Focus on the 3.Liga Clubs in the DFB Pokal First Round this Weekend

Our intrepid 3. Liga traveler, Wayne Symes, takes a look at the DFB Pokal from the perspective of Germany’s third division clubs.  Eight of the matches will be streamed between Friday August 9 through Monday the 12th in the US on ESPN 3, including the matches involving KFC Uerdingen, FC Würzburger Kickers and Hallescher FC.  For more on the Pokal’s first round, check out Randall Hauk’s June Fanatic article.

As the DfB Pokal begins for another year half the 3.Liga teams are represented in the first round. Six of these sides will face Bundesliga opposition, while the remaining four may, perhaps, have an easier time facing sides in the Bundesliga 2. Now that we are four weeks into the 3.Liga season we might have a sense of how some of those teams are traveling and whether they have the chance of scoring an upset win.

KFC Uerdingen vs. BVB Dortmund – Friday, August 9, 20:45 at the Düsseldorf Arena

KFC Uerdingen actually won the DfB Pokal in 1985, defeating Bayern München 2:1 in the final. However, it has been quite a few years since they even qualified to play in the first round. The last time did see them knock out two Bundesliga sides. In the first round of 2001/2002 they defeated Energie Cottbus (who were then in the Bundesliga) 1-0. Then, in the second round they made it past SV Werder Bremen on penalties after a 1:1 draw during regular time. They then went out to 1.FC Köln on penalties in the round of 16. Another good omen might be that Dortmund went out in the first round that year.

KFC Uerdingen have begun the season with a win, two draws, and a loss away to the Bayern München U23s. They must do better at defending set pieces; both the Großaspach goals on the weekend came from poor defending at free kicks. Their defense have also struggled against quick forwards who have good dribbling skills, which means that Dortmund could run them ragged. Depending on the side Lucien Favre chooses to put out Uerdingen will do well to avoid losing by more than three goals.

FC Ingolstadt 04 vs. 1.FC Nürnberg – Friday, August 9, 20:45 at the Audi Sportpark, Ingolstadt

You might be forgiven for thinking that FC Ingolstadt 04 will just be pleased to be playing at the Audi Sportpark. Their previous fifteen games in this competition have all been played away from home, with their last game on familiar territory being back in 2010/11 when they beat Karlsruher SC (then in the Bundesliga) 2:0 in the first round. They might also be happy to have avoided SC Paderborn, who were responsible for knocking them out in both of the last two seasons. A match against fellow Bavarians 1.FC Nürnberg should make for a good crowd.

Ingolstadt have made a solid start to life back in the 3.Liga, with three wins and a draw from their first four matches. Eight goals (with six coming at home) while only conceding three is also a good sign. Nürnberg will need to keep an eye on Stefan Kutschke and the two Maximilians, Beister and Wolfram, who are all a goal threat. There is a good chance for an upset here, although I would not be surprised if it went to penalties.

1. FC Magdeburg vs. SC Freiburg – Saturday, August 10, 15:30 at the MDCC Arena, Magdeburg

Despite being the equal record holders (alongside SG Dynamo Dresden with seven) for wins in the FDGB-Pokal (the East German equivalent before reunification) 1.FC Magdeburg have largely struggled to get past the first round in the DfB Pokal. The big exception to this was the 2000/2001 season, where they progressed to the quarter finals, finally succumbing, in a narrow 0:1 defeat, to eventual winners Schalke 04. Their run included a 5:2 defeat of 1.FC Köln in the first round and a famous win, on penalties, over FC Bayern München in the second round. This year Magdeburg might have preferred to face FC Augsburg, having defeated them in the Pokal twice in the last four seasons.

After a disappointing beginning to the season 1.FC Magdeburg finally got their first win with a 1:3 win away to SV Meppen on the weekend. SC Freiburg are difficult to predict, having struggled away from home last season. However, they have had some good friendly results in pre-season. Both teams are capable of scoring or conceding lots of goals. If Magdeburg can get an early goal to keep their confidence up then they have a chance, otherwise my guess is that Freiburg will win.

