Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

Frankfurt's Wild Years

Is the Eintracht Frankfurt team that we have seen over the last two seasons the best since the early 90s side that came so close to winning the Bundesliga title? The club that, in recent years has struggled to stay in the top division and to develop an on-pitch identity, has bloomed into a young attacking, exciting team to watch. Last season, their exuberance was rewarded win the DFB Pokal against the mighty Bayern Munich.

However, this season promises even greater glory in the form of Champions League qualification either by finishing in fourth place in the Bundesliga or by winning the Europa League. To what extent the latter is a possibility really depends on how willing a participant Chelsea are in this story. However, with this Eintracht team there is the ability and the spirit to overcome high barriers in order to reach their goal. 

Last night’s second reversal of 4-2 deficit over Benfica lacked the VAR fueled chaos of the events in Manchester the evening before. However, it was a masterclass in how to contain a dangerous opponent looking to sneak a reassuring away goal while patiently probing for defensive weaknesses and waiting for a breakthrough. Once that breakthrough had been achieved, through a probably offside first-half opener by the tireless Serbian winger Filip Kostic and the unlikely but no less welcome thunderstrike from Eintracht’s unglamorous centre midfielder Sebastian Rode, Adi Hutter’s team held their nerve under increasing pressure from a desperate Benfica side who have lived under the burden of the Guttman Curse since the early 1960s. A curse that has seen them lose five European finals.

Eintracht are not regular participants in UEFA competitions and their fans have relished the trips abroad, selling out their allocations and embarrassing the home support in places like Milan and Roma. Seconds after the final whistle blew a huge number of their exuberant fans ran to the edge of the pitch and in their enthusiasm caused a section of advertising hoardings to collapse. In an act of remarkable, collective restraint and perhaps mindful of getting their club into trouble, they resisted the temptation to join their celebrating players on the pitch. Before the game, the fans created a stadium-wide choreo which was inspiring, even by German standards.

While the club celebrates and looks forward to a trip to London, the rest of us can reflect on what is truly a golden age of the club's history. Not since the 1979-80 season have Eintracht made it to a European semi-final. That was the UEFA Cup trophy that they went on to win by beating Borussia M├Ânchengladbach a two-legged final. The prospects of them repeating that feat are not unrealistic although the absence of the suspended Ante Rebi? will be a blow. However, in Luka Jovi?, the German club’s have one of the most-watched strikers in Europe and in Filip Kosti? a metronomic wingman capable of consistently high-quality crosses. Nor to mention the mercurial Danny Da Costa, a wide player so tricky that sometimes even he doesn't know where he’s going.

There are questions about how long this team can stay together. It should be said that Jovi? completed his transfer from Benfica (ironically) from who the striker was on loan and has agreed to a four-year contract. However, as sure as night follows day, bigger and richer clubs will be looking at the man who has scored 25 goals so far this season as well as Rebi? and the currently injured Sebastian Halle and offering them considerable inducements to fly the nest of die Adler.

If Adi Hutter can see these players through to Europa League glory or at the very least a place in the top four of the Bundesliga then sporting director Bruno H├╝bner way yet be able to keep the team together at least until replacements can be signed or brought through the ranks. After all the pleasure they have brought to fans and neutral alike, it would be disappointing if there was no legacy created from this exciting and joyful football team.

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