Champions League: Bayern Beats Borussia 2-1; But Don’t Expect a New German Era

In the lead-up to the Champions League final, we kept hearing about the new era of German football as the perfect complement to that nation’s dominant economy. The final score tells a different story

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Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes celebrates with the trophy and his players after defeating Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League Final soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London May 25, 2013.

In the lead-up to the Champions League final, we kept hearing about the new era of German football as the perfect complement to that nation’s dominant economy. The final score tells a different story: the team with the fewest Germans won.

Bayern’s 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund’s ultimately overpowered side relied heavily on the big-spending Munich team’s foreign players: Dutchman Arjen Robben and Frenchman Franck Ribéry launched attack after attack down their respective wings and teamed for the winning goal in the 89th minute when Ribéry got under a long pass and somehow slipped the ball behind him toward goal. It fell to the charging Robben, who faked past the last defender and then sent Dortmund goalie Roman Weidenfeller—who was magnificent all day—the wrong way before rolling the ball past him with his deft left foot.

Dortmund was chasing the game by then, despite leveling the score in the 68th minute on a penalty kick by İlkay Gündoğan , after Bayern’s Brazilian defender Dante raised his knee into Marco Reus’s chest in the box. You could label it a generous call, but it  was Dortmund’s deserved reward for taking the game to Bayern from the start.

(MORE: An All-German Champions League)

Neither Bayern goal was hit hard enough to disturb a radar gun. The first, at  59:07, was another foreign job. Robben broke down the middle and found Ribéry with a pass to his left. The Frenchmen’s return pass put Robben deep in the Dortmund box. His reverse pass toward Mario Mandžukić was slightly deflected but managed to get through, leaving the Croatian forward to guide a tap in for the goal.

The first five minutes offered no indication that it would be Bayern’s day. The team in red and white had no organized attack, mostly because Dortmund gave Bayern not an inch of space. The team in yellow and black was buzzing. The game looked positively English, which was fitting given that London’s Wembley Stadium was hosting, with Bayern limited to a few long balls that didn’t ask much of the Dortmund defense.

The first real shot didn’t come until 10 minutes into the game, a blazer that went high over Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer. But early in the 14th minute, Robert Lewandowski served notice about why he’s the most wanted striker in Europe with a hot shot, as Dortmund began to pass comfortably through the Bayern defense. Shortly afterward Jakub Blaszczykowski raked a shot that Neuer saved with a shin.

As ineffective as Bayern was in possession, its few chances were dangerous.

(MORE: Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund Meet in the Champions League Final)

Ribéry served up a delicious cross from the left to Mario Mandžukić, and the Croat’s on-target header was tipped onto and over the bar by the alert Weidenfeller. Robben had several great chances to break the game open; one was streaking onto a somewhat lucky pass  only to have Weidenfeller quickly close off the angle. In the 43rd minute, the ball fell kindly to Robben in the box, but he bounced a shot off Weidenfeller’s mug. The goalkeeping on both sides was brilliant.

Bayern’s inability to make the killer pass through Dortmund’s the midfield—Sebastian Schweinsteiger hadn’t been heard from—marked the first half. The relentlessness of Robben and Ribéry began to weigh. The pair never stopped running, switching positions, defending, even moving into the middle at times. You could call them desperate. Robben had a chance to put the game away in the 72nd minute, when Thomas  Müller ran past the defense and rolled the ball perfectly across the goal mouth toward him, but Neven Subotić robbed him with a perfectly timed sliding tackle to preserve the score for the moment.

There would be no agony of defeat for the Bavarians, who were within 7 minutes of the championship last year before blowing the lead and the game to Chelsea. Is this the beginning of a new German era? Probably not. Dortmund will be hard pressed to keep its best players, and one of them, Mario Götze, is already signed for Bayern next year. And Bayern’s new coach, Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola, will have the budget to buy the players he wants.  Bayern will be as German as Arsenal is English.

Throughout Europe’s financial crisis, during which their country has thrived, Germans have suggested to free-spending European countries that they be a little more German—spend a little less, save a little more. But Bayern has proven that in soccer at least, it pays to pay out the big bucks all over Europe, or South America, to get the players you want.  Which is why it is likely to remain Germany’s lone continental powerhouse.

MORE: Why The New York Yankees And Man City Are Buying Into U.S. Soccer


Anyone else notice that they called the great #31 SEBASTIAN Schweinsteiger?!?! Shame to get such a wonderful player's name wrong: it's Bastian Schweinsteiger.

JamesMcAuley 1 Like

what a rediculous article. Your point about the team with the least Germans won is completely irrelevant. Bayern contains the core of the German team whilst Bender for Dortmund rarely plays and Gundogan is also struggling to break the Schweinsteiger-Khedira partnership though I feel he should be in the side. You cannot base your theory on one final. Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Schweinsteiger, Muller, Kroos, Gomez all German internationals who played vital roles in this side winning the double and what will probably be the treble. Not to forget their performances against Juventus and Barcelona in the champions league. Schweinsteiger was dominant against the likes of pirlo, xavi and iniesta and Muller and Gomez scored 4 goals between them against Barcelona. Throw in the likes of Hummels, Gundogan, Gotze and Reus who had great tournaments, especially Reus and you have a very strong squad all who have proven it in europe against the best. Dont forget ozil and khedira. Im not khediras biggest fan but he had an excellent euros and ozil also is alongside inesta as the top assister in the la liga. Finally your point about pep making bayern as german as arsenal are english?? hes just signed gotze, A GERMAN. kroos is also a pep player so expect him to be involved in the side alot too. So with Neuer, Boateng, Badstuber, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Muller, Gotze, Lahm and maybe just maybe Gomez all set to play next season i too see your point, where are the germans in that team ???

joeesf 1 Like

I have to agree with the other comment. This article is a perfect example of poor journalism. Please stick to economics and leave the football to those who understand.

akaenon 3 Like

You just sound like an idiot who didn't watch the game or tournament.  Dortmund won the so-called "group of death," the majority of their teams are financially sound (unlike England and Spain) and feel free to take a look at the German national team's record over say the last 40 years.  The core of Bayern's team is German and while I'm happy to grant Robben was great today it's hard to say Gomez wouldn't have been a better player had he had time to be in form this season and Ribery caused more damaged with his elbow than his feet today.  Bayern are getting better because they're bringing in a German, and there are few they could bring in that would materially improve their starting 11.  All the speculation is any signings Pep is going to do will simply strengthen the bench.

Find me another league better poised to pop with financial fair play theoretically getting ready to overtake European football.  Sure the top few sides in each league can be sound, but no one is in better position across the board than the Germans.


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