Time for Asia to win the Club World Cup

John Duerden John Duerden

John Duerden says that it’s about time Asia’s representative won the Club World Cup.

Japan’s women won the 2011 World Cup and can lay a serious claim to be the best national team that Asia has ever had but there have been no male equivalent to win a senior global title. The closest would be South Korea’s run to the last four at the 2002 World Cup.

When it comes to club football however, then there is one that came even closer to glory.

At the 2016 Club World Cup, with 30 minutes of the final remaining, Kashima Antlers were 2-1 ahead against Real Madrid. Then a certain Cristiano Ronaldo intervened and grabbed a hat-trick to give the Spanish team a 4-2 win and the global title. It was nice while it lasted.

Kashima have never won the Asian Champions League but were there as the representative of the host nation. Fast forward 12 months and Al Jazira are playing the same role in the United Arab Emirates. On Wednesday evening in the team’s hometown of Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates champions will take on the mighty Real Madrid.

The 12-time European champions, one of the biggest – if not the biggest – clubs in the world will feature a whole host of stars and world famous names that will pit their considerable wits against a team that finished bottom of their 2017 Asian Champions League with just two points in six games.

Nobody is giving Al Jazira a chance but stranger things have happened in football. It would be the best club result in Asian football history. It would be a huge boost for the reputation of West Asian football and the whole continent in general. It would, of course, be put down to the failings of the European team by the international media. That doesn’t matter.

It would also give UAE football a boost. The nation is still coming to terms with a disappointing World Cup qualification campaign. The road to Russia 2018 started in style with a win in Japan but then it all faded quite badly and the UAE were out of contention long before the end. For a team that finished third at the 2015 Asian Cup, it wasn’t good enough.

Al Jazira can put a spring back into the step of the nation and perhaps provide a little confidence ahead of the 2019 Asian Cup which comes to the country in 13 months. The question is: can it happen?

It would be a major shock of course but there is some cause for optimism. Real Madrid may have completed their continental dozen but have not been in the best of form this season. At the moment, they are in a lowly fourth place in La Liga and a massive –for them — eight points behind Barcelona. In the UEFA Champions League, they reached the second round but were a long way behind group winners Tottenham Hotspur. At the moment, most would expect PSG to win their second round clash.

It remains to be seen which Madrid turns up. European teams can sometimes be a little ambivalent about this competition despite winning nine of the last ten editions and it is to be hoped that anything less than a 100% performance will be pounced upon by the hosts, roared on by a big and passionate crowd.

So far, Al Jazira have defeated Auckland City 1-0 in the play-off and then defeated Asian champions Urawa Reds by the same scoreline. There was some luck against the New Zealanders but the UAE team defended well against the Japanese. Coach Henk Ten Cate has his team well-organised and well-drilled. They have been defending for 180 minutes this week already and another 90 is no problem.

And then there is the form of the two goalscorers so far. Brazilian striker Romarinho may not be as famous as some of Madrid’s imports but showed against Auckland that he knows where the goal is. He also set up Ali Mabkhout for the winner against Urawa. The UAE striker is one of the best in the Asian business. Now he is not going to be able to showcase his talents at the 2018 World Cup, this is a big a stage as he is going to get for a while at least. If he can do the business against the European champions then who knows where the 27 year-old sharpshooter may end up?

There is always a chance in football. Nineteen times out of 20, Real Madrid win this game but this could be that other time. With Asia hoping to have a fine World Cup in six months time, the whole continent should be willing Al Jazira on tonight against Real Madrid. It can be done.

Le Duy Thanh: Sanna Khanh Hoa’s Arsenal-style playmaker

Scott McIntyre Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre profiles Sanna Khanh Hoa star Le Duy Thanh ahead of Wednesday’s second leg of the Toyota Mekong Club Championship against Boeung Ket.

Not since Binh Duong won the inaugural edition back in 2014 has Vietnam had a finalist at the Toyota Mekong Club Championship and, after a wild 4-4 draw in their first leg meeting with Boeung Ket at the weekend, the nation’s hopes rest with Sanna Khanh Hoa having to overturn that result in Wednesday’s second leg in Phnom Penh.

It’s not exaggerating things to say that their hopes likely rest at the feet of the brilliant midfield schemer Le Duy Thanh, who was the glue that held things together for the hosts in the first leg even as Youssouf Toure walked award with man-of-the-match honours following his hat-trick.

Sitting as one of the two central midfielders for a side that far too often deferred to a simplistic direct approach, when Duy Thanh was not being aerially bypassed it was clear he was a class above in terms of his technical capabilities.

