Archive for the ‘German Soccer’ Category


Representing for Die Mannschaft. German National Team Fan Club Smyrna, GA ready to go!

Here we are .. the end of day 5 Euro 2016: 12 matches, the opening group games for all 24 Euro teams, are in the books; 22 goals; 6 matches decided by one goal; 3 ties; Germany, Italy and Hungary managed 2:0 victories.

Based on the first week of play, here are some of our pleasant surprises, shockers, under performers and overachievers:


Wales’ super sub Hal Robson-Kanu scores a late winner to shock Slovakia in its Euro 2016 opener.

Pleasant Surprise — Wales: The Football Association of Wales, the 3rd oldest national FA in the world, waited 58 years to field its national team  at a major international tournament. Not only did Wales’ superstar Gareth Bale score a goal, the team scrapped and fought it’s way to a 2:1 victory over Slovakia. With the win, Wales sits atop Group B (and England) … at least until Thursday when they battle the perennial underachieving English.

Shocker — Hungary: Many EURO 16 fantasy types picked Austria to go far … after all they took care of business in Euro qualifying plus have Bayern Munich superstar David Alaba and Christian Fuchs, proud member of this year’s Premier league winner Leicester City. Well, Hungary had an appetite for an upset and beat Austria soundly 2:0.


Hungary’s goal scorer Adam Szalai does his best impression of the Lambeau Leap as his nation upsets Austria in their Euro 2016 opening match.

Biggest disappointment — Belgium: If this is truly the best Belgian’s ‘golden generation’ of footballers can do than it’s time to sell your gold reserves. Pound-for-pound, player-for-player, the 2016 Belgian national squad is easily the most impressive of the 24 Euro teams. They started their Euro campaign with a haphazard, uninspired performance versus the laser focused and disciplined Italians. Not all is lost, but the Red Devils may need to watch tape from the 1980s-1990s teams that delivered true championship caliber performances.

Buffon singing

Italian national keeper Gianluigi Buffon sings his heart out during the EURO 2016 pre-match country anthems.

Overachievers — Italy: Oh the irony … the team best known for defense and eking out boring 1 nil victories, topped the week 1 scoring charts with two surprise goals against Belgium. Entering the EUROS as one of the weakest Italy squads in many years, the Azzuri are playing light and burden free. Will they be the team to watch? Let’s see what their next match vs. Sweden brings.

As we head into week 2, we have finally warmed up our Euro 2016 diesels and are ready to hit the open road. Who will shine? who will whine? and who will continue to dream of Euro glory. Stay tuned!


LUS-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (60)et’s backtrack a year to early June 2013 and the German National Team’s visit to the States and the Centennial Match vs, the U.S. National Team TRF headed out to DC to check out Die Mannschaft and enjoy all the festivities surrounding USMNT 100 year celebrations. The low light was a hapless loss by the Germans to the U.S, boys, the highlight was chanting “Miro wir lieben Dich” and “Kaiserslautern” as he took the practice pitch a day before the match.

Funny Fact: It turns out that our hotel (Hyatt Regency Washington) was the official U.S. Soccer Association HQ for the centennial celebration so we were greeted by literally 100s of local, regional and national U.S. soccer officials in town for the big event. Walking through the hotel decked out in Germany schwag was a blast especially when all of our chats with the officials focused on the bright future of the German NT, not their own. Of course, we toned things back a bit post-game on Sunday.

While on location, we took the chance to catch the Germans’ Saturday pre-match practice. Here’s a short vid edited and produced by the fabulously talented Victoria Hersey

Back to Miro Klose … he had just joined the team after winning the Italian Cup in Rome. While Klose was not able to break Gerd Mueller’s total national team goals record against the Americans, we’ll keep our fingers crossed he stays healthy and in form heading into next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Update: Miro broke Gerd’s Mueller vs. Armenia almost a year after the US match in DC. After his late clutch goal vs. Ghana on Saturday, he’s also on track to break Ronaldo’s all time world cup goal record. I am hopefully he’ll get and seize his chance tommorrow!
US-Soccer-Centennial-Germany-Football-Friendly-0613 (16)

Germany contests its 2nd Group G match today versus Ghana. While Ghana, similar to most of the African Federation world cup teams in Brazil, has disappointed so far, the squad has the talent and fight to make this an exciting matchup. Here are some of our musings and match facts ahead of the match.