1. FC Kaiserslautern vs. 1. FSV Mainz 05 – Saturday, August 10, 15:30 at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion, Kaiserslautern

1.FC Kaiserslautern have the best record in the DfB Pokal of any team from the 3.Liga; being twice winners (1990 and 1996) and five times runners-up. Since German reunification they share the record for the biggest win in the Pokal; a first round 0:15 against FC Schönberg 95 in 2004/2005. In the last ten seasons they have made the semi-finals once (2013/2014) and only failed to make it past the first round twice (although both came in the last three seasons). Their most recent DfB Pokal game against 1.FSV Mainz 05 came in 2005/2006 when they lost in the round of 16 at home on penalties after finishing 1:1 after extra-time.

Kaiserslautern have had a mixed start to the 3.Liga; drawing twice at home while both winning and losing one game away. They were somewhat unfortunate to lose Saturday’s game away to Münster after their goalkeeper, Lennart Grill, dropped the ball over the line from a free kick in the 85th minute. Mainz will need to keep an eye on Florian Pick who has scored a goal a game and is dangerous cutting in from the left. It would not surprise me if this game was a win for the 3.Liga team.

FC Würzburger Kickers vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – Saturday, August 10, 18:30 at the flyeralarm Arena, Würzburg

FC Würzburger Kickers have a very limited history in the DfB Pokal. They have never been past the second round and have only competed in seven different seasons prior to this one. So far their best win has been a 3:2 defeat of Fortuna Düsseldorf (then in the Bundesliga 2) in the first round of the 2014/2015 season. In contrast TSG 1899 Hoffenheim have scored six goals in their first round game in two of the last three seasons.

Entertaining has been the best word to describe the beginning to Würzburg’s season, provided you do not mind who is scoring the goals. After a 3:1 victory over Bayern München U23s on Matchday 1, they have lost their next three games 5:4, 0:3, and 3:0. Seven goals scored in four games would not be bad, if it were not for the twelve goals scored against them. Clearly their defense is an issue and it would not surprise to see Hoffenheim score more than once against them in the Pokal.

Chemnitzer FC vs. Hamburger SV – Sunday, August 11, 18:30 at the Stadion an der Gellertstraße, Chemnitz

Back in 1992/1993, in just their second year in the competition after reunification, Chemnitzer FC made the semi-finals of the DfB Pokal. They lost 1:2 to Hertha Berlin II (who are the only second string side to make the final of the DfB Pokal). Since then they have reached the round of 16 once (1995/1996) and the third round twice. However, the last time they won a game in the first round was an absolutely amazing match against Mainz 05 back in 2014/2015. They managed to finish 5:5 after extra time and complete the victory 5:4 on penalties. If Sunday night is anything like that it will be worth attending.

Given the way they have started the season after promotion from the Regionalliga a similar result seems highly unlikely. A 1:1 draw at home to, also recently promoted, Waldhof Mannheim is the only point they have so far achieved. They have managed to score six goals, but have also conceded eleven. The weekend also saw them sack their captain, Daniel Frahn, for openly displaying sympathy for neo-Nazis. For the last few seasons financial difficulties have been a huge issue in Chemnitz, so a cup run would be very welcome for the budget. Sadly, I just don’t think it is going to happen.

SV Waldhof Mannheim vs. Eintracht Frankfurt – Sunday, August 11, 18:30 at the Carl-Benz-Stadion, Mannheim

This is the first year that SV Waldhof Mannheim have played in the DfB Pokal since the 2003/2004 season (when they went down 0:4 to Union Berlin in the first round). However, that season was the twenty ninth in a row in which they had competed and, during that run, they had only gone out in the first round on three other occasions and made the semi-final (1985/1986) and quarter final (1997/1998) once each. The last time Mannheim played Eintracht Frankfurt was in the third round of the 1992/1993 season. Playing in Frankfurt they lost 4:1 in extra time.

After three draws (two 1:1 away, and a 0:0 at home) Mannheim managed their first win of the season, 4:0 over TSV 1860 München, on Monday night. This will obviously boost their confidence. They are also clearly very defensively solid, having only conceded two goals from their first four games. If they could score an early goal it might make things tricky for Eintracht Frankfurt who have lost a number of players, including two of their three big strikers, from last season. However, Frankfurt looked fluent in their opening Europa League games and should have too much quality for Mannheim.

