In football some matches define a team's season, others simply cannot be explained. Last season Borussia Dortmund at home to Stuttgart was such a game. Juergen Klopp's men were five points clear of second place Bayern Munich with seven games to play. When Jakub 'Kuba' Blaszczykowski gave them a 2-0 lead after the break, the three points looked in the bag. Stuttgart hadn't read the script though and scored three goals in a stunning eight-minute blitz, including two goals in three minutes by Julian Schieber. Dortmund were so impressed they bought him.
But Dortmund showed their character. Matts Hummels, playing as a midfielder, levelled and just five minutes later the champions were back in front after a super strike by substitute Ivan Perisic who had only been on the pitch three minutes. Just when it seemed normal service had been restored Christian Gentner capitalised on panic in the Dortmund defence to snatch a last-minute equaliser. When the dust settled at the end of this pulsating game of football, Dortmund's lead had been reduced to just three points with Bayern to visit in 12 days' time. Even the Dortmund die hards were doubting. In the end the yellow blacks held their nerve and the rest is Bundesliga history.
It's not often I'm left genuinely gobsmacked, but a goal scored on December 9th left me gasping like a freshly caught pufferfish. Juan Arango has a well deserved reputation for scoring great goals, but few have provoked such a wild reaction as his wonder strike this season in December against Mainz. Mainz goalkeeper Heinz Mueller scuffed a clearance up the left sideline and, without stopping the ball, Arango hooked it over 40 metres back into the empty net, prompting all his team-mates and his boss Lucien Favre to fly off the bench and mob him on the pitch.
The post-match interview has become a great cliche of modern football. TV channels insist on them even though players and coaches rarely say anything of interest. So when Borussia Dortmund were crowned champions in April, hopes weren't high when their coach Klopp was about to be interviewed by Eurosport 2's pitchside presenter Freddi Jouon. Imagine our surprise when Dortmund's Moritz Leitner sneaked up behind Klopp to shower him with beer. Klopp muttered a strong swear word and there was collateral damage as our expert Christian Ziege was also hit. Childish but still very funny.
Player of the Year
Dante. The mop-headed Brazilian defender helped Borussia Moenchengladbach to Champions League qualification in May, before his 4.7 million euro switch to Bayern Munich. Ever-present for the Bavarians since, Jupp Heynckes’s side have conceded just seven Bundesliga goals this season - a goal every four hours and seven minutes he’s played.
Like Gladbach the season before, the arrival of a new coach halfway through the campaign dramatically turned around Freiburg's form, but unlike Lucien Favre, Christian Streich lost his star attacker in the middle of the season (Papiss Demba Cisse). But despite having no player like Marco Reus to rescue them, Die Breisgau were still easily safe before the end of the campaign. And they've carried it on into the next season too. Looking at Freiburg's resources it's amazing.
Tragic off pitch incidents always put football into perspective and Boris Vukcevic's horrific road accident in September cast a shadow over Hoffenheim's season. The 22-year-old's car collided with a truck while he was on his way to training. Investigators believe the crash was caused by Vukcevic's low blood sugar levels. The German Under-21 midfielder is out of an induced coma but while doctors are encouraged by his progress, it will be a miracle if he adds to his 78 Bundesliga appearances.
Poor Tim Wiese. The former Germany international keeper conceded six goals in his first two outings at Hoffenheim, but he insisted they were down to teething trouble. But there was no hiding after a miserable 5-3 defeat at Freiburg. So hilarious were his gaffes that by the end of the day they were quickly edited, slapstick style, and went viral on the internet.
Wiese's stats at Hoffenheim do not make for pleasant reading: eight games, 23 goals conceded. Rumours abound that Hoffenheim could cut their losses during the winter break. Weise's four-year deal could be over after six months.
When Christian Streich was promoted to head coach of Freiburg this time last year, the club was dead last in the Bundesliga, seemingly destined for relegation. However, under the 47-year-old's tutelage the Baden-Wuerttemberg club not only finished the season in 12th place, but are now sitting fifth over the Christmas break. A quite remarkable turnaround.
Who to look out for in 2013
Predictions that the 40 million euro purchase of Javi Martinez could threaten Toni Kroos's place in the Bayern Munich line-up now look risible. Kroos has already scored six in the Bundesliga, most of them exceptional. Still only 22, look out for Kroos to gain superstar status in 2013.
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