Pressing the reset button

Fans of the German national football teaHistorically, the Germans have been challenged with staying focused throughout the duration of international competitions. Surprisingly, the dip in focus and form usually occurs the second match into the group stages. In Euro 2008, Germany fell to Croatia (after a sound victory vs. Austria) in its 2nd match and  in South Africa (WC2010), the team lost to Serbia after an inspirational win against Australia. With Ghana out for blood and in ‘do or die’ mode after falling to the U.S. boys, Germany needs to keep their eye on the ‘winning the group’ prize and treat the Ghana match like their first one.

oezil & rocky balboaCelebrating Özil

Mesut Özil was the difference maker in Germany’s last world cup match vs. Ghana. His lethal strike in the 59th minute of the must win last group match solidified his standing as a ‘up and comer’ on the global soccer scene. In fact, due to his performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Özil ensured his place among Europe’s top young talents and was sought by teams like BarcelonaArsenal, and Real Madrid. On August 17th, 2010, his German club Werder Bremen announced that they had reached an agreement with Real Madrid for Özil’s transfer. He now plays for Arsenal along side national team colleagues Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker.



Match Facts
  • Germany will play its 101st world cup match compared to Ghana’s 14th which qualified for a 3rd world cup in a row
  • Last time Germany lost to an African side at the World Cup was way back in 1982 against Algeria
  • Since 1994, Germany have won their second World Cup group game only once that was against Poland in 2006 (whichTRF attended in Dortmund with his daddy!)


    My dad and I celebrating Oliver Neuville’s extra time winner versus Poland in the 2nd match of Germany’s 2006 World Cup campaign

Four of the last six World Cup goals conceded by Ghana have come from set-pieces …  Germany has one of the tallest teams!

  • Today is Germany and Ghana’s third meeting. Germany emerged winners on both previous encounters, 6-1 in a friendly in 1993 and 1-0 in group stage at the 2010 World Cup
  • All seven goals scored by Germany against Ghana have come after the 60th minute

Germany will break its curse of bad 2nd match group performances and add 3 points to its WC 2014 tally. 2:1 the final score with Mesut Özil reminding the world that he’s top class.

The one and only 1. FC Kaiserslautern Soccer Club It is a question we are often asked in life, usually as it relates to that first kiss, the first sexual encounter or our first real love interest. As you know, The Real Futbol is a soccer blog so our ‘first time’ memories are squarely focused on the beautiful game and what first got us dreaming of bicycle kicks and last second match winners.

In this post, our ‘first time’ will take you to Kaiserslautern, the quaint town’s footballing pride and joy, Germany’s Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and the crown jewel of it all, Fritz Walter Stadium (auf dem Betzenberg).

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team.

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team

My first trip to “K-Town” to see the ‘Roten Teufel vom Betzenberg’ was some 26 years ago. I was not particularly pumped up to see FCK play but definitely curious since this would be my first professional soccer game. I had zero expectations going in and was more excited about sampling the Stadion eats and treats then I was about having a front row seat to some of the most fanatical Fussball ‘Fandom’ in all of Germany. The roughly 50 mile drive from Roemerberg was one to remember as the last 20 miles of our route was bumper-to-bumper traffic chock-full of FCK fans commuting to this Friday evening match from all over the region.

The FCK Westkurve ist one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

The FCK Westkurve is one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

Cars were decorated with FCK scarves, flags, decals and any number of fan items you can imagine, passengers wore their FCK jerseys and jackets and took every opportunity to ‘serenade’ the home team with a Hupkonzert (car honking concert) and popular FCK fan songs.

By the time we parked at Kaiserslautern’s Messeplatz and took the bus up ‘Zum Betze’ (the ‘mountain’ where the stadium sits), I had forgotten about Bratwurst  and Cola and was part of the mob singing “Hoeher Hoeher FCK” at the top of my lungs and quivering with excitement about what I would experience next.

The Betzenberg in Kaiserslautern (also known as Fritz Walter Stadion) is the home of the FCK red devils

Back then, all German Fussball stadiums had legitimate terraces (standing room only supporter sections) so nobody except a few pampered VIPs would dare sit during the game.

