With Bundesliga MatchDay Eight now in the history books prior to this current international break, the Bundesliga, and indeed, German football, continue to become healthier, and wealthier. A new foreign TV licensing agreement with Fox, the German National Team’s waltz through World Cup qualifiers to a berth at Brazil 2014, a generally good showing of Bundesliga clubs in European competition and a tight race in the domestic league with almost a quarter of the 2013/2014 season gone denotes the high spirits surrounding German football these days.
Perhaps the biggest recent news is the deal, beginning with the 2015/2016 season, that the DFL (the German Football League) has struck with 21st Century Fox. The broadcasting giant will then have the exclusive rights to televising the Bundesliga throughout the Western Hemisphere, as well as Japan, China and other Asian countries as well as broadcasting the league in Italy and the Netherlands. The Bundesliga, which has lagged behind the other Big Five European domestic leagues, will have somewhat closed that gap with this deal, and have much increased exposure throughout the world. While financial figures weren’t released, it is estimated that Fox will pay the DFL an amount that will double their previous meager foreign-market TV revenues, up to 140-150 million euros annually. Fox will also have the rights to digital distribution of Bundesliga match content, meaning that the German league may be available for viewing on official apps via mobile devices.
While the Bundesliga’s financial picture is already healthy due to the revenue earned from commercial streams (such as shirt sponsorships), the contract with Fox will give the league much more exposure world-wide as well as additional revenues.
The Germans officially punched their ticket to the 2014 FIFA World Cup last Friday with their win over the Republic of Ireland, and finished qualifying with a final win Tuesday over Sweden. The Germans finished atop of Group C with 28 points in ten qualifiers, winning nine and drawing once. Moreover, the Germans finished, along with the Netherlands, with the top record among the 53 UEFA national teams attempting to book a flight to Brazil next summer.
The German National Team
Few doubted that Germany, ranked third in the September FIFA World Rankings behind Spain and Argentina, would fail to qualify easily for the next World Cup. But the way they did so, leading UEFA national teams with 36 goals in the qualifying round, means that the Germans will not only be considered a favorite to earn their fourth World Cup title next summer, but popular with fans for their prolific finishing.
Borussia Dortmund proved last season that they are a player in the Champions League, going to the finals after not making out of the group stage of European competition the previous two seasons. While Dortmund had a real blowup in their first CL match this season against Napoli, they rebounded to defeat Olympique Marseille their next time out. Bayern Munich and Schalke have both won their first two Champions League group game, while Bayer Leverkusen bounced back after a spanking at Old Trafford to narrowly down Real Sociedad next time out. The combined Champions League record for the four Bundesliga clubs competing is six wins and two losses.
VfB Stuttgart were bounced out of the Europa League in the play-in round, leaving only Eintracht Frankfurt and SC Freiburg in that tournament. Armin Veh’s Eintracht side lead their Group F after two games, scoring six goals while allowing none, but Freiburg haven’t fared as well, earning only one point after their two matches and trail Group H leader Sevilla by five points. Overall, though, Bundesliga clubs continue to thrive in Europe, and the possibility of four or more of the six teams advancing out of the group stage competitions seems likely.
The Bundesliga So Far
After Bayern Munich’s treble-winning 2012/2013 season, it was assumed that the Bavarians would again walk away with the Bundesliga title. But thus far, though Pep Guardiola’s team has been nearly invincible in league play (six wins, two draws and no losses thus far), Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen have kept pace with the champions, both only a point behind league-leading Bayern, indicating that Bayern have a real battle on their hands as they hope to claim their record 24th German championship. The positive goal differentials accumulated by the three clubs (+14 for Dortmund, +12 for Bayern and +10 for Leverkusen) lend further credence to the notion that this year’s battle for the Bundesliga title will be much closer than last year’s.
Bayern have not lost a league game since last October 28, when they were defeated by Leverkusen 2-1 at the Allianz. Despite a spate of injuries to talents such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantra, Mario, Javi Martinez and now Xherdan Shaqiri (injured while helping Switzerland earn its place at the World Cup party last week) and Pep’s tinkering with lineups and formations (including playing all-world right back Philipp Lahm as a central midfielder), the Bavarians roll on.
But the Bavarians can’t find much space in the table ahead of Dortmund and Leverkusen. Jurgen Klopp has once again overturned the loss of a major BvB talent (Götze’s move to Bayern) with the summer acquisition of attacking threats Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who’ve already combined for eight league goals. Meanwhile, in Levekusen, former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypiä seems to be born to the coaches box, as Die Werkself held Bayern to a 1-1 draw last time out and have their own high-powered attack featuring last year’s Bundesliga scoring champion, Stefan Kießling, working successfully in tandem with Sidney Sam and newcomer Son Heung-Min.
There is a two-game gap behind the top three clubs in the table, with Borussia Monchengladbach and Hannover tied for the final Champions League berth, but no other Bundesliga clubs have been able to win consistently. Schalke have been hampered by the injury loss of striker Jan-Klaas Huntelaar (the Hunter suffered further injury earlier this week in practice) and inconsistent play), while Stuttgart started the season with three straight losses before new coach Thomas Schneider lifted the team to a current five game undefeated streak. The league competition is quite healthy, with a wealth of goal-scoring despite goalkeepers the quality of Manuel Neuer, Bernd Leno, Ron-Robert Zieler and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Excitement can be expected week after week, as there has yet to be a scoreless draw in Bundesliga play this season after 72 matches.
With a competitive race in the Bundesliga, a strong showing in Europe, a national team ranked among the best in the world and a very rewarding new TV contract, football in Germany continues to shine.