MSV Duisburg vs. SpVgg Greuther Fürth – Sunday, August 11, 18:30 at the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena, Duisburg

MSV Duisburg have made the DfB Pokal final four times in their history, unfortunately finishing on the losing side each time; 0:5 to Schalke 04 in 2011, 1:2 to Bayern München in 1998, 0:1 to Eintracht Frankfurt in 1975, and 2:4 to Bayern München in 1966. Last season they made it through the first two rounds before going down to SC Paderborn in the round of 16. SpVgg Greuther Fürth have also competed in the competition thirty seven times. Amazingly, despite the number of times both teams have made it into at least the first round of the Pokal, this is the first time that they will have faced each other.

Matchday 4 saw MSV Duisburg record an excellent win away from home against the previously undefeated Eintracht Braunschweig. Along with solid home wins over Sonnenhof Großaspach and Preußen Münster they also lost narrowly 3:2 away to FC Ingolstadt and are looking like one of the stronger teams in the 3.Liga. Greuther Fürth have had a mixed start in the Bundesliga 2, losing 0:2 at home against FC Erzgebirge Aue on Matchday 1, then defeating FC St. Pauli 1:3 on Matchday 2. This could be very close and it would not surprise if the game goes to extra time and penalties.

FC Hansa Rostock vs. VfB Stuttgart – Monday, August 12, 1830 at the Ostseestadion, Rostock

FC Hansa Rostock played VfB Stuttgart in the first round of the DfB Pokal last season and defeated them 2:0. It was Rostock’s first win in the DfB Pokal from eight attempts over the previous ten years. Prior to that, however, they had had good success in the Pokal, making the quarterfinal in 2004/2005 and the round of 16 on three other occasions over four years. In fact, Rostock and Stuttgart have played each other in the DfB Pokal four times in total and Stuttgart are yet to win a game.

2019/2020 has not had the best of starts for FC Hansa Rostock however. The 3:3 draw with Viktoria Köln on the opening Matchday saw Rostock go 3:0 up through an own goal and two horrible defensive lapses which gifted them a second but they failed to keep the win. Since then, they have had two narrow away losses and only just managed to scrape a win at home over Bayern München U23s. Turnover of both playing and coaching staff seems to have reduced their attacking fluency. This may be the year that VfB Stuttgart breaks their run of defeats.

Hallescher FC vs. VfL Wolfsburg – Monday, August 12, 1830 at the Erdgas Sportpark, Halle

Hallescher FC have participated in the first round of the DfB Pokal ten times previously in their history and have won just three of those games. The most recent of these victories was the last time they appeared, back in 2016/2017, when they defeated 1.FC Kaiserslautern 4:3 after extra time. Their only other victories have been against Union Berlin (2010/2011) and SC Neukirchen 1899 (1991/1992). Despite the two teams being only 164km (102 miles) apart, Hallescher’s location in the former East Germany means that this will be the first time that they have faced each other in a competitive match.

Three successive wins, after an opening day away loss to KFC Uerdingen, have seen Halle climb the 3.Liga table. They had a similar strong start last year only to fade in the Rückrunde. Playing a team so, relatively, close should make for a good sized crowd. A great atmosphere might be enough to motivate the home team even more. Ultimately though, although I would be happy to be proven wrong, I expect VfL Wolfsburg to have too much class for Hallescher FC.

Conclusion

The DfB Pokal is famous for its upsets and sometimes it feels as if every year a smaller team goes a long way (even if it also feels like Dortmund and Bayern are in the final most years). As you can see, I have hopes for three possible wins for the 3.Liga but I would be thrilled if even one of them can get through to the next round.

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Wayne Symes

Born and raised in Australia, Wayne developed a love of football at an early age and an interest in German football not long after. He is an international schoolteacher of English literature and Theory of Knowledge with a love of history and has taught in England, Qatar, China and now Germany (and attended local and international football matches in all of those countries). Wayne loves to travel and explore new places and cultures. His other interests include baseball, cooking, music and movies.

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