The Red Devil is FCK's lucky mascot, devil horns and all

The Red Devil is FCK’s lucky mascot, devil horns and all

Standing during a 90 minute soccer match may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but I can’t think of a better way to intimately experience the pulse of the game, every bad shot, every hair-raising foul and of course every sweet goal.  I remember we played Bayer Leverkusen and the legendary South Korean striker Cha Boom known not only for his awesome name but thunderous ball striking ability. The biggest highlight by far was admiring the vast sea of red, made up of 20,000+ FCK supporters crammed into the West-end fan section (the legendary FCK Westkurve)

The rest of the evening was a blur but I remember coming home and discovered I had left my voice in Kaiserslautern. What a night! What a team! What awesome fans! I was hooked for good.

Fritz Walter Tribute Choreography

FCK fans honor hometown hero and Germany World Cup winner Fritz Walter with a choreographed pre-game celebration to remember

Second division German Bundesliga soccer is back after an action-packed first week of the 2013/2014 season ended on Monday with freshly relegated Fortuna Duesseldorf’s 1:0 victory over Energie Cottbus. Our Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern was equally successful in its season opener with a fairly ‘decisive’ 1:0 win in Paderborn last weekend. Simon Zoller celebrates FCK debuteDie Roten Teufel featured a ‘new look’ Elf with four starters making their FCK debuts including Finnish International Alexander RIng and youngster striker Simon Zoller, both of whom thoroughly impressed, and in the case of Zoller, even netted the winning goal. This Friday evening FCK hosts FC Ingolstadt 04 at the Betzenberg marking both the FCK Faithful’s first look at the ‘new and improved’ squad as well as the return of former coach Marco Kurz and FCK defender Leon Jessen. Although Kurz got the Pfaelzer boot (aka his dismissal from the club) back in March of 2012, K-Town is still a fan of the well-traveled Fussball teacher and Lautern fans won’t quickly forget his leadership and coaching ability that led to FCK’s Bundesliga promotion back in 2011, after four long years in 2. Liga.

The mystical Betzenberg in K-Town

The Betzenberg and the Fritz Walter Stadion are the pride and joy of Kaiserslautern and every 1. FCK fan around the world. Built in 1920 and majorly upgraded in time for FIFA’s 2006 World Cup in Germany, the stadium packs in 50,000+ fans and is known throughout Germany and Europe as one of the toughest ‘away’ places to play.

Match wise, Kaiserslautern should have the upper hand, especially if you look at the teams’ last four encounters dating back to 2008 (3 wins, 1 draw) and this season’s FCK squad and its new weapons both among strikers and midfielders. Add to that, the support of 40,000+ hometown Lautern fans at the Fritz Walter Stadion at the Betzenberg and “6 points after 2 matches” should not come as a surprise.

Some things are just meant to be … We expected Boston and all New Englanders to rise up, rally and hunt down the Boston Marathon terrorists, we knew Manchester United couldn’t be relegated to 2nd place for long and to no ones surprise they easily re-claimed the English Premier League championship this year. It’s with the same conviction and confidence that I predict that 1. FC Kaiserslautern, ‘das Herz der Pfalz’, will once again be ‘first class and at the conclusion of the 2013/2014 2. Bundesliga Season be promoted back to the German ‘Oberhaus’.  Like team GM and FCK legend Stefan Kuntz said after the relegation playoff to Hoffenheim in May, “what saddens me the most is that we have first class fans who deserve to support a first class team.” I admit I was crushed after ‘die roten Teufel’ so narrowly missed promotion this year, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was too early and the talent pool was too thin to make it last. FCK Erst Klassig

Kaiserslautern is a so called Traditionsverein- a club with tradition, tradition for being a strong member of the German soccer Elite not a ‘yo-yo’ club consistently fighting relegation.  Before the 1996 season, Kaiserslautern was one of only four of the original sixteen teams that had played in each Bundesliga season since the inception of the league in 1963, never having been relegated. Since then, FCK has been relegated thrice with the darkest period being the 2008/09 season when the club was one loss away from being demoted down to the 3rd German Liga. Stefan Kuntz, who was brought in as savior and GM in 2008, has had his share of ups and downs (near demotion to league 3 and relegation in 2011/12) but continues to build a solid foundation for future success. Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of 1.FCK’s preparations for the 2013/2014 season on TRF and the Bundesliga Fanatic and an ‘Ausflug nach Kaiserslautern’ pictorial later this month.  For now, let’s remember what the squad accomplished last year and agree ‘Das war Erstklassig’. Maybe not first class in terms of gaining promotion, but first class for re-energizing fan spirit and the unequivocal Herzblut that defines FCK fans throughout the region and all over the world.

