By Svend Frandsen
Former England striker Gary Lineker once said: "Football is a very simple game. For 90 minutes 22 men go running after the ball and at the end the Germans win." Well, not this season if the early signs in the UEFA Champions League are anything to go by.
Indeed, Germany's representatives this season, BV Borussia Dortmund, FC Bayern München and Bayer 04 Leverkusen, have given performances way short of the standard associated with Teutonic teams over the last ten years when they have consistently reached the latter stages of the prestigious tournament.
Prior to Dortmund's win against AJ Auxerre on Wednesday night, the German teams had taken only one point between them from five matches. This has prompted the country's press to sound the alarm bells as they watch their club sides fail to live up to the national team's superb run to the summer's FIFA World Cup final.
'Disillusion and confusion'
"The look of disillusion and confusion in the eyes of the players says everything," said the daily newspaper Die Welt of Bayern's performance in the 1-1 draw against RC Lens on Tuesday when Ottmar Hitzfeld's men could count themselves lucky to earn a point.
'Lack of coherence'
"The determination in the opening stages was cancelled out by a lack of coherence in a side that simply didn't know what to do with the ball which says everything about Bayern's season so far. The team need stability and so far haven't been able to adjust to the difference between domestic and European football."
No luck for Leverkusen
Leverkusen, who were beaten 2-1 at home by Manchester United FC, are a disappointing 13th in the 1. Bundesliga and have lost both of their Champions League games to date. After last season's feats where Klaus Toppmöller's side finished runners-up in the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup, Leverkusen have disappointed thus far this term. "The luck simply seems to be eluding us at the moment," Toppmöller said.
"Like in a lot of our previous matches we dominated against United. The team is in good shape and they fight to the end. However, we are really missing the confidence of producing just one good result and this makes my players hesitate in crucial situations."
Moments of promise
Despite being bottom of Group F, the German press agreed that there were moments of promise in Leverkusen's match with United. "Despite the defeat the match against United was a step forward," said TV broadcaster SAT 1. "The team showed plenty of heart but simply lack quality and were consequently let down once again by individual mistakes."
Dortmund's defeat of Auxerre offered further mitigation. The German champions created very little in their Matchday One defeat at Arsenal FC but the daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine predicted that the return of Brazilian striker Marcio Amoroso could see the team improve drastically and so it proved.
'The light will return'
"With Amoroso back the light will return. He makes everything look so easy and he's the man who can bring the belief back to Dortmund," the newspaper wrote. True to form, the long-term absentee was back on the scoresheet within 13 minutes of entering the pitch as a second-half substitute on Wednesday and almost scored a second goal in added time.
Down but not out
Confidence may not be at its highest among the country's Champions League contenders, but as Amoroso's show-stealing cameo appearance at the Westfalenstadion demonstrated, you underestimate the Germans at your peril.
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