MSV Duisburg are said to be an elevator team, a club that bounces between Germany’s first and second divisions, but their elevator team has been stuck on the second floor for several season, with no clear indication that they will be back in the Bundesliga anytime soon. They last played in the top-tier during the 2007/2008 season, in which they finished 18th in the table and immediately returned to 2. Bundesliga, where they have resided for the last three seasons. Duisburg is located in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state that is also home to such clubs as Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen, FC Köln, Fortuna Düsseldorf, SC Paderborn 07, Alemannia Aachen, VfL Bochum, Arminia Bielefeld and Wupertaler SV.
Duisburg were known as Meidenricher SV until they took on the current MSV Duisburg moniker in 1967. The club has roots that go back to 1902. An original member of the Bundesliga when it was formed for the 1963/1964 season, they finished second during that inaugural season, behind FC Köln, in what was then a 16 team division. Although they remained a top-tier club for almost 20 years, that second place finish was their best, although they were DFB Pokal finalists in 1966 and 1975. Duisburg play their home matches at the 31,500 seat Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena, built in 2004.
MSV Duisburg, known as the Zebras due to their blue and white hooped shirts, come into the 2012/2013 riding on a wave of mediocrity, with their only recent glory being a Pokal Cup final appearance in 2011, in which they were dispatched easily by FC Schalke 5-0. Duisburg’s 10th place finish last season saw them second worst among the top ten clubs in the table in scoring, with only Eintracht Braunschwieg scoring less goals (37) than Duisburg’s 42. The Zebras, coming off an 8th place 2010/2011 finish that saw them end only two points out of the fifth berth were considered a possible promotion contender entering the season, according to Martyn Fischer’s fine Defensive Midfielder site, “based on the additions of such players as Jürgen Gjasula, acquired from FSV, Florian Fromlowitz (Hannover), Vasileios Pliatsikas (Schalke), Valeri Domovchiyski (Hertha BSC), Džemal Berberović (Litex Lovech), Jiayi Shao and Emil Jula (both Energie Cottbus), and Sergei Karimov (Wolfsburg)”…. but the club’s makeover took quite a while to gel.
The 2011/2012 campaign saw the Zebras start the season with one goal losses to SC Karlsruher and Energie Cottbus. A 3-0 win over promoted Dynamo Dresden was the only victory in Duisburg’s first ten league matches. Adding insult to injury, Duisburg, 2011 Pokal finalists, were eliminated in the second round by fairy-tale squad Holstein Kiel. Instead of scaling the heights towards promotion, MSV Duisburg found itself in an unlikely relegation battle.
The winter break did the Zebras little good, as they started out in February with five consecutive losses to FSV Frankfurt, Hansa Rostock, St. Pauli, Dresden and SpVgg Greuther Furth before the Zebras earned a point with a 1-1 against Union Berlin on March 9th. From there on out, Duisburg began finally finding wins, defeating VfL Bochum and SC Paderborn by identical 2-1 scores. The Zebras finished the season on a high note, losing only once in the last nine matches of the season while earning five wins and three draws.
Duisburg will be led on the sidelines by former goalkeeper Oliver Reck, 47, who took over from Coach Milan Šašić early last season. Reck, who had a long career as a goalkeeper at Werder Bremen and Schalke, will likely rely on Felix Wiedwald in goal. The 22 year-old took over the starting goalkeeper position from former Hannover keeper Florian Fromlowitz in November, with Fromlowitz leaving for Dynamo Dresden earlier this summer. Reck’s backup keepers are also quite young, as Phillipines international Roland Müller is 24 and Marcel Lenz only 21 years old.
On the backline, Reck will have Dortmund loanee Julian Koch back for another season. The 21 year-old defender, who has played on German national youth sides, featured in 22 league matches for the Zebras but has missed last season sidelined with a knee injury suffered early in 2011. Joining him in the back will be holdovers Andre Hoffman, Bosnians Dzemal Berberovic and Branimir Bajic (who contributed seven goals to the Zebras’ attack), while starter Bruno Soares has left to play for Fortuna Düsseldorf. Newcomer Timo Perthel, a former Werder Bremen youth player acquired from Hansa Rostock, broke his foot in Saturday’s test match with Heracles Almelo, had surgery and will be out indefinitely. Veterans Markus Bollmann and Benjamin Kern should be part of the backline mix, too.
Slovenian international Goran Sukalo returns for another season with the Zebras. The experienced vice-captain has played in 220 2. Bundesliga matches, scoring 36 goals, and netted both goals in Duisburg’s win over Heracles. Other returning midfielders include and youngsters Tanju Otzurk, Daniel Brosinski, Kevin Wolze and Dušan Jevtić, the 20 year-old 1860 Munich reservist who joined Duisburg last winter. Twenty-year old Croatian midfielder Zvonko Pamić returns to Duisburg for another season on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, while Sören Brandy joins the team from SC Paderborn 07.
Up front, Serbian Srđan Baljak is the graybeard at age 33. Baljak once led the Serbian SuperLiga in scoring before joining Mainz in 2007, but only played in eight matches last season for Duisburg. Valeri Domovchiyskiand and Maurice Exslager, along with 20 year-old Oslo native Flamur Kastrati will be counted on to provide goals, although last season the trio combined for only six scores.
While fans of the Zebras will be rooting hard for promotion, the team doesn’t look to be any more proficient in goalscoring than last year’s squad, although they did recently add former Fortuna Düsseldorf striker Ranisav Jovanovic, 31, on a free transfer. The club will have to be very solid defensively to offset their lack of offensive punch. If the season correlates to Reck’s managerial percentage of wins, draws and losses, Duisburg would finish 12-8-14, good for 44 points, not nearly enough to reach a 2. Bundesliga promotion berth. With demoted clubs Hertha Berlin, FC Köln and FC Kaiserslautern looking for an immediate bounceback and a St. Pauli side that barely missed the promotion playoff berth by having a worse goal differential than Fortuna Düsseldorf, competition for the three promotion spots (the third place finisher plays a 2-game series with the 16th place Bundesliga side with the winner playing in the top-tier the next season) he 2. Bundesliga campaign will be a tough one.
But if the Zebras can avoid the long fallow stretch of games that they suffered at both the start of the Hinrunde and Ruckrunde, Duisburg may sneak into the promotion mix. Certainly their ability to string positive results at the end of the last season should give the squad confidence going into the 2012/2013 season. Duisburg opens this coming season at home against newly promoted VfR Aalen August 5th and visit newly promoted SV Jahn Regensburg on MatchDay 2, creating what would be considered a golden opportunity for the Zebras to start the season on the right foot.