About a year ago I stumbled upon a timely and well written article about German Bundesliga footballers migrating to Major League Soccer and before I knew it I was 2 hours and 30 comments into my eight article on something German soccer related … I had just discovered the Bundesliga Fanatic, an English language site dedicated to German football. According to BF founder and brainchild Gerry Wittmann, “the blog’s aim is to publicize and spread the history, culture, quality,and competitiveness of the Bundesliga and German football to the English speaking world.”

But it offers so much more. Thanks to the gifted staff writers and to an extremely diverse team of contributors (of which I am one), no German soccer story, past, present or future is left unturned. Content ranges from match reports and analysis to historical and cultural pieces as well as interviews with prominent figures and players.

Beyond the content, the interaction with other contributors and BF readers is awesome and truly makes blog content come to life with commentary and opinions. In fact, I have discovered numerous other tasty football sites and resources thanks to the Fanatic.

With roughly 30 new articles per week, the content never gets old, and during the German Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga season (August t0 May) things really start to heat up. Nearly each major Bundesliga team has a loyal fan/analyst who contributes match reports and analysis on a weekly basis, and thanks to a deep writing roster, many less popular, often obscure topics and teams are spotlighted. Speaking of, as a passionate 1. FC Kaiserslautern fan, I will continue to contribute match previews/reviews for the Fanatic kicking off with a 2012/13 ‘K-town in der 2. Bundesliga’ preview later this summer.

Currently, the Fanatic is doing a full court press on the Euro 2012 tournament with more than 60 articles (since June 8th) focused on the German National Team, profiles of Bundesliga players competing for other Euro teams, and many historical Euro match pieces.

My favorite part is the Euro 2012 contest Gerry and his team came up with which tests your German national team soccer knowledge in exchange for some fancy football gear and other prizes. The final Euro contest is going on now so check it out and see if you can win some cool memorabilia including a Germany ultimate fan goodie bag donated by yours truly and The Real Futbol blog.

OK folks, it’s that time of the year again … we’re approaching mid-March aka crunch time for many struggling German Bundesliga 1st division soccer teams. There are 10 games left on the 2011/12 Bundesliga season schedule, and my beloved 1. FCK is in last place with no place to go but up (or down into 2nd division football in 2012/13). And that’s the thrust of this post, to provide 7 real world reasons why all FCK fans should keep the faith and believe in the ‘miracle of Betze’- our team’s ability to scratch and claw and avoid demotion to the 2. Bundesliga come May 5th. Why 7 you ask, because it is one of my lucky Roulette numbers, and, in addition to fan support and quality play on the pitch, the thing we need most right now is LUCK! Here’s my lucky seven:

Do the math: Like my good buddy T-Bone Callahan, FCKler 4 life and TRF contributor mentions, there are 30 points yet to be had and approximately 17-19 needed (based on past league stats) to remain ‘first class’.  While this translates to 4 wins (12 points) and 5 further draws (5 points) by matchday 34 on May 5th, the remaining opponents are, for the most part, beatable … Stuttgart today is a must win; Schalke at home, why not? Freiburg did it last week; away game in Freiburg, a must win of course; Hamburg- we should have won the 1st time, this time we’ll do it; Hoffenheim- a tough local rival, but with some momentum and guts …; Nürnberg and Hertha are definitely win-able while Dortmund, Hannover and  Leverkusen are probable losses.

Will wearing his heart on his sleeve save his job and his team from relegation? I sure hope so!

Stick with Marco Kurz: This is NOT the time to hire and fire. If anything, think long and hard about the future of GM Stefan Kuntz and his   recent player acquisitions, but don’t mess with Kurz. He brought the back to the 1. Bundesliga in 2010 and has great chemistry with his players.

More than a ‘one trick’ pony: As T-Bone has pointed out on numerous occasions, hoping to convert goals based on standards (free kics, corners and the like) and ‘pray for rain’ style ‘kick and rush’ soccer alone will not break the goal drought. Orchestrate attacks from the flanks and take advantage of the midfield speed and youth up front. All players are advised to watch a Miroslav Klose (ex FCK striker) highlight reel since most of his goals are of the aerial/header variety.