Dropping deep to start plays, he penetrated with a classy range of short passing in central areas and pushed forward to create scoring opportunities in the final third – which saw him put his side ahead in the eighth minute.

What was also immediately clear was that he had the kind of ‘polish’ that almost all midfielders to have emerged from the renowned academy at Hoang Anh Gia Lai have – the silky control of the ball, delightful first touch and the graceful movement that has seen that establishment emerge as the finest producer of technicians anywhere in Southeast Asia.

Ahead of the second leg, FOX Sports Asia caught up with the 26-year-old to find out just why the southern club is such a fine finishing school for midfield excellence and as he noted it all starts with a simple philosophy.

“I began my career playing for clubs in my hometown, Ninh Thuan, before joining Hoang Anh Gia Lai when I was 18 and this was the making of me as a player,” recounted Duy Thanh.

“There, the ideology is simple in that we don’t focus on physical training because that’s something that can be gained at any point but rather the priority is on technical control.

“We do that because, while other qualities can be quickly learned, technical control is something that you must have from deep inside of you.”

Although that sounds very familiar to the famed La Masia academy at Barcelona, Duy Thanh sees the Gia Lai setup as more reminiscent of a club who was for a long-time partners in the academy.

“It’s not like Barcelona for me but more like the style of Arsenal, where we are taught that the most important qualities are to remain continually calm and to concentrate throughout a match at all times.”

It’s little surprise that the midfield maestro lists one of the best of all time in that position – Juan Roman Riquelme – as the player he most admires and the qualities that he touched on are immediately evident to those who watch him play.

While many of those who man the ‘No. 6′ and ‘No. 8’ stations in Southeast Asia play a very stripped down tactical game, where they follow the ball rather than thinking two or three passes ahead, you watch Duy Thanh and – with his eyes continually darting from side-to-side, dropping, moving and searching for space – you see a player who is already close to the top of his craft.

The same can be said for any other number of players to have emerged from the Gia Lai setup including the likes of current national stars Nguyen Cong Phuong, Vu Van Thanh, the oft-injured Nguyen Tuan Anh and emerging stars Nguyen Van Toan and Tran Minh Vuong.

Never before has football in the region seen a crop of such gifted players emerge from the one academy and that’s far from an accident – it’s also to the benefit of other clubs when these young stars eventually move on to different teams and in this case it’s Sanna Khanh Hoa who will be hoping that Duy Thanh will be the man to lead them through to a semi-final meeting with Lao Toyota.

Asked how they’ll find a way past the Cambodian champions in the second leg, the midfielder said the key was not to overcomplicate things.

Added Duy Thanh: “In the first leg, we attacked all the time but that meant we left space for the opponent to exploit, so making sure that we don’t concede has to be the first priority but for sure we still have a chance to reach the semis, at least 50-50.”

Speaking exclusively with FOX Sports Asia, Duy Thanh, who surely must be on the verge of adding senior caps to those he regularly collected at youth level, still claims that – despite the emergence of this impressive crop of young talent – Vietnam remains behind regional powerhouse Thailand.

“The work that is being done at PVF and Hoang Anh Gia Lai and others is good, but it’s still hard to see a time in the near future where Vietnam can reach the World Cup and even doing well in the Asian Cup will be difficult,” he conceded.

“For sure, Thailand is still the best nation in the region and you only have to look at the way that their league is set up with professionalism at all levels to see that.”

If Duy Thanh is able to pilot his side through to the final, there they will face Thai giants Muangthong United in what will be a good test of just where regional supremacy lies.

Photo credit: Sanna Khanh Hoa BVN FC

FOX Sports Asia is proud to be the Official Media Partner of the Toyota Mekong Club Championship 2017. For more on the tournament, including fixtures, results and official news, head down to www.toyotamekongfootball.com!

The world of sports in 2017… According to Twitter

Timothy Wee Timothy Wee

With 2017 fast becoming history, FOX Sports Asia combs through the Twitter grapevine to bring you the sporting lowdown for the year.

As you can probably guess, we are big fans of Twitter.

ICYMI, we celebrated the birth of their new 280-character limit and even held our very own Formula 1 social media championships!

Obviously, we are not the only Twitter users out there.

Therefore, we put our ear to the Twitterverse’s ground to find out what sports fans worldwide have been saying in 2017.

Global

Globally, it would seem that football is THE sport that unites the world.

Six out of the ten top sports hashtags are dominated by football – with Real Madrid fans responsible for not one, but two trending sports hashtags (#halamadrid and #realmadrid).

