After an amazing weekend of DFB Pokal action wrapped up today, it occurred to me that Germany seems to really understand how to get a football season underway. Perhaps it is nostalgia, since being from the United States, cup matches bring that heightened level of importance and scrutiny similar to American style playoff action. Supporters of German clubs are instantly entrenched in a survive-and-advance situation right from the beginning, and big clubs are under pressure to perform right away which is something that all other European nations should look to emulate.
Big Clubs Travel and Compete in Round One
Not only do we get cup action to begin the season, but we also get to see the biggest clubs immediately. Other leagues, such as England, see their traditional powerhouses enter the tournament in later stages. In fairness to the English FA they do have two domestic cups and more clubs competing which makes it difficult for them in their own way. Regardless, one could still be disappointed to have a knockout cup competition and not be able to see the likes of Manchester United or LIverpool.
Not only do the top German clubs enter the tournament in round one, but the top 32 clubs travel away from home for the first ties, giving a slight edge to the lower division sides. With fans starting to come back into stadiums, it is arguably more of a treat than ever for smaller sides to welcome juggernauts like Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich in their home stadium. While the big boys tend to get the job done, and sometimes in quick fashion, there is always a chance for a small side to seize an opportunity. A lucky bounce or a 50/50 call can upset the applecart moving forward while providing endless drama and great entertainment. The magic of giant killing minnows winning the day is what makes cup ties special, even if the dream falls short more often than not.
Drama This Past Weekend
While our beloved Borussia Dortmund handily defeated third division side Wehen Wiesbaden thanks to a strong performance coupled with an Erling Haaland hat-trick, other Bundesliga clubs struggled. Die Schwarzgelben’s opponent this coming weekend, Eintracht Frankfurt, fell 2-0 to SV Waldhof Mannheim 07. Die Adler were not only stunned, but thoroughly outplayed by the third division side who registered 9 shots on target compared to the Bundesliga clubs 1. Bundesliga new boys Greuther Furth were also kicked out in the first round, being put out on penalties by SV Babelsberg 03 of the Regionalliga Nordost, the German fourth division.
American Josh Sargent was expected to play one last time for Werder Bremen before being allowed to transfer to Norwich City in the Premier League. However, Sargent felt he couldn’t give it his all and withdrew himself from the contest that Bremen eventually lost 2-0 to Osnabruck. Many Bundesliga clubs survived extra time scares like Bochum, Köln, Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and Mainz on penalties. However, Wolfsburg breached DFB-Pokal rules by using a sixth substitute in their win over Preußen Münster. Should Münster lodge a complaint with the DFB, Wolfsburg could see themselves added to the one and done list for this cup crusade.
There is nothing quite like knockout competition and based on these results, no club is safe to move forward without putting in a good performance. The German Cup is still a great prize for any club, and the DFB lays a great foundation for excitement with the way they set up the tournament. By not catering to the big clubs, they create an atmosphere of fair play that nearly every club gets to be a part of. If other countries want to bring their domestic cup competition back to the forefront, maybe they should take a look at what’s going on in Germany.