Are Bayern Munich European chokers?

FOXSportsAsia.com charts the chequered history of Bayern Munich's European campaigns.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern Munich
Kelvin Yap

By Kelvin Yap

Bayern Munich have been a top club throughout the post-war history of European football.

Their track record in both domestic as well as European competitions speaks for themselves; the Bavarians have won the Bundesliga an amazing 22 times since its inception in 1963 and the European Cup four times - perhaps only Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool can boast a similar history and claim to be a major force in football today.

Only these three clubs have won the European Cup more times than Bayern while Barcelona's four cup wins have come from developments in recent decades.

However, their reputation as a football superpower has masks the fact that they are possibly the biggest chokers in the game - at least when it comes to continental competition.

Bayern Munich have lost five European Cup finals; the most in the competition along with Juventus and Benfica, but it is the manner of their losses which earns them that dubious tag.

Of the five finals they lost, Bayern went into four as favourites but ended up without the coveted trophy.

Here, we examine their campaigns in the European Cup and how they managed to upset the odds albeit not in the way they would have liked.

The rise of Bayern's supremacy

It all started when Bayern first emerged as a major force in football after the Bundesliga was formed in 1963.

Helmed by Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer and a young Paul Breitner at the back and featuring Gerd Muller, Uli Hoeness and an up-and-coming Karl-Heinz Rummenigge up front, the Bavarians were an irresistible side that seemingly strolled to trophies when at their peak.

They won the Bundesliga three times in a row from 1972 to 1975 and went on to win the European Cup in all three following seasons (when you bear in mind that only each country's champion was allowed to take part in the competition prior to 1997 it become an even more awesome feat) - an achievement equalled only by Real Madrid and Ajax prior to that and never repeated again.

The Bayern Munich side could be compared to modern-day Barcelona in terms of their magnificence - on top of dominating the trophy haul, their star-studded squad provided the spine to Germany's dominance in football that won Euro 1972 and the World Cup in 1974.

However, they started to fade when Beckenbauer left for the New York Cosmos in 1977 and were not helped when Muller followed suit to join Fort Lauderdale Strikers.  Hoeness was forced off the scene after a career-ending injury and when Maier announced his retirement in 1979, it effectively brought the curtain down on Bayern Munich's golden generation.

They would not win Europe's top club competition again until three decades later in 2001.

1981: Villa woe for the Germans

With Breitner and Rummenigge helming the side, Bayern Munich were still a major force, but a far cry from the side that had dominated the game in the previous decade.

Now dubbed "FC Breitnigge" due to the duo's deadly combination on the pitch, the Bavarians won the Bundesliga in 1981 and were favourites to win the European Cup once again when two-time defending champions Liverpool slipped in the quarter-finals against CSKA Sofia and Bayern subsequently defeated the Bulgarians 7-4 in the semi-final with Breitner and Rummenigge grabbing two goals each in the second leg in Munich.

Going up against Aston Villa in the final, Bayern Munich were favourites, and for good reason - it was the English side's debut in the competition and Ron Saunders, their manager who brought them to the First Division title the previous season, shockingly announced his resignation just before the quarter-finals.

In the final itself, it seemed like everything was going Bayern's way when Villa's veteran goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer suffered a repeat of a recurring shoulder injury 10 minutes in and back-up keeper Nigel Spink was called up to make only his second appearance for the club.

As fate would have it, Spink put in a spectacular performance to keep the Bavarians at bay, allowing Peter Withe to score the only goal of the match.

Brian Moore's commentary of the winning goal is displayed on a giant banner across the North Stand of Villa Park: "Shaw, Williams, prepared to venture down the left. There's a good ball in for Tony Morley. Oh, it must be and it is! It's Peter Withe."

1987: Capitulation to Porto

Throughout that decade, Bayern's continued their poor run against British sides - they lost to Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen, as well as Tottenham and Everton in subsequent European championships.

Fast forward to 1987 - Bayern had successfully defended their Bundesliga title and were yet again the favourites going into the European Cup final, this time against Porto.

Porto were without their talismanic striker, Fernando Gomes, who had won the European Golden Boot in 1983 and then in 1985. The striker, who went on to score 163 goals in 184 games for Porto, was forced out with a broken leg.

Uli Hoeness proclaimed on the eve of the final that this match would spark the "dawning of a new, great era" and Bayern's then-president Fritz Scherer was witnessed pacing the VIP room, mouthing his acceptance speech, practicing his wink and smile as he saw his side dominate the match.

