DFB Cup: Blue-White Ruhr Festival in Berlin

It will be a unique blue-white Ruhr festival, which won’t take place on the Rhine or Ruhr, however, but in Berlin. The date has been clearly marked in the diaries of the fans of MSV Duisburg and FC Schalke 04 since the beginning of March: May 21, 20:00 hrs, Berlin, Olympic Stadium. It is the date of the final of the German Football Association’s DFB Cup. At the “German Wembley”, as the DFB call their Berlin arena, the successor to record-winning Cup champions Bayern Munich will be crowned in front of 75,000 spectators. The club colours of both clubs, whose home stadiums are just 35 kilometres apart, are blue and white. The supporters of the “Zebras”, the Meidericher SV Duisburg, and the fans of the “Miners”, Football Club Gelsenkirchen-Schalke 1904, will be indistinguishable for a casual glance at the stands in Berlin.

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The DFB Cup Trophy, created in 1965 and valued at about 100,000 Euros, has many impressive details. A view from one of the twelve tourmalines. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


When the first and second legs of the semi-finals were held on March 1 and 2, and Schalke freed themselves from the depths of an ongoing crisis by triumphing 1-0 at FC Bayern, large parts of football Germany groaned loudly at first: What a boring final! That was the initial judgment of some experts and football supporters alike, and could even be heard sometimes within the DFB. But then it transpired that this Ruhr Festival has its own charm. There was a phenomenal demand for tickets for the final. Bavaria will also be represented in the final as the referee is Wolfgang Stark, who comes from Landshut in Lower Bavaria and represented the DFB at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. 

Schalke once again in a crisis prior to the final

The winners will celebrate in the German capital and in addition will be rewarded by a starting place in next year’s Europa League. There is no question that Bundesliga club Schalke are the favourites – at least on paper – as Duisburg play in the second division. “If we don’t win the Cup competition, the season will prove a cock up“, said Schalke’s manager Horst Heldt, but the team want to conclude a turbulent season amicably. Schalke reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. They defeated title holders Inter Milan twice (5-2, 2-1) but were then humiliated by Manchester United, losing both games 2-0 and 4-1. The weak Bundesliga results of the 2010 German national runners-up contributed to the sacking in mid-March of coach Felix Magath, after completing less than two years of his four-year contract.

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After a 4-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in 2002, FC Schalke 04 celebrated winning the DFB Cup in Berlin, as they had done in the previous year against Union Berlin. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


Magath’s successor Ralf Rangnick began well and led the team to four wins. But from the beginning of May the coach had to ensure his team did not totally cave in after five defeats in the Bundesliga and the Champions League. The 3-1 loss to Mainz 05 on May 7 was their seventh home defeat this season, acknowledged by frustrated crowds with loud booing. “Some are weak in the head, others in the legs. The team have proven that they can play better, but they don’t have the disposition to consistently show it”, said Rangnick. “This shouldn’t happen, I can’t accept that. We won’t put up with that”, said Heldt. “Our performances have been somewhat insulting. You cannot conclude the season at home with another such appearance”, said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer after his last home match for Schalke. His move to FC Bayern Munich is becoming more and more apparent prior to the DFB Cup final.

“Zebras” on a slight upward trend

In contrast MSV Duisburg have overcome a crisis. The Duisburgers were considered candidates for returning to the Bundesliga until the DFB Cup semi-final when they defeated their second division rivals Energie Cottbus 2-1. MSV played well when defeating Bundesliga clubs Kaiserslautern in the quarter-final (2-0) and Cologne in the previous round (2-1). Cologne even lost at home. But after they had achieved their fourth participation in the DFB Cup final, in which they most recently lost 2-1 to FC Bayern in 1998 and according to the opinion of many experts undeservedly, the team suffered a setback, partly due to many key players being injured. However, the team coached by Milan Sasic have come back. Before the 3-1 win over SC Paderborn in their last home match (33rd round, May 8) Duisburg had defeated FSV Frankfurt 4-0 away. This followed eight unsuccessful away matches and MSV regained sixth place.

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The MSV Duisburg team prior to the 1998 DFB Cup final against Bayern Munich. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


The player situation has improved, but it is certain that Sasic will miss important players against Schalke. With several doubtful it is known that Julian Koch won’t be fit in time, neither will Srdjan Baljak. Sasic had problems nominating 13 field players. But striker Stefan Maierhofer is hoping to be fit for Berlin after a long break due to a broken foot metatarsal. The situation could be better. The Duisburgers, German runners-up back in the first ever Bundesliga season when the club was still known as Meidericher SV, have set their eyes on winning their first ever Cup title.

 

Statistics favour Duisburg

The statistics are quite clear that the “Zebras” are ahead in the blue-white duel. MSV have a positive record of 22 wins, 20 defeats and 12 draws in the Bundesliga encounters with Schalke. Both teams have met only once in the DFB Cup competition, when Duisburg crushed Schalke 6-0 in 1966. The second division club would be happy with a 1-0 on May 21.

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A blue-white encounter in 1990: Schalke’s Schlipper shoots, Woelk and Tarnat stand to the left. Schalke won the second division match 1-0 in front of 59,000 spectators. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


After Schalke’s current downswing, a Duisburg victory would be no big surprise. But the Gelsenkirchen club is one of the Cup specialists. The DFB statistics show Schalke as the third-best team in the DFB Cup. Bayern Munich have won the Cup title 15 times from 17 final appearances. Bremen gained six titles in ten finals; and Schalke four (as did Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Cologne) in eleven finals -- the most final participations behind FC Bayern