“Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” — Gary Lineker
Here’s a simple question: if you were offered the opportunity would you want to trade places with Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Granted, many would reply “yes” simply based on his fräulein, Sara Brandner. Oh right, and the fact he’s making millions every year playing for the biggest club in his native Germany. Hell, Schweinsteiger’s even got an endorsement deal from the German version of Slim Jim.
Life has to be pretty sweet.
Consider though, Bastian Schweinsteiger is a loss in Saturday’s Champions League final to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday (2:45 FOX) at Wembley Stadium in London away from becoming the German parallel to Jim Kelly, albeit without being name-dropped by ODB. Since 2006 Schweinsteiger, and by extension Germany and Bayern teammates Philip Lahm and to a lesser degree the most lovable man in soccer — Thomas Müller — have been involved in the following defeats:
- The 2006 World Cup semifinals to Italy, on homesoil
- The 2008 Euro final to Spain.
- The 2010 World Cup semifinals to Spain.
- The 2012 Euro semifinals to Italy.
- The 2010 Champions League final to Inter Milan
- The 2012 Champions League final to Chelsea, in their home stadium.
That’s a lot of high-profile set backs for a pair of generational players, who’ve been excellent performers throughout their careers which began in the Bayern youth system. You could argue Germany and Bayern have been successful and most teams would dream of that level of consistency and that’s true to a degree, but nobody wants to be remembered as a perennial second or third-best.
Last year’s Champions League final loss was especially traumatic for Bayern, blowing a 1-0 lead at the Allianz Arena to Chelsea, watching Arjen Robben (himself an uber-loser of late) miss a penalty kick which would have put them ahead in extra time, finally losing the match when Schweinsteiger’s penalty kick in the shootout hit the left post, handing club soccer’s most important prize over to the dastardly club from West London.
If Bayern is going to break its recent Champions League finals curse and win its first European crown since 2001, this seems to be the season to do so since it won the Bundesliga by 25 points — one of the 30 records the club set during the year. Every move Bayern made after losing to Chelsea paid dividends: Javi Martinez has provided midfield grit, Dante has solidified the defense as well as being a positive influence in the locker room (the afro helps), while Mario Mandžukić’s presence at striker meant Bayern doesn’t have to rely on the maddeningly inconsistent Mario Gomez for goals.
In the Champions League Bayern brushed aside Serie A winner Juventus 4-0 over two legs in the quarterfinals and followed that up with a historic 7-0 thrashing of Spanish champion Barcelona in the semifinals. It would appear Bayern’s already done the hard work and simply needs to finish the job vs. domestic rival Dortmund, a club it’s beaten twice in German knockout tournaments this season, along with drawing twice in league play.
Across 52 games played this season Bayern is an outrageous 44-3-5, outscoring opponents 146-30.
This is, by all measures, a great team with great players like Franck Ribery on the wing, David Alaba at left back, Manuel Neuer in goal and all the names aforementioned playing their roles to perfection. Bayern’s been better than everybody else in Germany and the rest of Europe by a sizable margin. Unless the demons of past traumatic losses creep back into the equation, Bayern should finish what Schweinsteiger, Lahm & Co. been unable to do with the big money on the line.
A German team will end up lifting the ‘trophy with the big ears’ at Wembley on Saturday, but will it be the German team, Bayern?
They certainly can’t blow it again, can they? Germans used to be good at winning important soccer games, or so the legend went.