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Match 33
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Volker Finke

Volker Finke

Latest Team: Cameroon

2014 FIFA World Cup

  • 3GP
  •  
  • 0Won
  •  
  • 0Draw
  •  
  • 3Lost
  •  

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Previous Clubs: TSV Havelse, Freiburg, Urawa Red Diamonds, Cologne

Honours: None

Baseball had the Oakland Aces; German football had SC Freiburg and Volker Finke.

Together with Wolfgang Frank of Mainz and Ralf Rangnick, who was at Stuttgart at the time, Volker Finke was one of the masterminds behind the revolution in Germany's footballing approach, turning the focus more on technically-skilled players. The "Freiburg way," as it became known, was based on a high-pressing, quick-passing style. It was how Finke took Freiburg out of the second division and into the top flight for the first time in their history in the 1993-4 season and oversaw their qualification for the UEFA Cup in 1995.

It was also somewhat about sourcing the best players, which Finke learned the hard way when Freiburg were relegated in 1997 and 16 players left the club. He had to find replacements and sent scouts to places like Mali and Tunisia, where they picked up promising talent and ignored the protests of their fans, who soon realised success had no nationality. Freiburg finished second in the second tier and immediately returned to the Bundesliga. Four years later, they reached the UEFA Cup for a second time.

Freiburg were relegated again in 2002 but Finke once again kept the job and one again took them back to the top flight at the first attempt. When they were relegated a third time, in 2005, and ended the first half of the 2006-7 season staring a drop to the third division in the face, Finke was served his notice.

The club declared their "unqualified confidence" in his ability to stop them slipping any further but said that Finke would leave the club at the end of the season. The next few months saw Freiburg mount an impressive climb up the table, so much so that they even looked likely to get promoted back to the Bundesliga.

In an extraordinary show of support for Finke, supporters started a "we are Finke" campaign, gathering signatures in a bid to force the board to keep him. The players had T-shirts with the "We are Finke" slogan emblazoned on them but minds were made up. Despite finishing fourth and recording the best second half of a season in Bundesliga 2 history, Finke had to go.

He had been in charge of SC Freiburg for 16 years, an unprecedented length of time given the musical chairs played in professional football management, and his tenure made him the longest-serving manager in German history. It also assured his status as one of the key thinkers in the German game.

Finke had not worked outside of Germany until then but chose to spread his wings. He spent time in Japan at Urawa Red Diamonds and then as director of sport at Cologne before being offered the national team job in Cameroon, where it was widely expected his approach would not work.

A loss to Togo, which was later overturned because the opposition fielded an ineligible player, seemed to confirm those fears but Finke silenced detractors by overseeing Cameroon's qualification for the World Cup. During the campaign, he had a fall out with the team's marquee man Samuel Eto'o who (again) threatened to retire because of a team selection dispute. Importantly, though, the team appears to have made up; Finke praised Eto'o's return to form at Chelsea and, despite his focus on the collective, admitted the striker is the one man who can make a big difference.

Strengths: Finke has perfected the technical art of the pressing game with a focus on quick passing and attacking with intent. When his plans come together, the result is a beautifully choreographed version of the game. Putting squad goals ahead of individual glory should help Finke keep egos in check.

Weaknesses: Despite a wealth of years in the game, Finke has never won a trophy at any level which suggests he puts more emphasis on style than substance. He may not mind if Cameroon play attractive football but do not progress to the round of 16, but others certainly will. The jury is also still out on whether Cameroon, who generally prefer to stay deep and strike through the counter-attack, have fully embraced the Finke way.

Career high: Presiding over Cameroon's 4-1 victory against Tunisia in Yaounde, which sealed their African-record seventh appearance at a World Cup.

Career low: Parting company with Cologne, where he was director of sport, following a disagreement with the coach Stale Solbakken in March 2012. Also, being called "incompetent" by Cameroon legend Roger Milla early in his tenure with the Indomitable Lions -- though Milla later retracted the statement.

Tactics: Finke favours fluid tactics and playing the ball through the middle which allows for malleable formations -- though 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 are the most likely.

Quotes: "Football today is about depth. You need a minimum of 10 to 12 individual players of top ability. They have to give to the team. It is no longer a game where just one can make a difference. You need many, each of whom can make a difference," Finke outlines his belief that football is a team game.

Trivia: Although Finke had previously only coached outside of Germany briefly, he is considered an expert on African football because of the time he has spent on the continent. Finke has been to every African Nations Cup since 1992 to scout for talent and also helped Burkinabe players Wilfried Sanou and Jonathan Pitropia start their own academy in Ouagadougou.

Words: Firdose Moonda