for the future, buying players for potential and often for not vast amounts of money. With an average age of 23, this squad has young talent all over the pitch, especially the spine of the team. Mats Hummels (21) and Neven Subotic (21) are two of the most sought after young centre backs in Europe. Central midfielder and play maker Nuri Sahin has made over a hundred appearances for Dortmund yet is still only 22. There is a strong polish contingent made up of the lightning quick winger ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski (24), predatory striker Robert Lewandowski (22), and fullback Łukasz Piszczek (25). The main goal threat of the team comes from ‘the panther’ Lucas Barrios (25), whose goalscoring exploits last season brought interest from a number of admirers across Europe. Against Schalke however, the man of the match went to Shinji Kugawa. Bought from Cerza Osaka for less than half a million euros, the 21 year old attacking midfielder scored 2 delightful goals.
Dortmund’s recent stability and youthful exuberance signals a shift in power in the Ruhr derby. In some ways they are the sleeping giants of German football, having one of the largest average attendances in europe and an entertaining young side. Could they keep this going for a whole season? Can they challenge for the title? There are whispers among Dortmund fans that this could be their year. It may be a year too soon, but even if they fall short, BVB will certainly entertain along the way, and will never be short of a few admirers.