GERMANY: Head coach Rudi Bommer of Energie Cottbus. I have a hunch some of you old guys might recognize him.
At the end of the last season, several readers noted that the 2. Bundesliga was going to be unusually talent-packed this year. With 1. FC Köln and Hertha Berlin both being relegated, and St. Pauli, Ingolstadt, and VfL Bochum all failing to win promotion last year, this is an especially competitive year down in the next-best German league.
In fact, the top minor league in Germany, the 2. Bundesliga, is looking incredibly tough and competitive compared to other next-best leagues around Europe. Today was opening day down in the 2. I promised I would try to check in every so often and give recaps and updates on what's happening. That goal will probably fall by the wayside as the season rolls along and I get busier and drunker (I'm feelin' pretty good now, BTW), but I hereby fulfill the promise at least through opening day.
Hertha Berlin is certainly one of the favorites to win promotion this season, as well as a pretty big and successful club to be playing in the 2. The majestic Berlin Olympiastadion was respectably half-full today as Hertha kicked off their season against unheralded-but-still-dangerous Paderborn. After Paderborn took a 2-1 lead on a penalty with less than 5 minutes of time on the clock to go, the Berlin crowd was growing anxious, as it seemed Hertha might start the year with a loss. But Hertha saved the say and salvaged a point from a late set-piece situation:
Hertha went into the day really wanting a win, but a point from the match is at least reasonable. An opening-day loss at home would have been tough.
Elsewhere in the 2., Ingolstadt (who played Bayern last year in the Pokal) hosted Nils Petersen's old club, Energie Cottbus. With less than 12 minutes to go, Ingolstadt was holding on to a comfortable 2-0 lead. But the Ivorian Boubacar Sanago, known to 1. Bundesliga fans from his time with Werder and to American fans for playing in front of Charlie Blackmouth at St. Etienne, scored twice in the last 10 minutes to earn another pulsating draw. By the way, this guy looks to be a great bet for 2. Bundesliga scoring champions. I understand he probably won't get a call up to a big club, because he's already 29. But still - a forward who's played over 50 matches in the 1. Bundesliga and 30 in Ligue 1 will probably feast on 2. Bundesliga defenses.
The only other match today was St. Pauli vs. Erzgebirge. This one ended in a 0-0 draw. Because St. Pauli supposedly had higher hopes this year, they were probably hoping for a win a little more. Still, both sides would have liked to get a goal, and both will probably get passed in the table over the weekend, when the rest of the 2. Bundesliga clubs roll into action.
Going forward, here are my entirely uninformed thoughts for the 2. Bundeliga this season:
- Despite their awful form last year and the loss of Podolski, I think FC Köln has enough to earn promotion.
- Kaiserslautern would seem to be a decent pick to go up, but then you have to consider they turned over practically their entire team after being demoted from the 1. I think they'll end up in that playoff spot, at best.
- Hertha also looks like a good bet to advance, but their defense looks less than stellar today. They will also face two tough derby battles against in-city rivals Union Berlin.
- 1860 brought in a decent-looking speedster named Marin Tomasov to play on the wing. If he can find his footing, they could also be in the promotion picture.
As always, we welcome comments and corrections - even more so than usual, because most of ^ this is gleaned only from the internet and grainy computer videos. Liga Total! match tomorrow. Thanks for reading.