The Croatian duel in the Munich semi-final

Ivica Olic has a hope, an aim, a plan. The VfL Wolfsburg striker is currently on a high. At the age of 33, the Croat has once again reached prime shape as a football professional. Why then should he not achieve his wish to upset his good friends of Bayern Munich? The semi-final of the DFB Cup, to take place on Tuesday, April 16, at 20:30 hrs, should be the occasion for him to succeed. Wolfsburg want to cause a sensation by upsetting the superior Bundesliga leaders, who may well have gained their 23rd German championship title by then. And Ivica Olic is the sharpest weapon the Lower Saxons have for any success at FC Bayern Munich.

 

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(Photo: Rauchensteiner/Augenklick)

“It’s presently going well for me. And I’m looking forward to be in Munich once again”, says Olic. He moved from the Bavarians to Wolfsburg, the 2009 German champions, in the summer of 2012. He left his mates in Munich in mutual, amicable circumstances after 55 Bundesliga matches and 13 goals. In 2009, he had joined Munich from Hamburger SV, whose shirt he had worn for two and a half years.

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Ivica Olic is a great guy, and his Munich team-mates held him in high esteem, and still do. In a counter move Mario Mandzukic moved from Wolfsburg to FC Bayern. Consequently the top match of the DFB Cup, the last obstacle on the road to the final in Berlin on June 1 for both teams, is also the duel of the two Croatian internationals. On March 22, together they both beat their former Yugoslav brothers Serbia 2-0 in an important World Cup qualifier in Zagreb. They shared the goals between them. With the assist of Olic, Mandzukic scored for 1-0, then Olic took over the job of goalscorer for 2-0. Now Ivica and Mario are sporting competitors in the DFB Cup.

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Munich’s goalscorer Mario Mandzukic played with Wolfsburg last season and will now meet his Croatian international team-mate Ivica Olic in the DFB Cup. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

The other semi-final encounter in the Cup competition of the German Football Association, DFB, is a Baden Wuerttemberg derby. Swabian VfB Stuttgart will meet SC Freiburg from Baden. The match to be held on Wednesday, April 17, also at 20:30 hrs, promises high tension.

Freiburg and Wolfsburg have never been Cup champions

Freiburg can tell about the extraordinary class of Olic. During the “Wolves” 5-2 win in the Bundesliga on March 9, Olic scored twice, with a fantastic overhead kick and a header. “That’s crazy, sensational how much he did in the attack”, VfL manager Klaus Allofs praised the striker. And coach Dieter Hecking was also amazed because the Croat had only scored three goals in his previous 22 matches this season. “He creates a lot of unrest in the opposing defence. He has earned his goals with an incredible amount of running”. Olic later scored during the 1-1 draw with Fortuna Duesseldorf; so his goal against Serbia was his sixth in a row in a competitive match, because he had also netted in the DFB Cup quarter-finals 2-0 victory over Kickers Offenbach (February 26) and the 4-1 defeat by Schalke (March 2). Since Olic has moved from the wing position into the centre of attack he has become a more valuable player. “I feel more comfortable in the centre. I’m more dangerous in front of goal here than on the wing”, Olic says. He wants to prove that again against the Bavarians who, however, are the clear favourites. They have scheduled their 16th DFB Cup triumph, their last dating back to 2010 with a 4-0 victory over Werder Bremen.

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On November 25, 2012, Freiburg defeated Stuttgart 3-0 in the Bundesliga. Jan Rosenthal (left) won his tackle with Shinji Okazaki and scored to give a 1-0 lead. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


The encounter between Stuttgart and Freiburg is more open. The VfB go into the semi-final as three-time Cup champions. After 1954 and 1958, the Swabians most recently won the DFB Cup in 1997, under the direction of today’s German national coach Joachim Loew, with a 2-0 win over then third division club Energie Cottbus. Neither Freiburg nor Wolfsburg have ever won the DFB Cup in the men’s competition. The Baden club have reached the semi-finals just once previously, while Wolfsburg were ousted in 2007 and 2008 by Stuttgart and then Bayern Munich.

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FC Bayern and VfL Wolfsburg previously met in the DFB Cup semi-finals in March 2008. Marcell Jansen (right) and Sascha Riether battled against each other constantly. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


After excellent performances in the Bundesliga, which earned them a fifth place, the Freiburg team coached by Christian Streich hit a losing streak and fell back into the middle of the table. But Streich is a real Cup expert. He led SC Freiburg’s A junior team to the title in 2006, 2009 and 2011. And in 2012 the Freiburg juniors won the DFB Cup in that category again, but with a different coach.

The DFB Cup is important for international representation by the Bundesliga clubs. The DFB Cup champions qualify directly for the group stage of the 2013-2014 Europa League. Should the Cup champions be in a Champions League position in the final Bundesliga table (for instance Bayern Munich), the losers of the DFB Cup final qualify for the Europa League – though not directly for the group stage but for the qualifying round. The direct starting place for the group stage would then go to the fifth place club in the Bundesliga. If both Cup finalists hold an international starting place in the Bundesliga, the seventh placed Bundesliga team would qualify for the Europa League.