Monday, November 29, 2021
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German Bundesliga half-term report

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It is currently the winter break for the German Bundesliga, and what better time to review the season thus far. You only need to take a look at the table to realise that this season's competition is not running absolutely to type. The team that currently occupies the top spot is the previously unheralded and relatively unknown (TSG) 1899 Hoffenheim.

 

 



The rise of 1899 Hoffenheim has been quite spectacular in recent seasons, only really comparable to the incredible success that Graham Taylor enjoyed with Watford throughout the first half of the 1980s. To give you some idea of the leaps they have made, as of 2000 Hoffenheim were in the German fifth division! Unsurprisingly the team owes a lot of its phoenix like rise to money and financial backing, but unlike most takeovers at British clubs these days, this is a labour of love.



The man responsible is Dietmar Hopp - a former youth team player at Hoffenheim. After his foray into a football career he went on to co-found the software enterprise SAP AG and has subsequently become the 698th richest person in the world. When Hopp returned to Hoffenheim in 1990, they were in the eighth tier of the German leagues, but his financial backing has seen them fly up the tables. In 2000 and 2001 the team was promoted consecutively, and over the next four seasons they established themselves in the German third division.



With the 2006-07 season in sight, there came a new wave of ambition from within Hoffenheim and emphasis was placed on experience. Some seasoned Bundesliga players were signed and the final piece of the jigsaw was the appointment of Ralf Rangnick as manager - a position he still maintains. Promotion was secured in the same season, and then amazingly the 2007-08 season saw another immediate promotion from Bundesliga 2.



This is Hoffenheim's first ever in the top Bundesliga and they have continued their good form so remarkably that they are at the summit (on goal difference), with an unbeaten home record. Their highlights so far consist of the 4-1 destruction of Borrusia Dortmund and the 3-0 of Hamburg, both at home.



The winter break is nearing its end and the next game for Hoffenheim comes this Saturday against relegation threatened Cottbus. Another win for the 'underdogs' and they may start to believe that they can pull off one of the greatest rags to riches stories in sport’s history.



As for the usual contenders for the Bundesliga, after a shaky start for Bayern Munich and their new era under the management of Jurgen Klinsmann, they have re-established themselves as contenders. Only two games were won out of their first seven, including a shocking 5-2 loss at home to Werder Bremen (they were 5-0 down at one point!).


Klinsmann's honeymoon period evaporated and he was under immediate pressure, but positive results in the Champions League helped to tide him over. Gradually Bayern have pulled themselves together and since October they have climbed to their current position of second in the league.



What about the anticipated duel between Bayern Munich and 1899 Hoffenheim? They clashed at Bayern's Allianz Arena on December 5th and Klinsmann's team managed to snatch victory with a last minute winner, the final result 2-1.



The other major story of the season has concerned the managerial rehabilitation of Tottenham's former favourite - Martin Jol. During the summer he was instated as the new man in charge at Hamburger SV, and working with the established foundations already in place, his team started the campaign very well indeed.



Spurs fans must have wondered 'what if?' at times this season, it is not hard to imagine that Jol could have bettered their current plight. Hamburg meanwhile suffered just one defeat in their first seven league games and stayed top of the table for several weeks. Whilst they have maintained their overall consistency, they have since lost more games and as of the winter break they lie in fourth place.



The rest of the European places and those who are chasing them are of a familiar feel. Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen and Borrusia Dortmund make up the remaining top six at the half way stage.



 

Once again though, the most eager anticipation when the league resumes this weekend, will be in how 1899 Hoffenheim handle the pressure from here on in. There is every chance that they could pull off an incredible upset and fufill the dreams of their backer Diemar Hopp. It would certainly be one for the record books.

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