Consistency is vital, stop changing the recipe: Any one watching the team play this year would attest to a great degree of inconsistency on the pitch. Midfielders have been swapped all year, the Sturm (strikers) has had many, less successful faces and now, even the goal is becoming a position of controversy. Pick a starting 11 that is dedicated to the cause and willing to go to battle together and ‘just do it’. With that said, I do agree with comrade T-Bone that selecting a more aggressive, dual attacker formation during home games is a wise strategy. If FCK fans show up to the remaining home games, the ’12th’ man, along with the a more attack-minded formation, can really make the difference and hopefully turn draws into desperately needed 3 point victories.

Christian Tiffert has had a lousy season but it's never too late to make up for it with key goals and assists down the home stretch.

Converting goal opportunities. In FCKs 10 tie games this season (3rd highest of all 18 Bundesliga clubs), we counted an average of 2 legitimate, ‘you don’t have to be Messi to score’, missed goal chances per match. Last week vs. VFL Wolfsburg, the red devils squandered  4 such golden opportunities. Key to success: Get out of your own heads, convert the goal shots  you worked hard to create and say ‘yes’ to freebies your opponents might afford you

Don’t cry over spilt milk: Or as my economics professor used to say, ‘sunk costs are sunk’ – what happened yesterday is irrelevant, the past investments you made in players, the great players you lost … all that matters not in the present. Don’t make decisions based on what you did yesterday! With that said, play the game and fight like you meant it and focus on goal getting at every turn versus still lamenting the loss of former FCK strikers such as Lakic, Jendrisek and Hoffer. Belief starts from within!

1.FCK Herzblut: FCK fans are the truest, most loyal fans in the world. We bleed red and white and ‘would walk 500 miles and 500 more’ to not only support our Jungs but also see them fight their way to safety this year. Remember Fritz Walter, remember Klose, Kuntz, Rehagel, and the miracles of ’91 and ’98, hell remember the Alamo if it helps save our arses this year!

Check out this clip of FCK fans at their finest … These scenes are from last August’s home game vs. Augsburg … a not too distant memory. Hoeher Hoeher FCK! 

This is my long overdue post on the German first division of football, ‘Die Bundesliga’, and why its Rodney Dangerfield “I get no respect” mantra of years past has been replaced by stiff competition, great players, a rabid fan following and media attention around the world.

Modern Bundesliga football makes the heart sing

What was my personal wake up call? The turning point that made me think, woah, the Bundesliga is much more than a bunch of local ‘Provinzkicker’ and a few strong regional teams with a faithful fan base within their Bundesland (German state) and maybe a few expat stragglers. Here are some musings …

Who the hell is Wolfsburg? Founded in 1938, the football club grew out of a multi-sports club for Volkswagen workers in the city of Wolfsburg and is a wholly owned subsidiary of VW Group. Aside a 2nd place finish in the 1995 DFB Pokal (German Cup), the team was anything but impressive and spent decades trading places in the German 3rd and 2nd division before staying put in the 1. Liga after the 1997 season … And then there was the 2008/9 Bundesliga season.

Top Bundesliga goal-getters and champions VFL Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko and Grafite

Not only did ‘Die Woelfe’ (the wolves) win the Bundesliga title, they did so in dramatic fashion with a must-win victory the last game of the season. Beyond that, they tied the Bundesliga record for consecutive wins and were the only team to boast two 20+ goal strikers with Brazilian Grafite and Bosnian Edin Dzeko scoring 28 and 26 respectively. While Grafite is past his prime and now plays club football in Dubai, UAE, Dzeko is a reliable striker and steady goal scorer for English Premier League side Manchester City. The other big sensation that year was 1899 Hoffenheim, a freshly promoted team that shocked the league winning the Herbstmeisterschaft (autumn title) at the season’s halfway mark. While devastating injuries and bad luck spoiled their championship run, it was refreshing to have the newbies along with VFL Wolfsburg dominate the footballing headlines. These epic performances and the entire roller coaster 2008/9 Bundesliga season made me realize how fun the Liga is and how extremely competitive many teams are, all with the desire and ability to give Bayern a run for their Euros.