Manchester United (#mufc) and Liverpool (#lfc) are the other footballing clubs that make the list. And it seems we are not the only ones crazy about Champions League action (#ucl) too!

Besides football, the other top trending hashtags includes wrestling (#wwe), baseball (#mlb) and American football (#patriots and #superbowl).

However, Real fans will be disappointed to learn that they still lag behind United in the top five sports teams.

The Red Devils flexed their global brand power to top the list and leave English rivals Arsenal and Chelsea far behind. Real managed a respectable second place.

The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers rounds off the list.

While United may be the most supported team in the world, it is a Madridista who takes the crown of being 2017’s top sports personality – who else but yours truly Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7). The world most expensive footballer, Neymar Jr is the only other footballer that makes the cut.

King of the basketball court, LeBron James had to make do with second place while Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry also makes the cut. Their fellow compatriot, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick joins them as well.

Last, but not least, UFC’s Conor “The Notorious” McGregor completes the list to highlight what a year 2017 has been for the Irish MMA fighter.

Singapore

Diving straight into the heart of Asia, Singapore reaffirms the global appeal of football – particularly the EPL. Five of the top six sports related accounts includes English clubs United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Wrestling, or the WWE, seems to have a special place in the little red dot, and is the only other sports represented.

Top Sports Related Handles (SG)
1. Manchester United (@ManUtd)
2. Arsenal FC (@Arsenal)
3. Premier League (@premierleague)
4. Liverpool FC (@LFC)
5. World Wrestling Entertainment [WWE] (@WWE)
6. Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC)

The EPL continues to have a hold on Singaporeans’ heart with United establishing itself as the top sporting team. Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur follow the Red Devils on the list.

Besides the EPL clubs, La Liga’s Barcelona and Real can also boast having a strong following in the island country.

Top Sporting Teams (SG)
1. Manchester United (@ManUtd)
2. Arsenal FC (@Arsenal)
3. Liverpool FC (@LFC)
4. Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC)
5. Manchester City (@ManCity)
6. FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona)
7. Real Madrid (@realmadriden)
8. Tottenham Hotspur FC (@SpursOfficial)

Surprisingly, Singaporeans love Wayne Rooney a lot as the ex-United, and current Everton, striker was the most mentioned sportsman, in front of our beloved CR7 (an ex-United alumni himself).

There is clearly a lot of love for United with current players Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, David de Gea, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial all forming part of the local chatter.

MMA brawler Conor McGregor and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton were also on local lips with the Irish fighter’s money fight with Floyd Mayweather and the Brit Mercedes driver’s F1 crown win being the key highlights for 2017.

Indonesia

Over in Indonesia, the Twitterverse heated up over the tragic death of Persela Lamongan’s legendary goalkeeper and captain Choirul Huda. His club’s tweet has become the most retweeted tweet in 2017 and prompted well wishes from Pogba and FIFA!

The strong support for local football continues in the world fourth biggest country in 2017 as local clubs Persib (#PersibDay), Persija (#PersijaDay) and the national team (#TimnasDay) make up the top three top sports hashtags.

Indonesians were also out in full force to honor their fellow compatriots such as the fallen Huda – making him the top sports personality for 2017.

Football remains the main sport that draws in the local crowds with five other local footballers making up the top ten sports personalities. They are Irfan Bachdim, Bambang Pamungkas, Evan Dimas, Kim Kurniawan and Egy Maulana.

Olympic gold medallists and mixed badminton doubles pair Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad also make the top ten after their historic win last year, together with fellow shuttler Jonatan Christie and Rio Haryanto, the nation’s first and only F1 driver.

Philippines

It is a different story in Philippines as basketball reigns supreme. With the NBA finals (#NBAFinals) being the top sports hashtag, it is clear that the Filipinos have a soft spot for all things b-ball.

On top of that, the national basketball league (#PBAFinals and #UAAPSeason80) and several local b-ball teams (#LabanPilipinas, #Animo and #GilasPilipinas) are part of the top ten Filipino sports hashtags.

The much-anticipated boxing rematch (#PacquiaoHorn) between local politician/boxer Manny “Pacman” Pacquaio and WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn is also another Twitter talking point, follow by the national cheerleading championship (#UAAPCDC2017) as well as two volleyball teams (#OBF and #GoldAndGloryAteneo).

The b-ball fever extends even to the top ten sports personality list with local team La Salle’s forward Ricci Rivero taking top spot. The homegrown basketballer played a major role in the UAAP finals and garnered 250000 followers!

