Germany is rising, well, literally. The national team has no dearth of talent to fill its starting 11 and the bench, and they have been phenomenal on the international scene. Post the slump in the early half of 2000, measures were taken to raise the faltering standards of the Bundesliga with an eye to improve the performance of the national team. And this silent revolution, spearheaded by the DFB, is now paying rich dividends as a number of teams find themselves competing for the European spots in the Bundesliga apart from just Bayern Munich, the one name that is more synonymous with domestic football in Germany than the Bundesliga itself.
Bayern have been a steady presence in Europe’s premier club football tournament, making it to the finals on two occasions over the past three years despite being defeated finalists. The first time they were led by Dutch mastermind Louis van Gaal, who was subdued by the brilliance of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan, while last year their charge was quelled by a resurgent Chelsea FC under the guidance of the novice Roberto di Matteo. Bayern represent German football, and are a symbol of how the country may be returning to its heydays of the 70′s.
Domestically, the Bundesliga shield has been held by four different teams over the last six seasons, but none has been as consistent as current champions Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund have seen a tremendous spell of resurgence led by Jurgen Klopp and have humiliated their traditional rivals Bayern Munich consistently over the last two seasons. Some may deem Jurgen to be a rockstar, but there is yet another man in the league who is beginning to hog the limelight- Christian Streich.
Even while playing FIFA 13, Freiburg are one of those mid table German teams you would simply want to simulate in Manager Mode, knowing very well that a strong attack for your Dortmund or Munich team will give them a 3-4 goal pasting. An easy 3 points or easily by-passed in cup competitions. But in the next version, you might want to take them more seriously. And it’s all because of that one man, Christian Streich. The man who notably cycles to all of Freiburg’s home games.
Freiburg underwent a major change in tradition with the appointment of Streich. The club had never sacked a coach in almost two decades until Marcus Sorg, with Volker Finke being their longest serving coach before Sorg.
Streich’s start was not all smooth sailing, though he won his first game in charge against FC Augsburg. Senegalese hitman Papiss Demba Cissé left the German side for Tyneside club, Newcastle United FC in the January transfer window. This was followed by a five-match winless streak which saw them go down 4-1 to regional rivals and former Bundesliga champions, VfB Stuttgart. But post the defeat, things went uphill with a 10 match unbeaten run, which was ended by eventual league champions Dortmund during the last match of the season. Freiburg finished the season in a respectable 12th place after having staved off relegation during the first half.
Christian Streich was named Coach of the Year by Goal! magazine, the official Bundeliga magazine in 2011-12.
Exactly seven months after being humiliated by their local rivals, Freiburg had a chance to level scores against their noisier neighbours. Freiburg had already been written off by Stuttgart’s sporting director, Fredi Bobic, terming them as improper derby rivals for the Swabians. Stuttgart had been away in Budapest for the Europa League, and were naturally weakened by their travels. Freiburg managed to freshen things up on their side, by letting the players have a day or two off before the game. The strategy worked with Freiburg dominating the show despite a frantic start with summer signing and current club top scorer for the season, Max Kruse, netting the winner.
Streich’s most popular contribution would be the formation of a tight defense, that has seen the team concede only 17 goals in 18 games. Streich has also been responsible for the rise of youngsters Daniel Caligiuri and Jonathan Schmid. Freiburg now find themselves in the 5th place, 4 points behind Eintracht Frankfurt and in serious contention for the 4th European spot.
“Freiburg’s best man is sat on their bench. He (Streich) has not only worked on the foundations, but he has also started a revival at Freiburg.”, as Bayern supremo, Jupp Heynckes was quoted saying before the Munich-Freiburg fixture this season.
A finish in the top four would be a dream finish for Freiburg, while 5th place is what most bookies and pundits would offer to the Breisgau-Brasilianer.
Like they sing it at the Mage Solar Stadion, “We go down, we go up, we go into the UEFA Cup!” (a dig at the team shuttling rapidly between the top tiers of German football. But this time, they seem like they are here to stay for good)Published 25 Dec 2012, 21:32 IST