Previous
Juventus
Malmo FF
2
0
FT
Game Details
Olympiakos
Atletico Madrid
3
2
FT
Game Details
Liverpool
Ludogorets Razgrad
2
1
FT
Game Details
Real Madrid
FC Basel
5
1
FT
Game Details
AS Monaco
Bayer Leverkusen
1
0
FT
Game Details
Benfica
Zenit St Petersburg
0
2
FT
Game Details
Borussia Dortmund
Arsenal
2
0
FT
Game Details
Galatasaray
Anderlecht
1
1
FT
Game Details
AFC Bournemouth
Leeds United
1
3
FT
Game Details
Birmingham City
Sheffield Wednesday
0
2
FT
Game Details
Blackpool
Watford
0
1
FT
Game Details
Brentford
Norwich City
0
3
FT
Game Details
Cardiff City
Middlesbrough
0
1
FT
Game Details
Charlton Athletic
Wolverhampton Wanderers
1
1
FT
Game Details
Huddersfield Town
Wigan Athletic
0
0
FT
Game Details
Ipswich Town
Brighton & Hove Albion
2
0
FT
Game Details
Bolton Wanderers
Rotherham United
3
2
FT
Game Details
Reading
Millwall
3
2
FT
Game Details
Colchester United
Sheffield United
2
3
FT
Game Details
Doncaster Rovers
Crawley Town
0
0
FT
Game Details
Gillingham
Peterborough United
2
1
FT
Game Details
Milton Keynes Dons
Bradford City
1
2
FT
Game Details
Notts County
Leyton Orient
1
1
FT
Game Details
Port Vale
Bristol City
0
3
FT
Game Details
Preston North End
Chesterfield
3
3
FT
Game Details
Rochdale
Walsall
4
0
FT
Game Details
Scunthorpe United
Coventry City
2
1
FT
Game Details
Swindon Town
Oldham Athletic
2
2
FT
Game Details
Yeovil Town
Crewe Alexandra
1
1
FT
Game Details
AFC Wimbledon
Burton Albion
3
0
FT
Game Details
Bury
Stevenage
2
1
FT
Game Details
Cambridge United
Exeter City
1
2
FT
Game Details
Cheltenham Town
Southend United
0
1
FT
Game Details
Mansfield Town
Morecambe
1
0
FT
Game Details
Northampton Town
Hartlepool United
5
1
FT
Game Details
Oxford United
Accrington Stanley
3
1
FT
Game Details
Plymouth Argyle
Wycombe Wanderers
0
1
FT
Game Details
Portsmouth
Dagenham & Redbridge
3
0
FT
Game Details
Shrewsbury Town
Carlisle United
1
0
FT
Game Details
Tranmere Rovers
Newport County
0
0
FT
Game Details
York City
Luton Town
0
0
FT
Game Details
Aldershot Town
Braintree Town
1
3
FT
Game Details
Alfreton Town
AFC Telford United
3
2
FT
Game Details
Bristol Rovers
Nuneaton Town
3
1
FT
Game Details
Chester City
Southport
2
0
FT
Game Details
Dartford
Dover
2
1
FT
Game Details
Eastleigh
Forest Green Rovers
2
2
FT
Game Details
Halifax
Grimsby Town
1
1
FT
Game Details
Kidderminster Harriers
Altrincham
4
0
FT
Game Details
Macclesfield Town
Gateshead
1
1
FT
Game Details
Torquay United
Woking
1
0
FT
Game Details
Welling
Lincoln City
2
0
FT
Game Details
Barnet
Wrexham
0
1
FT
Game Details
Rangers
Inverness Caledonian Thistle
1
0
FT
Game Details
Waterhouse
DC United
1
2
FT
Game Details
Cruz Azul
Chorrillo FC
3
0
FT
Game Details
Portland Timbers
Olimpia
4
2
FT
Game Details
Independiente Terán
Cerro Porteño
1
0
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Estudiantes La Plata
Gimnasia La Plata
1
0
FT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
Deportivo Capiatá
Caracas F.C.
1
1
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Peñarol
Deportivo Cali
2
2
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Guadalajara
Tijuana
2
0
FT
Game Details
Mérida
Atlante
1
0
FT
Game Details
Puebla
Morelia
2
1
FT
Game Details
Celaya
Necaxa
0
2
FT
Game Details
Coras Tepic
Zacatepec
2
0
FT
Game Details
Dorados de Sinaloa
Mineros de Zacatecas
2
1
FT
Game Details
Monterrey
Santos
2
3
FT
Game Details
Toluca
UNAM
2
2
FT
Game Details
América Mineiro
Bragantino
0
2
FT
Game Details
Avaí
Sampaio Correa-MA
3
2
FT
Game Details
Goianiense
América RN
2
0
FT
Game Details
Náutico
Joinville
1
2
FT
Game Details
Paraná Clube
Ceará
0
0
FT
Game Details
Portuguesa de Desportos
Boa MG
1
1
FT
Game Details
ABC
AA Ponte Preta
0
2
FT
Game Details
Icasa
Vila Nova-GO
0
1
FT
Game Details
Luverdense
Santa Cruz FC
2
1
FT
Game Details
Oeste
CR Vasco da Gama
1
1
FT
Game Details
Al Hilal
Al-Ain
3
0
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Bidvest Wits
Amazulu
Postp
Game Details
Kaizer Chiefs
Maritzburg Utd
Postp
Game Details
Next
Apr 20, 2013

The Bundesliga's forgotten team

It is, as the saying goes, a funny old game. Not too long ago, asking people for their team of the season produced numerous different replies. Many named Bayern, of course, as they will finish the domestic campaign with tons of records, some perhaps for the ages.