Rivero is joined by fellow b-ballers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Mika Reyes, Prince Rivero, Brent Paraiso and Kib Montalbo.

Of course, the country’s best known boxing export Manny Pacquiao is also in, alongside volleyball stars Alyssa Valdez and Gretchen Ho.

India

Whereas in India, it is all about cricket.

The second most-populated country in the world flooded the Twitterverse with news of the ICC Women’s World Cup (#WWC17) and the ICC Champions Trophy Tournament (#CT17).

Archrivals India and Pakistan met in the #CT17 final and it became the most tweeted event of all time with 1.8 million tweets.

Such is the nation’s love affair with cricket that nine out of the top ten sports personalities in India are national cricketers.

Current national captain and one of the greatest batsman alive today, Virat Kohli stands head and shoulders above fellow cricketers MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharm, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir and Hardik Pandya as the top sporting personality in India.

Former professional shooter, and current Cabinet minister, Rajyavardhan Rathore is the only non-cricket related sportsman to complete the ten-man list. The Olympic silver medallist was awarded the Padma Shri award in 2005 for his sporting achievements.

Matchday 16: Can Stoger do a Heynckes?

The most compelling question about Wednesday’s midweek Bundesliga fixtures is whether Peter Stoger can engineer an immediate upturn in the fortunes of Borussia Dortmund in the manner of Jupp Heynckes at FC Bayern Munich.

The former FC Koln coach was installed as BVB’s new head honcho at the weekend in place of Peter Bosz, who was fired after Dortmund fell to a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of lowly Werder Bremen – their eighth match without a win – a run that has seen them plummet from first to seventh place.

While Stoger, who was fired by Koln just a week earlier, may not be able to replicate the effect that Heynckes’ appointment at Bayern produced, his immediate mission will be to install some steel into a Dortmund backline that has shipped 23 goals – the fourth worst in the Bundesliga.

Hosts Mainz will be no pushovers though, as the Zerofivers have recorded all four of their wins at home this season. Still, history is on Dortmund’s side as Stoger’s new charges have lost just one of their last 14 games against Mainz, a run they will be keen to continue as they seek to get their season back on track.

Other interesting ties see leaders Bayern host rock-bottom Koln. The Billy Goats were desperately unlucky to lose 4-3 to SC Freiburg at the weekend after throwing away a three-goal lead, but it would perhaps go down as one of the biggest surprises ever in Bundesliga history were Stefan Ruthenbeck’s men to get something from this match.

Another tasty matchup will see third placed Schalke 04, revitalised under up-and-coming coach Domenico Tedesco, play host to FC Augsburg, who themselves are enjoying a great first half to the season.

The success of Tedesco’s Schalke has been built on a good defence, and this will be tested to the max by Augsburg’s dynamic attack that includes Austrian Michael Gregoritsch (six goals in his last eight games) Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason (8 goals in 13 games) and Brazilian Caiuby (three goals from midfield).

Schalke have shipped seven of their 17 goals conceded this season in the last three matches and Tedesco will be no doubt keen for his team to return to their formerly miserly ways, but with so much attacking talent on show for the visitors it may prove difficult.

Applied Technique | Japan & Koln star Yuya Osako

Japan international Yuya Osako has been a hit in the Bundesliga ever seen he moved to Koln in the summer of 2014.

Having first broke onto the scene back in his homeland with Kashima Antlers, Osako’s dynamic displays – which saw him net 65 times in 191 games – saw him earn a move to German second-tier outfit 1860 Munich.

After just half a year at the Allianz Arena which reaped six goals in 15 games, the Kyushu native has Koln convinced that he was good enough to cut it in the top flight.

Last season’s haul of seven goals and six assists was the 27-year-old’s best return since he moved to up north, and there can be no denying how he is now one of the biggest stars in Asian football.

Nonetheless, have you ever wondered about the science behind the precision and dynamism that the best players possess?

Well, Osako was recently featured on the Bundesliga’s “Applied Technique”, which seems them take an in-depth look at the strengths of top stars like Robert Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry and Charles Aranguiz.

So, what is the secret behind Osako’s power and precision? Find out below!

20 inspiring Neymar quotes to chase the blues away

Timothy Wee Timothy Wee

Chase the (Monday) blues away with these inspiring words from Brazil’s hottest footballer Neymar.

As the world’s most expensive football player, Neymar shouldn’t have the blues (Mondays or otherwise).

