Guten tag from Munich, Iím Salman Mitha, European/German correspondent for The Soccer Hour and commentator for the Bundesliga on Ligaradio. Hereís my blog entry for the week. Thanks to Glenn for allowing me to keep you updated on the German soccer scene.
This week, the Bundesliga is taking a break for Euro 2008 qualifying and the two top teams in Group D face off Saturday in Prague Ė Germany and the Czech Republic. They both sit at the top of the group with 10 points, Germany with a better goal differential. However the home side will be the slight favorites due to the familiar surroundings and a healthier, more potent squad. The Germans are limping in, with head coach Joachim Loew hoping to put together a squad that can escape with points and hopefully the group lead. His focus will be to stop the dangerous Tomas Rosicky and the giant in the middle, Jan Koller. Both are familiar to the German squad, as they have both played for Borussia Dortmund. Jens Lehmann was the goal keeper and their teammate during the 2001-02 championship season along with defender Christoph Metzelder (who will be out as his eye looked like Rockyís after 12 rounds with Clubber Lang after knocking heads last Saturday in a match). Loew hopes!
Metzelder can provide insight to whomever is out there to stop Koller.
Two Koller stories for you: Olympic Stadium in Munich, Nov 9, 2002. Defending champions Dortmund came in looking to prove that winning the title on the last day over Bayern back in May that year was no fluke. But they suffered a set back when Lehmann earned a second yellow card in that match for screaming at his own player. Does head coach Matthias Sammer send in another goalie? No. Koller wears a goalie jersey and nearly helps his team to a draw. Bayern can only score once on him but that was enough to win 2-1 and go on to win the title that season. But since that day, I have total respect for his team mentality.
I still remember that cool Portugal summer evening when I witnessed perhaps the best game of Euro 2004 in Aveiro Ė Netherlands vs. the Czech Republic. The Dutch go up 2-0 within the first 20 minutes and it looks to be a rout. But the Czechs donít back down and itís Kollerís goal in the 23rd minute that gets them going (the ball always seems to find his head! And itís a big head.). For the next 60 minutes, Edwin van der Sar suffers shot after shot from the Czechs, who end up winning. Koller did leave in the 75th minute (he ended up injured and missed the match vs. Germany later in the tournament) but he had made his mark as the center of attack.
Lukas Podolski of Germany will also be a key to the match; heís the leading scorer in the qualifying matches so far with seven. And his recent form for Bayern Munich may be a preview of more goals on Saturday. He may play without his teammate and buddy Bastian Schweinsteiger who is suffering from a foot injury. Additional injuries to Thorsten Frings and Mario Gomez (who scored in the last international friendly vs. Switzerland, his first cap) and suspensions to Miroslav Klose and Clemens Fritz has Loew scrambling to put together a worthy team and heís called up several first-timers. It will be quite a challenge to keep his undefeated record after seven matches (6 wins, 1 draw).
The Bundesliga is back on March 31st. You can keep up with all the action from with LigaRadio. Visit the English language site of the Bundesliga at www.bundesliga.de/en starting next Saturday at 8:15am CST. Click on the blinking LigaRadio button and the player will launch automatically.
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