2013 UEFA Champions League Final: The Rise of German Football
UEFA Champions League Final 2013
2013 Champions League Final: The Rise of German Football
In August 2012 many journalists, managers, and even players would have chosen a Spanish or English team in the 2013 Champions League Final. For the good part of the last ten years, English and Spanish football has dominated the European competition, so why would anyone think differently this year?
There are many reasons why FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, two German giants, made it to this years final. But first of all we should go back to where it all began. German football was on the downward spiral (much like Italian football now) until the country held the FIFA World Cup in 2006. Bayern Munich last won the competition in 2001, beating Valencia in the final, but for the next five years no German club progressed far in the best club competition in the world. The World Cup not only brought millions of supporters from around the world but also brought new stadia, new facilities, and most importantly money to German clubs.
It can be argued that the development of the German national team has made the whole of German football step up and become the dominant force today. The progression first can be noticed in 2010 when Bayern Munich reached the Champions League Final in Madrid. A mediocre Bayern team at best, reached the final without too much trouble, overcoming only one top team on their way to the final, Manchester United. (they beat Fiorentina and Lyon respectively as well) Although they lost the final 2-0 to Jose Mourinho's treble winning Inter Milan team, they put German football back on the map.
In the following month in June, the German national team shocked everyone with superb performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. No one had given the team a chance before the tournament started especially when their captain and arguably best player, Michael Ballack, didn't feature in the tournament due to injury. The team was full of up and coming youngsters that no one really knew, players coming through the ranks at their own clubs such as Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Sammi Khedira, Holgar Badstuber, Manuel Neuer, and Jerome Boeteng. The team that had "no potential" at going far in the competition reached the semi-finals, and got there by thrashing big name nations such as Wayne Rooney's England and Lionel Messi's Argentina.
The following season would be crucial in regards to the German Bundesliga (German League) taking shape. FC Bayern Munich had dominated the league for over twenty years and had never lost the title two years in a row. Stuttgart and Wolfsburg had dented their pride by winning championships in 2007 and 2009 but Bayern were always seen as "the team to beat" in the division. Jurgen Klopp and his Borussia Dortmund team emerged from the ashes of German football (previously the team has been bankrupt and were in danger of liquidation) and became the golden team for Germany.
In 2011 Nuri Sahin, who had been at Dortmund since a young age, became Bundesliga Player of the Year whilst he helped his team win it's first Bundesliga title in eight years. The team flourished because of it's incredible mentality of bringing youth players into the first team. Klopp, who came in from Mainz two years prior, exiled big names such as Nelson Valdes and Tinga, and brought in youngsters from the youth system such as future star Mario Gotze, and integral players such as Marcel Schmelzer, Moritz Leitner, Sven Bender. They were all led by Dortmund's prodigal son and Dortmund native, Nuri Sahin. With the acquisitions of youngsters such as Mats Hummels from arch rivals Bayern Munich, Nevan Subotic from former club Mainz, Shinji Kagawa from Japan, and Robert Lewandowski from Lech Poznan in his native Poland, Klopp had cemented himself a force to be reckoned with. The team won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and won the German double in 2012 by also securing the German Cup, beating Bayern 5-2 in the final in Berlin.
Prior the to the 2012/13 season the favourites for the 2013 Champions League were strongly FC Barcelona and Real Madrid of Spain, followed by the holders of the competition Chelsea, and then Manchester United, and FC Bayern Munich. Even though Borussia Dortmund had just won the German double the season before, they were not in contention in regards to discussion of who would win the European competition. Although big names had left the club like Nuri Sahin, Lucas Barrios, and Shinji Kagawa, Klopp had acquired Ikay Gundogan from Nuremberg and Marco Reus from rivals Borussia Monchengladbach, who were more than worthy replacements.
Dortmund's chances of progressing far in the competition were heavily dented by the draw of the competition's groups. Whilst Bayern had a respectively easy group of Lille, BATE, and Valencia, Dortmund were imputed into the suggested "Group of Death," which consisted of Spanish champions Real Madrid, English champions Manchester City, and Dutch champions Ajax. Not only did Dortmund progress through the group but they proceeded in first place without losing a game. They won all their home games, notably beating Real Madrid, and drew two away games.
The three German teams in the competition all finished top of their groups. Bayern progressing with ease, Dortmund impressively through theirs, and Schalke 04 also went through first in their group, pipping Arsenal who finished in second place.
Dortmund subsquently paid their dues in the group stages and received an easier ride through the knock-out stage. Beating Ukrainian champions Shaktar Donetsk in the last sixteen, dramatically beating newcomers to the competition Malaga CF in the quater finals, and merely inching passed Real Madrid in the semi-finals. FC Bayern Munich however had a very difficult task of beating Arsenal, Italian champions Juventus and facing FC Barcelona, the tournament favourites, in the semi-final. Barcelona had been favourites to the win the competition for the previous five years. Their "tiki-taka" style of football is feared by every club in the world and is the reason for their domination of European football. Bayern didn't just beat the best team in the world, but they obliterated the Spanish giants. Barcelona had in their ranks the four time FIFA Ballon D'or winner Lionel Messi and the current European Player of the Year, Andres Iniesta, but that didn't stop Bayern beating them 4-0 in Munich and 3-0 in the Nou Camp in Barcelona. The tie ended with Bayern winning on aggregate by seven goals to nil. A tie that would shock the world and subsequently shift the footballing power in Europe from Spain to Germany.
The 2013 UEFA Champions League Final, played on May 27th at Wembley in London, will be the first all-German final in the competition's history. Both teams contribute the integral part of the German national team with arguably only Mesut Ozil and Sammi Khedira from Real Madrid the only exceptions. Phillip Lahm will lead his Bayern team for the third time in four years out in the final where he is yet to win, and Roman Weidenfeller will lead his Dortmund team for the first time in a European Cup final since the club won it last in 1997.
The final should be a real showcase with the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Mario Gomez performing for Bayern Munich and the young talented Robert Lewandowski (who scored four goals against Real Madrid in the semi-finals), Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Ikay Gundogan playing for the mighty yellow and black.
I'll leave you with an interesting fact. The last, and only, time Borussia Dortmund won the European Cup back in 1997, they had won the league the year previously, and Bayern Munich were the 1997 Bundesliga champions. History has a big part to play in football.
by Luke O'Callaghan