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Football | Germany

No stopping Dortmund's VW Beetle



Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund are like a Volkswagen Beetle, according to coach Juergen Klopp. They may not be much to look at but keep going where others would have come spluttering to a halt.

"I've never driven a VW Beetle but that's what people say about them," said Klopp last week. "They still run with no fan belt, petrol or oil and that's what we're like.

"My guys can't be broken, they always give their all."

Klopp did not say it but if rivals Bayern Munich were to be likened to a car, it would be an expensive sports vehicle that streaks down the Autobahn but breaks down as soon as it hits a pot-holed sidestreet.

Dortmund were crowned champions for the second season in a row on Saturday, wrapping up the title when they beat Borussia Moenchengladback 2-0 at home.

It was a stunning achievement for a team which Bayern president Uli Hoeness described disparagingly as lacking any world-class players.

While Bayern - with their array of expensive signings and big-name directors - are often known as FC Hollywood in Germany, Dortmund are the complete opposite, an unassuming team of low- profile players who Klopp said were "greedy" for success.

Last season, Dortmund had the surprise element in their favour as they won the title with a squad of youngsters such as Mats Hummels, Mario Goetze, Marcel Schmelzer, Sven Bender and Kevin Grosskreutz.

But few could have imagined that they could have held off the challenge this season of a revitalised Bayern, who replaced unpredictable coach Louis van Gaal with dependable old favourite Jupp Heynckes for this term.

Dortmund had also lost the services Nuri Sahin, one of their key players last season, after he departed for Real Madrid.

Yet that was more than compensated for by the emergence of Ilkay Gundogan, signed from Nuremberg in the close season, and most of all Polish striker Roberto Lewandowski.

HIGH-PRESSURE FOOTBALL

The 23-year-old, one of three Poles in the team alongside defender Lukasz Piszczek and midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, has scored 20 league goals this term with his strength, movement and invention making him unplayable for many defenders.

No other team in the Bundesliga plays such intense, non-stop, high-pressure football as Dortmund, who are regularly backed by 80 000 of the most vocal supporters in the country.

One entire end of the Westfalen stadium is dedicated to standing fans, nearly 25 000 of them, who create a wall of noise and fanaticism. The Suedtribune, as it is known, is the largest standing area at any stadium in Europe.

Much of Dortmund's success is down to the flamboyant 44-year-old floppy-haired Klopp, who habitually has three days' growth of stubble on his chin and shuns suits and ties for track suit trousers and a hoodie.

Klopp is non-stop action himself on the touchline, producing some of the Bundesliga's most exuberant celebrations, yet there is also a more thoughtful, tactical side to him.

Last season, he introduced his players to the techniques of Life Kinetik, a German-based company which specialises in exercises in co-ordination and movement.

Klopp is greatly admired and respected by his young team, although many wonder whether his approach would produce similar success at clubs such as Bayern or Chelsea - who he has been linked with in the media.

The question now is whether Dortmund can impress in Europe next season.

This term, Klopp decided that the Champions League would be a learning experience and maybe got more than he bargained for after finishing bottom of a group containing Arsenal, Olympique Marseille and Olympiakos.

If Dortmund can succeed in Europe next season then even Bayern may be forced to take their hats off to their rivals.(



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