Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
German media have already decided that Grafite’s brilliant 77th-minute solo goal in Wolfsburg’s 5-1 win over Bayern Munich on Saturday is the goal of the year.
He somehow managed to elude five Bayern players before scoring with a cheeky backheel.
It may seem a bit early to be choosing the “Tor des Jahres” with nine months left in 2009 but even the normally reserved public TV broadcast “Das Aktuelle Sportstudio” proclaimed it “the most spectacular goal in Bundesliga history”.
The electrifying goal has featured in German newscasts all weekend.
Grafite’s goal, coming two days after his 30th birthday, also served as a fitting metaphor for the season as it helped Wolfsburg jump to the top of the Bundesliga in front of Hamburg SV, Hertha Berlin and Bayern.
So, here we go again. For the fifth successive season, Liverpool will face Chelsea in the Champions League.
Villarreal v Arsenal
Manchester United v Porto
Liverpool v Chelsea
Barcelona v Bayern Munich
Manchester United or Porto v Villarreal or Arsenal
Barcelona or Bayern Munich v Liverpool or Chelsea
Liverpool will perhaps be marginal favourites in the all-English quarter-final after knocking Chelsea out at the semi-final stage in 2005 and 2007 but their fans will need no reminding that last season, when Chelsea got to play the second leg at home, it was the Londoners who came through.
What a Bundesliga season! Exciting, fast-paced and at least five teams in the running for the title and believe it or not, Bayern are not top of the table.
But next season may be very different. Many of the league’s top players who have carried their teams into title contention could leave at the end of the campaign.
The credit crunch is biting into German soccer, with teams starting to consider the idea of salary caps to further reduce annual running costs.
It was Bayern Munich manager Uli Hoeness who first warned some time ago that the financial downturn would hit Bundesliga clubs, especially mid-table ones, who would not be able to balance their budgets. Now Bayer Leverkusen sports director Rudi Voeller and, more surprisingly, Hoffenheim billionaire backer Dietmar Hopp have come out in favour of salary caps.
Juergen Klinsmann won almost everything there was to win as a player, enjoying success in Germany, Italy, France and England, but as a coach it’s been a different story.
Granted, taking over Bayern Munich on the back of their league and Cup double last season iss no easy task, especially if it is your first club level job.
Juergen Klinsmann, who has turned German soccer upside down the last four years with a dynamic and modern approach to the game, has once again managed to silence the domestic naysayers, at least for the time being.
Bayern’s 5-0 thrashing of Sporting Lisbon put an abrupt halt to the media speculation that Klinsmann’s job was on the line after Bayern lost three of their first four Bundesliga matches since the start of the second half of the season in January.
We’ve already blogged on Hertha Berlin’s surprise win over Bayern Munich at the weekend but I thought I’d mention one more aspect to the game and the result — this was one of those rare occasions when Dieter Hoeness got one over on his more famous brother Uli.
Uli is a year older than Dieter, almost to the day. They both spent most of their playing days at Bayern but their careers were still very different.
Hertha Berlin have found their way to the top of the Bundesliga table for the first time since October 2006 and given their long-suffering fans a faint whiff of championship hopes.
It’s been a very long time since Hertha’s last championship in 1931 and many years since their last Champions League appearance in 2000.
Bayern’s decision to let the 23-year-old Podolski go back to the club he came from three years ago, once the current season is over, is an astonishing move from the Bavarians, who could probably have earned a far more handsome return on the Germany striker from another club abroad or even a wealthier Bundesliga side.
If you don’t mind the sight of St Etienne glued near the bottom of the Ligue 1 table, you did not grow up in France in the 1970s.
Everybody there then had two teams, their own and Les Verts (The Greens). Even today, many fans of other sides have a soft spot for the team from a small industrial town near Lyon.