Why would Raúl play in Germany? Raúl is a Spanish footballing legend who spent most of his career with Spanish club Real Madrid. He’s s the club’s all-time top goalscorer, a three-time winner of the UEFA Champions League and its all-time leading scorer. When he left Spain in 2010 and headed for Bundesliga club Schalke 04 most figured he’d have one more year of quality football left in his now 34-year-old body.  But why Germany? Why learn a new language at such a ‘ripe’ age? And why subject yourself to inevitable disappointment after decades of top flight football accolades and accomplishments. To sum it up in Raúl’s words: “I really enjoy playing in the Bundesliga. No matter where we play, the stadiums are full and the atmosphere is incredible”. Enough said. Judging by the caliber of the league’s players and the number of foreign stars making the move to Germany, the league’s reputation has gotten a major boost. And yes, Raúl is still ‘Auf Schalke’, still playing is aging butt off.

Let’s dig a bit deeper and compare Bundesliga facts and figures with the other ‘big’ leagues — the English Premier League (EPL), Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A.

Bavarian translation: "We are who we are" and " We are Champions"

Competition: This is what it’s all about … teams clawing and scratching to gain an advantage in the league table and hopefully finish in a favorable position that will bring the club major revenue via a Europa League or Champions League spot, or perhaps even a league championship. Let’s look at titles — according to a recent Kicker Sportmagazin statistic, the last 7 Bundesliga championships have been won by 4 different teams (Bayern, Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Dortmund). Compare that to England, Italy and Spain, where 2 teams have dominated the league during that same time frame. Let’s look at table positions among the top 4. As of late January, 1 point separated Bayern at the top from 4th placed Borussia Moenchengladbach; 6 points separated Italy’s 1st place Juventus Turin from Inter Milan’s 4th position, while the point difference between one and four was 13 in England and 18 in Spain. Lastly, when looking at ‘first vs. worst’ matches dating back to 2000, German Bundesliga underdogs have a 26.3% chance of beating their top ranked rivals compared to only 17.6 % in England and a shocking 0% in Italy. Yes, within the last 11+ years, not one Italian last placed team has beaten a first placed rival.

Diversity: Thanks to an awesome German football statistics site called Transfermarkt (with English, Italian and Spanish versions among others), we know that 49% of all 519 players in the 1. Bundesliga are foreigners compared to 38% in La Liga, 48% in Italy and a whopping 63% in the English Premier League. The foreign player statistics are useful because they help silence naysayers that claim the Bundesliga is isolated and insular to top foreign player investment. In terms of attracting top international talent to Germany, the ‘homegrown’ approach has worked really well, and within the last 3 years in particular, German-born stars such as Mueller, Goetze, Reus, Kroos, and Schuerrle have single-handedly taken Bundesliga competition to the next level. The tables are slowly turning with Spanish and Italian teams recruiting the likes of Oezil, Khedira and Klose away from the homeland.

Another unforgettable match at FCK's Betzenberg

Fan base: The Bundesliga continues to boom. Average per match attendance in the first 17 games of the 2011/12 season was 44,791, the best in the league’s history, and 48% higher than Serie A figures, 32% more than La Liga and 23% higher than England’s top flight. A total of 6.78 Million fans saw 153 games in the first half of the season, a 7% increase from 2010/11 when a total of 12.88 Million filled German stadiums to see Bundesliga action.

Media exposure & global curb appeal: Ironically, the German Soccer League (Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL)), has done a much better job of promoting and more importantly providing match access abroad than at home. That’s good for us in the states, yet crappy for my family and buddies in Deutschland. While the German pay-per-view option (Sky TV) has a few million Bundesliga package subscribers, the other 80 million Germans have to wait for Saturday nights and the Sportschau (celebrating 50 years in 2012) to get their Bundesliga fix. The local channels ARD and ZDF do broadcast occasional Bundesliga clashes as well as Champions League action but our options stateside are much better! On any given weekend (starting with the solo Friday night game), I can tune into 3-4 Bundesliga matches on GolTV, the Spanish language ESPN Deportes, or ESPN Now’s internet stream, which is also available via my XBOX 360. In addition, GolTV offers two Bundesliga-specific programs, a 30 minute weekly match preview called Bundesliga Magazine and a 30 minute match review with Hallo! Bundesliga.

So to sum it up, I strongly believe old Ben Franklin’s enduring saying “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” most accurately applies to the Bundesliga in 2012.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S. and commemorate the celebrations that originated in Plymouth in 1621, I figured it would be an ideal time to give thanks to something near and dear to my heart … ‘Die Mannschaft’, the German Men’s National Soccer Team. The popularity and on-the-pitch success of Joachim Loew’s men is at an unprecedented high and if current form is an indicator of future performance than the country’s #3 world FIFA ranking is probably on the low side.