Due to the absence of their star striker, Porto manager Artur Jorge fielded winger Paulo Futre as their most out-and-out forward in a narrow and withdrawn 4-4-1-1 formation, which played into Bayern's hands with a 3-4-3 formation that dominated the game with an extra man in midfield.

Despite their dominance though, the Germans only managed a goal in the first half via Ludwig Kogl against a stubborn Porto defence.

However, Porto switched formation to a wide 4-4-2 at half time and went all-out - Bayern's wing-backs, Helmut Winklhofer and Andreas Brehmer were pinned back and the roles reversed, with Porto dominating the game instead.

Algerian sensation Rabah Madjer then scored the iconic backheel goal to equalise in the 77th minute and set up substitute Juary for the winning goal four minutes later.

Bayern manager Udo Lattek finally made his only substitution of the match in the 82nd minute to bring on striker Lars Lunder for defensive midfielder Hans-Dieter Flick, but it was too little and too late. His tactical inflexibility had cost them the European Cup.

1999 - That match

In 1999, Bayern Munich met Manchester United in Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium in what would go down as arguably the greatest comeback in football.

Skippered by veteran Lothar Matthaus (who was also captain in the 1987 final against Porto), Bayern Munich, like Manchester United, were going after the treble after sealing the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal.

Again, Bayern were slightly favoured in the final as United were missing key midfielders Paul Scholes and captain Roy Keane after the duo picked up their second yellow cards of the knock-out stages in the semi-final against Juventus and had to field David Beckham in midfield instead.

The game played out according to the odds, with Mario Basler placing a free-kick into the bottom corner of the net in the 6th minute. United failed to carve out a decent chance in the first half thanks to Bayern's midfield stalwart Stefan Effenberg, who was the fulcrum for his side's attacks as well.

The game opened up in the second half and Bayern continued to create the best chances of the game.

Substitute Mehmet Scholl almost doubled the Bavarians' lead when his chip from outside the box crashed off the post into the arms of Peter Schmeichel, who was playing his last game for the club. United's goalframe was again rocked in the closing minutes of the game when the lanky Carsten Jancker leapt up with an overhead kick to send the ball into the crossbar.

It wasn't until the fourth official indicated three minutes of injury time that the English champions struck.

United won a corner on the cusp of added time. The corner was met by Dwight Yorke, but his effort fell to Thorsten Fink, who scuffed the clearance right into Ryan Giggs' path. Giggs sent a weak shot back in and Teddy Sheringham swiped the ball into the bottom corner in all the confusion to equalise.

Right after the restart, United won another corner which Beckham swung in. Sheringham headed it down and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer poked it into the roof of the net amidst the goal-mouth madness before sliding on his knees mimicking Basler's earlier celebration.

2012 - Falling at home to the Blues

Bayern's most recent choke would be fresh in football fans' memories.

At this point, they had already broken their Champions League duck by beating Valencia in the 2001 final and fallen to Jose Mourinho's counter-attacking Inter Milan in 2010.

In 2012 Bayern had a host of factors in their favour.

They would face Chelsea in the final at the Allianz Arena - their home turf.

The Blues' owner Roman Abramovich had sacked Andre Villas-Boas after the quarter-final with Roberto di Matteo installed in his stead. In their first few matches under the new manager, Chelsea had been unconvincing, playing with 10 men behind the ball and relying heavily on counter-attacks.

In the final the English outfit were without Branislav Ivanović, Raul Meireles and Ramires after the trio crossed their yellow card quota in the semi-final against Barcelona . John Terry was missing after he was sent off for a stamp on Alexis Sanchez.

The game carried out true to form with Bayern Munich dominating proceedings which saw them end up with a whopping 43 attempts on goal, as compared to Chelsea's nine.

To Bayern's relief, Thomas Muller managed to break the deadlock with seven minutes to spare after he headed home Toni Kroos' cross.

However, their lead only lasted five minutes when Didier Drogba, who was, like Schmeichel for United in 1999, playing his last game for the club, met Juan Mata's corner kick to equalise and force extra time.

In extra time, Bayern continued to press and had a golden chance when Franck Ribery was fouled in the box by Drogba (which tells how defensive Chelsea were). Arjen Robben stepped up, but could only fire a lame shot that was kept out by Cech.

Come the penalty shoot-out, Juan Mata failed to convert Chelsea's first kick and everything seemed to be going Bayern's way when even goalkeeper Manuel Neuer's tame shot evaded Petr Cech and crept into goal to score their third kick.

As fate would have it, Cech managed to save Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger, which left Drogba to win the trophy and seal Bayern Munich's latest choke.



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