The 1.75m Brazilian, who plies his trade at Paris St-Germain (PSG), has had an unshakeable air of confidence since his early days at Santos.

The PSG number 10, known for his electric dribbling and explosive finishes, is usually deployed on the left-hand side as a striker, winger or attacking midfielder.

The 25-year-old two-time South American Footballer of the Year, with fifteen goals in eighteen games this season, also more than held his own as a part of Barcelona’s famous MSN (Messi, Suarez and Neymar) attacking trio –winning three La Liga titles , three Copa del Rey, a FIFA Club World Cup and Champions League title.

Off the pitch, the Nike sponsored footballing superstar is equally successful – inking deals with Beats, Volkswagen and Unilever just to name a few.

Neymar has had an on-and-off relationship with actress and model Bruna Marquezine since 2013. He has a son, Davi Lucca and is very close to his family. The footballing family man even has a tattoo of his sister Rafaella Beckran on his arm!

Besides being a Instagram fan, Neymar is also a big fan and advocate for Brazilian modern pop music. The local sporting idol has appeared in numerous concerts and music videos.

So the next time you are feeling a little down, take comfort with these words of wisdom from the €222 million man and feel like a million bucks yourself!

The perfect antidote every time that you feel like a flawed person.

Even at the tender age of 25, Neymar realises that your biggest competition is yourself and no one else.

Priceless advice that is applicable on and off the pitch. If only his strike partner Fred had heeded his advice during the 2014 World Cup…

We are no celebrity like the Brazilian, but we are also constantly bombarded by others and their opinions. In the end, Neymar tells you whose opinion matters the most.

He is also a live-in-the-moment kind of guy. Carpe Diem!

And there is no better person to ask than the boy who made his footballing dreams come true…

Clearly, Neymar is a big fan of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.

For the times that you get social media envy…

It would seem that the €222 million man has a cheeky sense of humour too.

Be the original, not a copy, said the one and only Neymar.

Clearly, confidence and cockiness are one and the same to Neymar.

Even the 2011 FIFA Puskas Award winner knows the importance of not being fake…

That’s right, ‘cause what’s money after all without people to share it with.

The father-of-one might not care what others say, but he clearly cares for his loved ones.

Even Neymar knows that you cannot make it on your own in life!

It is important to grow up, but not to suck the fun out of life.

The Olympic gold medallist knows that whatever we do in life echoes on in eternity.

The former Barcelona man proving that there is life beyond football.

The REAL secret to Neymar’s success in life.

WORD, because who would not want to be a footballing megastar?

Best of the Weekend: Dec 9-10

The runaway leaders in Germany and England enjoyed a good weekend, but they weren’t the only winners in the sporting world. Join us as we recap the Best of the Weekend!

Bayern extend Bundesliga lead

The first half of the Bundesliga season is nearing a close with the table having an all-too familiar look to it.

FC Bayern Munchen hold a huge eight-point lead at the top following their 1-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend, a state of affairs that looked impossible eight weeks ago.

RB Leipzig’s draw at the weekend, coupled with the spectacular collapse of early leaders Borussia Dortmund, who parted company with Peter Bozs following their defeat to Werder Bremen, means it will take a minor miracle for anyone to stop Bayern from a record sixth-straight title.

Food for thought for Bayern’s rivals as they prepare to enjoy their Christmas break, although Jupp Heynckes is not getting carried away.

City too slick for United

A similar state of affairs is playing out over in England, where runaway leaders Manchester City extended their lead to a massive 11 points after racking up a fourteenth consecutive win after beating nearest rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has already given up on the title if his post match comments following their defeat to West Ham are to be believed, while Liverpool soldier on, despite their recent impressive form coming to an end as they were held 1-1 by a revitalised Everton.

Can anyone catch Pep Guardiola’s side?

Lexi does LPGA proud in shootout

In golf, LPGA star Lexi Thompson proved she can mix it with the boys after she and partner Tony Finau finished tied for fourth at the QBE Shootout in Florida.

Thompson and Finau finished on 21-under-par, five behind winners Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair, who fired a superb final-round 64 to claim the title by two shots from Irish duo Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell.

Cub gets burned in California

There was a surprise in the Octagon at the weekend as Brian Ortega upset Cub Swanson at UFC Fight Night in Fresno.

The up-and-coming 26-year old featherweight choked out favourite Swanson for a fifth straight win that left the veteran’s UFC future in doubt.

It remains to be seen how things will play out for Swanson after Saturday’s shock, but for Ortega things are definitely on the way up!

