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Hamburg fail to relish taste of success

Now that the Bundesliga is done and dusted and Wolfsburg are deserved champions, one should spare a thought for Hamburg SV who until a few weeks ago were in the running for three trophies. They ended up with none.

But Hamburg are arguably the only team in the Bundesliga this season who managed to play high level football in all competitions. Wolfsburg only needed to do it for one, after being eliminated early on in the UEFA Cup and the German Cup. Bayern were out in the last eight in the Champions League and the German Cup.

Third-placed Stuttgart and fourth-placed Hertha Berlin also had only the Bundesliga to focus on.
Martin Jol’s Hamburg, plagued by injuries and suspensions throughout the season, were in the running for the Bundesliga title until three weeks from the end. They also reached the German Cup and UEFA Cup semi-finals where they lost to rivals Werder Bremen. And that is the really bitter part.

Werder, their rivals in northern Germany, eliminated them in both competitions and a week later also inflicted a Bundesliga defeat that dashed all of Hamburg’s title hopes.

What now for wondrous Wolfsburg?


Wolfsburg are only 90 minutes away from winning their first German championship and they have equalled or broken several records in achieving that.

No other team have ever had two strikers score 20 goals or more in a Bundesliga season. Grafite has 26, Edin Dzeko 25.

Can Magath wake Germany’s sleeping giant?


It was clear from the start that Felix Magath’s move to VfL Wolfsburg in 2007, after winning consecutive league and cup doubles with Bayern Munich, was a step backwards before another big step forward.

No one really expected them to be top of the table with three matches left this season. Magath himself said the team had met their targets earlier than expected.

Eastern Europe’s UEFA Cup love affair still burning


What have the UEFA Cup and the Eurovision song contest got in common?

A) Some people don’t take them as seriously as they could.

B) They give lesser known participants the chance to appear on prime-time TV.

C) East European countries have started to dominate them

And the answer, I’m starting to think, is C … because of A and B.

This year will be the third year in the past six that an ex-Soviet team plays in the UEFA Cup final after victories by Russian sides Zenit St Petersburg last year and CSKA Moscow in 2005.

Watching Shakhtar Donetsk’s dramatic victory over fellow Ukrainian team Dynamo Kiev, I wondered why eastern European teams were enjoying such a love affair with a competition others have lost their passion for.

Hoffenheim’s Cinderella story turns sour


Having seen the changes at the top of the Bundesliga in the past few months you cannot help but feel sorry for newcomers Hoffenheim, who have played some of the most exciting football this season.

They won promotion last year and halfway through the season they topped the standings in a sensational run. They shared the top spot at the halfway mark with Bayern Munich but were ahead on goal difference and style of play.

Is Jens Lehmann for real?


Former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is no stranger to controversy. But in recent weeks he has stirred up a debate despite being in the twilight of his playing days.

First he delayed the publication of his memoirs for next year and then signed another one-year contract extension with Stuttgart after saying last year this was his final season.

Is the Bundesliga set to surpass Serie A?

It is now widely accepted that, after a long stint as the world’s most glamorous championship in the 1980s and 90s, Serie A has fallen behind the Premier League and Spain’s Primera Liga.

Problems with hooliganism and the 2006 match-fixing scandal have not helped and attention is now moving to whether the Italian top flight can repel competition from the Bundesliga for third place.

Grafite’s stunning goal hailed throughout Germany


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.

No end in sight for Schalke’s nightmare season


Schalke 04 had high hopes for the 2008/09 season but after only a few weeks it was clear the pre-season favourites, with only three wins in the first nine league matches, were just non-starters.

Coach Fred Rutten saw things go even worse as they were eliminated from the Champions League, then the UEFA Cup and were even dumped out of the German Cup by second-division Mainz.

Is Wolfsburg’s Magath living in denial?


Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath was asked two weeks ago, after his team won their fifth consecutive league match, whether they could become German champions

“If we win all our 11 remaining fixtures then we can be champions,” he told the reporter with a hint of sarcasm. “But we are not title contenders, let’s make this clear,” he quickly added.