1. The World Cup slush fund controversy rumbles on
Just as former FIFA special advisor, Guido Tognoni, predicted a few days ago, ex-DFB president, Theo Zwanziger, is emerging as one of the key players in the increasingly heated scandal surrounding the awarding of the 2006 World Cup finals to Germany.
Zwanziger, the head of the federation from 2006 to 2012, told Der Spiegel this week that his successor, Wolfgang Niersbach, would have known about the clandestine cash fund for years and that if Niersbach was claiming no knowledge of it until recently, he had to be lying.
Will Zwanziger be believed ? Some will, some won’t. Despite Zwanziger’s inside track as the financial chief of the 2006 World Cup organising committee, it’s common knowledge that he and Niersbach never saw eye to eye and many think he is motivated more by personal animus than genuine desire to clean the stables.
One such figure is Bayern director of sport Matthias Sammer, who for several years worked in that role for the DFB:
“The worst aspect of all this is that people are appearing in the media to settle old scores. It’s shabby and shouldn’t be done.”
Not that it’s looking particularly good for Niersbach; rumours are already circulating that the DFB are putting out feelers for a new president.
2. Bayern pass another milestone
Four days after their sobering 2-0 Champions League defeat at Arsenal, Bayern partially made amends on Saturday with a 4-0 Bundesliga romp at home to Köln, the Bavarians’ tenth win out of ten this term and their 1000th domestic league victory since first reaching the top-flight in 1965-66.
Another ‘event’ to lift the Allianz-Arena crowd was the long-awited reappearance of winger Arjen Robben. Out with a persistent groin problem for the past seven weeks, the Dutchman returned to the starting line-up for the visit of the Rhinelanders and soon was back in the decisive groove, opening the scoring with a neat side-footed finish on 35 minutes.
All told, he was the pitch for just over an hour and deployed both centrally and in his favoured right-flank role, was full of verve and good intentions, the consequence, no doubt, of the intense competition for places in Bayern’s front-line.
3. Leverkusen: the comback kids
Fresh from their midweek Champions League heroics – scoring twice in the last ten minutes to force an incredible 4-4 draw at home to Roma – the Leverkusener were up to their old last lap tricks in Saturday’s encounter at the BayArena against lowly Stuttgart, recovering from 3-1 down on the hour-mark to ecstatically pull off a 4-3 win.
In full flow, Roger Schmidt’s ‘Werkself‘ are pure Las Vegas strip spectacle: gritted teeth intensity, pack of wolves pressing and multiple attackers flooding forward. Yet only rarely are they capable of putting it all together for a sustained period in a match. Thus, ironically, for a team of such spirit and backs-to-the-wall energy, they do tend to lose their way rather easily, going from supermen ensemble to house of cards at the drop of hat. That’s the puzzle Schmidt urgently has to solve.
4. Stendera to Eintracht’s rescue
One of the most promising young midfielders in the country, Frankfurt’s diminutive 19-year-old starlet Marc Stendera certainly pulled his weight in the 2-1 victory at Hannover on Saturday, not only scoring both his side’s goals in a eight-minute blitz, but also putting in an excellent all-round shift, busy, inventive and provider of much of the team’s balance.
Without a win in their previous five games and thrashed 5-1 by Gladbach in their last catastrophic run-out, Eintracht desperately needed to stop the rot and the decision of coach Armin Veh to switch from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-2-3-1 definitely has made them more solid.
You could say Veh was very relieved, celebrating the victory by falling to his knees, pumping his fists and screaming satisfaction.
5. Gisdol bites the dust
Second from bottom Hoffenheim have opted to go down the soot-tinged old firefighter route following the sacking on Sunday of head coach Markus Gisdol.
For next weekend’s trip to Köln, the south-westerners will have the 61-year-old Huub Stevens at the command and control post and if anyone can dampen down the relegation flames, it is the no-nonsense Dutchman, who in each of the last two seasons, was Stuttgart’s anti-demotion saviour.
Although Hoffenheim’s results this term have been poor (only one win and a half-dozen defeats), many local beat reporters believe his fate was sealed during contract re-negotiations at the beginning of the year, angering club owner, Dietmar Hopp with alleged excessive wage demands.