Pitchside Europe

Eintracht and Fortuna add intrigue to Bundesliga


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Fortuna Dusseldorf fans

A tale of two cities sees Eurosport's Anthony Jeffers study the fortunes of Eintracht Frankfurt and Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Fortuna Dusseldorf

One of the problem women have with football and men is our obsession with statistics and trivia.

So here goes: "Which is the only club in the top five European Leagues yet to have conceded a goal?"

Struggling? Need a clue? Some would say they are 'fortunate'. Nope? The answer is Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Yes, amazing isn't it. The team who only sneaked into the Bundesliga through the back door after beating Hertha Berlin in the play-off.

They are the first team from the Second Division to win German football's version of Russian roulette since the 2008/09 season.

The bookmakers had Fortuna down as favourites to go straight back down. After all, they'd finished a distant third behind Champions Greuther Furth and six points behind runners-up Eintracht Frankfurt.

So what has propelled them to the dizzy height of fifth in the Bundesliga top flight? Probably their coach, Norbert Meier.

In 2005, when coach at Duisburg, the ex-West Germany international was banned by the German football federation and suspended by the club for headbutting a Koln player. It was out of character but he paid the price.

No club in Germany would touch Meier, but Fortuna gave him a chance and he took over at the start of 2008 when they were playing in the German fourth division.

After gaining promotion, Meier knew he had to strengthen his squad and so cheaply recruited 18 new players from the lower divisions.

The best of them so far has been former Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Fabian Giefer who turned down the chance to join Bayern Munich as he didn't want to play second fiddle to Manuel Neuer.

Ukrainian striker Andriy Voronin has joined on loan and his reassuring presence has taken the pressure off the inexperienced team.

And then there is that very well organised and hard working defence which has left the 54 year old Meier a picture of calm and (false) modesty.

"The team deserve a compliment for the way they are working. But of course we know we still have a lot to improve."

Meier is intelligent enough to know one of football's oldest cliches. If it's not broken then don't fix it.

"If we start playing crazy football, then our inferiority will just become clearer."

You could argue that Fortuna haven't played any team in the top half of the table.

Indeed, Tuesday's 2-0 victory came at bottom of the table Augsburg who are suffering second season syndrome. But goalless draws against two of the form teams of last season, BMG and VFB, shouldn't be forgotten.

Their proud record could go on Friday evening when they welcome fourth place Schalke to the "Esprit Arena."

But even if their goal is breached for the first time this season, it's still a remarkable achievement by a team who nobody was giving a chance to. For that alone, they should be applauded.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Never before has a promoted side started a Bundesliga season as well as Eintracht Frankfurt.

Compared to Fortuna, it's less surprising that Eintracht Frankfurt, a rich club from Germany's financial capital, should be doing so well.

But what the coaches of the two clubs do have in common is redemption, they're both thriving after being given a second chance.

The reputation of Eintracht's coach Armin Veh was rock bottom after his last two jobs.

In 2009, when he replaced Felix Magath at recently crowned Wolfsburg, it was football's version of Mission Impossible. Nobody, not even Magath had expected "the Wolves" to clinch the title.

The only way was down and so it proved. Veh survived until just into the New Year.

The following season Veh went further North to Hamburg where he did slightly better; he didn't get the sack until March.

His confidence severely dented, Veh took time out to contemplate the goings on. Reflecting done, two months later he was in the hot seat at freshly relegated Eintracht Frankfurt.

He took the Eagles straight back up in his first season and has been rewarded with a contract extension

We shouldn't be so surprised. Veh after all is one of only five coaches in the Bundesliga to have won the Meisterschale. He did it at Stuttgart in 2007 when crucially expectations were not high. And this is the big difference compared to his time at Wolfsburg and Hamburg.

And the secret of his success this season: simple, ask anybody who followed the second division last year.
His two star players, Japan's Takashi Inui and Stefan Aigner, were both poached from second division rivals last season Bochum and 1860 Munchen, respectively. As was Canadian Olivier Occean from Greuther Furth

The return has been instant. Inui has scored three goals and and created an assist in all five games whereas Stefan Aigner isn't that far behind with three goals and an assist in five games.

Both scored for the Eagles in their biggest test so far against champions Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday when they came back from two goals down to snatch a 3-3 draw.

The cautious Veh has been trying to play down expectations.

"More difficult times might yet come for us. We're on 13 points after five matchdays, so all it means is that we are a step closer to our target."

"The way we play at the end of the day is not important . You can play well but if you still lose; it's pointless. That's why it was very important to take a point this evening especially against a team of Dortmund's calibre. They're one of the two best teams in the country, so it's a real morale booster."

Continuity is also important. Veh fielded the same starting eleven in their first four games, but they also have strength in depth.

There's a good blend at the Commerzbank Arena with the youth of the two Sebastians Rohde and Jung and the experience of Alex Maier and Martin Lanig.

This balance is best expressed by Permin Schwegler.

"The mix of players in this team works well. We have players who have a strong personality, we have players who have got talent and we have players who simply work for the team. We are a team which gives always full gas and never gives up."

The Eagles are soaring high are their form suggests they're not an early season flash in the pan.

The next challenge will be the visit of Freiburg this Sunday.

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