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Germany's finest stand on verge of greatness

Published: Friday 26 April 2013, 8.46CET
Superb atmosphere, home-grown players, swashbuckling style and incredible results – there is much to admire about German football at the moment, as UEFA.com discovers.
by Andy James
from Dortmund
Germany's finest stand on verge of greatness
Dortmund clinched an emphatic win against Madrid ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Friday 26 April 2013, 8.46CET

Germany's finest stand on verge of greatness

Superb atmosphere, home-grown players, swashbuckling style and incredible results – there is much to admire about German football at the moment, as UEFA.com discovers.

If you had said at the start of this UEFA Champions League campaign that the Wembley final on 25 May would be an all-Bundesliga affair, most German fans would have scoffed at the idea.

FC Bayern München strengthened over the summer, but there were serious doubts about whether they could recover from the heartbreak of last season's penalty shoot-out defeat by Chelsea FC in their 'Finale dahoam'. As for Borussia Dortmund, despite all the hype, they had failed to deliver in what was their first group stage foray for almost a decade.

Dortmund certainly made amends this term, topping a section containing the English, Spanish and Dutch champions, while Bayern also cruised through the group stage. Both impressed in the subsequent knockout rounds, yet, truth be told, when the two clubs drew Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona respectively in the last four, most fans had their money on a maiden 'Clásico' showpiece.

Yet here we are, still trying to make sense of two remarkable semi-final first legs and entertaining the very real prospect of a Bayern-Dortmund decider. Not only that, but the Bundesliga's big two beat their Spanish equivalents comprehensively.

Bayern blew Barça away in breathtaking style at the Fuβball Arena München on Tuesday, sparking premature debate about a potential power shift in the European game. The Bavarians may have trailed in the possession stakes, but their physicality, tactical savvy and efficient finishing proved too much for Lionel Messi and Co.

As if that memorable result in Munich were not enough, Dortmund followed it up with another four-goal salvo to leave Real's 'Décima' dream in tatters.

©UEFA.com

The BVB Stadion is quite a sight

There were stunned expressions and heads shaking with disbelief among the hundreds of journalists in the mixed zones after both matches; however, the German teams' success this season has not come out of the blue. As has been well documented, it is the culmination of a strategy that started in the wake of a disastrous UEFA EURO 2000 for the national side. Compulsory youth academies were introduced at every Bundesliga club and, over a decade later, the fruits of those seeds are being reaped at all levels.

Of the 11 Bayern players fielded against Barcelona, seven came through the academy system. Dortmund's starting XI against Madrid consisted of seven German players, while 14 current members of Joachim Löw's national squad – including Madrid's Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira – took part across both fixtures. But for injuries, it might have been more.

Not only does a home-grown core breed dressing-room spirit, it also gives these two teams, in spite of their size, a distinctly local element which supporters can both be proud of and identify with. This shows through in the stands. Foreign media marvelled at the noise created at either ground for the semi-final openers, and it is also true that sensible ticket pricing, respectful dialogue and a fan culture spreading back decades have made the Bundesliga Europe's best-attended league.

It helps too that Bayern and Dortmund are playing some of the most modern, technically adroit and exciting football in Europe at the moment.

©Getty Images

Javi Martínez has been a superb addition

Bayern, an established heavyweight able to compete for the world's top talent – as Mario Götze's prospective move from Dortmund affirmed – wisely addressed the tiny margins that cost them glory against Chelsea last term. Summer recruits Dante, Javi Martínez and Mario Mandžukić have all been superb, eradicating any perceived weaknesses in defence, midfield and attack.

Slip-ups against FC BATE Borisov and Arsenal FC notwithstanding, Jupp Heynckes' charges have looked even more determined in this season's competition, answering any questions as to whether they were getting an easy ride in the Bundesliga with Tuesday's incontrovertible beating of Barça.

In Dortmund's case, the club's growing stature is counterbalanced by their working-class roots, although they are not short of star names themselves. Along with Götze, Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus are two of the most lauded attackers on the continent, yet what makes Borussia brilliant is their collective spirit under coach Jürgen Klopp. He has built and maintained a side that plays the kind of football to put a smile on your face.

Should the two sides, as expected, continue their march to Wembley in May, it will be difficult for neutrals to decide which to support. After last year's cruel ending, there is definitely a desire to see redemption on Bayern's part. However, who could possibly deny Dortmund, the cheeky upstarts with the coolest coach, the chance of completing, as defender Neven Subotić put it, their own "Hollywood" tale?

Of course, it may well be that both teams are left licking their wounds after a historic Spanish response next week, but aside from their new-found style, the Bundesliga's ambassadors still cherish the traditional values of hard work, discipline and determination which made Germany a leading football nation in the first place. A landslide therefore seems improbable. German football could well be on the verge of something truly great.

Last updated: 26/04/13 22.05CET

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