Others said Dortmund, for their image-boosting European heroics. Quite a few people also nominated Freiburg or Mainz, for collecting more points and playing better football than their budget should allow for.

Or how about candidates such as Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, two newly-promoted teams that outdid expectations so thoroughly that one seemed assured of survival with many weeks still to come while the other toyed with - gasp! - Champions League football?

Even Augsburg and Hannover 96 were names you would have heard uttered, the former for a most astounding reversal of fortunes after the end of the winter break, the latter for being in or near sixth place during most of the season while also remaining unbeaten in the Europa League until late February.

But now, as we approach the 30th round of games in the Bundesliga and the semi-finals in Europe, there is but one team that can - figuratively speaking - sit back, light a cigar and, with a broad, satisfied grin, say: "Well, that's been a heck of a ride, hasn't it?"

That team is VfB Stuttgart. Like I said, it's a funny old game.

Some of the clubs listed above, the likes of Hannover, Mainz, Düsseldorf or Frankfurt, have begun to find the going a bit rougher of late. Augsburg and Bayern, meanwhile, will only judge their season by what happens in the next few weeks. In Augsburg's case, they can still go down and you won't call a relegated side a team of the season, even if they have put up a great fight.

As regards Bayern, for all their greatness so far - and maybe because of it - there are still a few horror scenarios that could come true. (Some of them so scary for Bayern fans that I won't even mention them here.) Dortmund and Freiburg, finally, have put in excellent seasons by their own standards - yet the public is unlikely to share these clubs' enthusiasm if the former should get unceremoniously knocked out of the Champions League by Real while the latter misses out on the European slots.

Stuttgart, in marked contrast, have had many very tough months. The football was often uninspired, all those Europa League games put a terrible strain on a squad that wasn't particularly deep even before injuries hit, the press was critical of the team's performances and the fans were unhappy with the board, especially with president Gerd Mäuser. Oh, and money was comparatively tight.

As late as March, the local newspaper Schwarzwälder Bote said: "The atmosphere at the games is as grey and dismal as the weather." It went on to quote Oliver Schaal, a fan spokesman, as saying: "It's no longer fun watching the games. The fans cannot recognise 'the Stuttgart Way' preached by the board. We cannot see that this way is being filled with life. The worst thing is that we cannot see a sporting perspective."

But on Wednesday night, the bruised and battered team without perspective treated those fans to a tremendous game. In the DFB-Pokal semi-final, Stuttgart defeated Freiburg 2-1. It was a closely-fought match in which VfB prevailed deservedly but also needed a lot of willpower, particularly in the closing stages when legs began to tire and Freiburg, with twelve games less under their collective belt, increased the pace.

Stuttgart held out, though, and reached the final in Berlin. Their opponents will be Bayern, which means that VfB are already assured of Europa League football again next season. True, it's not a competition their fans are especially enamoured by. In fact, the Stuttgarter Zeitung recently said: "In Stuttgart, the Europa League has been a misunderstanding for years now. VfB are fighting to qualify for an entire season - and then they realise with sadness that hardly anyone is interested."

But qualifying for Europe does constitute sporting success and on Wednesday night it became almost palpable how much the players and the supporters relish the fact they have achieved such success in the face of adversity. And then it also became audible.

"For two and a half years, we've only been repairing things," coach Bruno Labbadia said on television, referring to the fact he had to assemble a competitive team even though his budget has been cut considerably. "Yet we didn't get relegated and have made the Europa League for the second time." With thinly veiled sarcasm, he added: "At the moment, I can't deliver the Champions League."

It was the second time this season that Labbadia complained about a lack of appreciation on the part of the media and, one can presume, the fans and the board. Back in October, he said: "I'm not surprised that they are getting a new coach here every few months." He added: "Coaches are not other people's garbage cans."

Labbadia, Stuttgart's eighth coach in the last ten years, was talking about himself, but you could also understand his words in a broader sense. Because VfB Stuttgart were the Bundesliga's forgotten team this season. Even when the club lost the first four games after the end of the winter break to find itself "in the dirt", as business manager Fredi Bobic put it, meaning near the drop zone, nobody outside of Swabia felt this warranted a major story.

When Bremen or Hamburg embarrassed themselves, the cameras immediately came out in droves, but Stuttgart were the side nobody appeared to really care about, let alone appreciate. Until Wednesday night. The way Labbadia and his players celebrated the win together with their fans made you realise this was more than just a cup victory, no matter how crucial. It was a deeply satisfying gesture of defiance.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.