Here is Germany’s ‘tale of the tape’ for 2011:

  • 13 national team international matches-6 Euro 2012 Qualifiers, 7 Friendlies
  • 9 wins, 3 ties, 1 loss
  • Perfect Euro 2012 qualifying campaign: 10 games, 10 wins, 30 points, 34 goals scored, 7 conceded (21 goals scored in 2011)
  • Five starters scored 5 or more goals including Mario Gomez (6), Miroslav Klose (5), Thomas Mueller (5), Mesut Oezil (5) and Andre Schuerrle (5)
  • Youngest Germany team in modern history
  • Miroslav Klose, 2nd on international goal list to Gerd Mueller, celebrates 100th cap with 2 goals in Kaiserslautern (March 26)
  • Friendly victories over Brazil (3:2), The Netherlands (3:0) and Uruguay (2:1)

Beyond the outstanding on-the-field results,what made Die Mannschaft particularly lethal in 2011 and heading into Poland And Ukraine (Euro 2012) next June is the roster depth at each position and overall youth. There’s a running joke routinely thrown in the face of new job applicants (especially in Germany where the average age of out of school employees is 25+) that calls for a 20-year-old job candidate with 10 years of work experience. This reminds of the German youth movement, players like Goetze (19), Schuerrle (21), Toni Kroos (21), Thomas Mueller (21), Mats Hummels (22) and Oezil (23) are babies but have all played for many years and gathered more than their share of high-profile, international match experience.

Speaking of the young guns as well as the ‘tribe elders’, here are some individual accolades I deemed appropriate for 2011:

Schuerrle celebrates his first goal for Die Mannschaft vs. Uruguay

Newcomer of the year: Andre Schuerrle. Last year he played at Mainz, this year’s he’s secured a lucrative deal with Leverkusen, and with 5 goals (all in 2011) in 11 national team appearances he’s one of the young guns shooting for Euro 2012 glory.

Comeback player of the year: Mario Gomez for finally finding the back of the net as a member of the national team and swaying German public opinion about his value as Germany’s star.

Oezil and his Real teammates celebrate

Bonefide superstar: Mesut Oezil is a stud. Propelled into the international spotlight with a solid world cup performance in South Africa, his Real Madrid debut in 2010 was nothing  short of spectacular. He led Spanish La Liga in goal assists last year and has become Mourinho’s MVP with his ability to satisfy Cristiano Ronaldo’s insatiable appetite for goals.

The 75+ CAPS Club: Piere Mertesacker (79), Lukas Podolski (95), Miro Klose (113), Philip Lahm (85) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (90) are German’s tribe elders and by far the most experienced of the bunch. While Klose might still make it to Brazil in 2014, the others have at least 3 or 4 more major international tournaments in them.

“Seems like he’s been there forever” award: Manuel Neuer has only collect 25 caps as Germany’s #1 in goal but ever since he replaced Rene Adler before South Africa, the humble Bayern keeper has settled in as the calm and collected ‘back-stop’ of Die Mannschaft. Considering many goalies play well into their 30s, Neuer has at least another decade of history making in front of him.

Razzie recipient (award for ‘worst’ performance): Michael Ballack is settling into his supporting role for Bayer Leverkusen, but his exit from the German team was anything but graceful. Hexed with a major pre-worldcup injury, he never recovered to represent Deutschland and feuded loudly and often with DFB (German Soccer Federation) officials about his dismissal.

“Don’t quit your day job’ award: Philip Lahm for authoring a ‘tell all’ book on various managers of the national team forcing a public apology and debate over his worthiness as German captain.

“Clicking on all cylinders” award: German Youth academies for nurturing supreme soccer talent and re-vitalizing and re-juvenating German soccer from the amateur ranks to the national side.

“Would hate to have your job” award: Paul the Octopus, the famous German cephalopod mollusc known world-wide for its ability to predict all victors of the 2010 World Cup. Although Paul is no longer in the prediction business (in fact, he ended up as a tasty fried side dish some time ago), he has inspired a new generation of savvy octopuses that will no doubt be  thrust into the Euro 2012 spotlight when it comes to next summer’s wagers and predictions.

The German Fussball ladies huddle up pre-game

“Show them how it’s done” award: German Women’s National team and their gracious early exit from the 2011 World Cup as well as their overall tasteful and humane handling of the Birgit Prinz saga.