Asians in the Bundesliga: Matchday 15

It was a disappointing weekend for the Bundesliga’s Asian contingent with none of the five players that featured tasting victory for their respective sides.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND 1-2 WERDER BREMEN

It was another disappointing outing for Borussia Dortmund as their poor start to the season continued with a 2-1 loss at home to Hertha Berlin.

Shinji Kagawa played the full 90 minutes for BVB and tried his best to get his side going in the attacking third.

The Japan international forced Jiri Pavlenka into a smart save in the 47th minute, unleashing a powerful left-footed drive from the edge of the box that the Bremen goalkeeper did well to tip over.

However, Dortmund’s season was best summed up in the 72nd minute, when Kagawa had a gilt-edged opportunity from three yards out but somehow smashed his shot into the back of team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – and could only watch on in horror as the ball ricocheted harmlessly over the bar.

STUTTGART 0-2 BAYER LEVERKUSEN

Into his second year on loan from Arsenal, Takuma Asano has enjoyed a decent start to his German top-flight experience, although Stuttgart remain dangerously close to the relegation zone at the moment.

Asano started on the bench in Saturday’s clash with Bayer Leverkusen and only played just the last five minutes of what turned out to be a 2-0 loss, replacing Berkay Ozcan with the contest effectively over.

HAMBURG 0-0 WOLFSBURG

Hamburg captain Gotoku Sakai was named on the bench for the game against Wolfsburg and ultimately did not get on the field in the 0-0 draw.

Instead, it was his Japanese compatriot Tatsuya Ito who started on the wing and lasted an hour before being hauled off for Luca Waldschmidt.

AUGSBURG 1-1 HERTHA BERLIN

The one game of the round with a real Asian flavour to it, with up to four players from Asian Football Confederation (AFC) nations on the combined books of Augsburg and Hertha Berlin.

In the end, only two of them featured in the 1-1 draw at the WWK Arena.

Koo Ja-cheol played 80 minutes for Augsburg before being replaced by Rani Khedira, younger brother of Germany international Sami, while fellow South Korean Ji Dong-won was an unused substitute.

Meanwhile, Australia international Mathew Leckie also played from the start for Hertha but the main impression he made was a booking shortly after the half-hour mark, after which he was brought off for Alexander Esswein in the 58th minute.

Bosz only has himself to blame

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

Peter Bosz’s six-month reign in charge at Borussia Dortmund was finally brought to an end on Sunday following the Black and Yellow’s latest capitulation in a season that started with so much promise.

The 54-year old Dutchman was relieved of his duties just a day after Dortmund suffered a third home league defeat of the season – to lowly Werder Bremen – that left them seventh in the Bundesliga, a full 13 points behind leaders Bayern Munich.

All this just over two months after Dortmund had been flying high after a record breaking start to the season saw them five points clear of Bayern after seven games.

So what went wrong?

Injuries certainly played a part as Dortmund were forced to do without a number of their established stars including Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle and most notably defensive rock Lukasz Piszczek, while Mario Gotze and Rafael Guerreiro have only just returned to the squad after long-term injuries.

Still, the injury situation was no better at the start of the season during Dortmund’s storming start, so Bosz would be hard pressed to use that as an excuse.

The biggest factor, however, seems to have been Bosz himself and his steadfast refusal to adapt to the team’s changing fortunes.

The high-energy pressing game and 4-3-3 formation that had served him so well in the opening seven games was soon worked out by opposing coaches, who openly spoke about having a plan to combat Dortmund’s by-now well-known tactics.

Yet Bosz refused to compromise on his principles, insisting that his players – rather than the tactics – were to blame. By the time he eventually decided to tinker with his formation ahead of the 4-4 draw against Schalke it was probably too late. The damage had arguably been done and the shocking loss of four-second half goals to their local rivals, only further dented the confidence of the by-now severely demoralised squad.

The situation also wasn’t helped by Bosz’s continuous chopping and changing to his line-ups, most notably in defence, with a different back four being used in almost every game since Piszczek’s injury in early October.

Bundesliga chairman maybe renown for their patience with coaches and the league is nowhere near as cutthroat when it comes to managerial appointments as the Premier League, but Bosz’s seeming stubbornness, Dortmund’s incredibly poor run in the league (no wins in eight matches- their worst since 2004) and their extremely disappointing Champions League campaign all combined to make the decision much easier for BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Overall, it’s been a disappointing time for Bosz following his relative success last term at Ajax, and he will need to show that he has learned the lessons from his spell at Signal-Iduna Park if he is to get another chance to manage at the top level.


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