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Germany's flops back in focus

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-24 10:10
Germany's national football team pose together during the 2018 World Cup. [Photo/VCG]

BERLIN-The Bundesliga returns on Friday with German soccer still feeling the aftershocks of the country's early World Cup exit and Bayern Munich hoping new coach Niko Kovac can maintain the relentless success the club expects.

Germany's embarrassing failure to defend its world title in Russia, crashing out after finishing last in its group, leaves several Bundesliga stars with a point to prove in the new season.

Bayern kicks off the campaign on Friday at home to Hoffenheim, which will make its debut in the Champions League group stages this season, with midfielder Thomas Mueller noting the World Cup debacle provides extra motivation.

"It's about how we can do better-after going out like that, you handle failure very badly, because nobody expected it," Mueller told the Bayern website.

After the debacle in Russia, Germany coach Joachim Loew is expected to make sweeping changes when he names his squad on Wednesday for the visit of newly crowned world champion France to Munich on Sept 6 in the Nations League.

In the same stadium, Bayern's focus against Hoffenheim will be on its World Cup stars Mueller, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer, who all sputtered badly in Russia.

The spotlight will also fall on Kovac in his first home league game after joining from Eintracht Frankfurt, which shocked Bayern 3-1 in May's German Cup final in his final game before departing for Bavaria.

Kovac has already been handed a reduced squad, with Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal sold to Barcelona.

The transfer window closes in Germany on Aug 31 and president Uli Hoeness said there's a "50-50" chance Boateng could still go to Paris Saint-Germain, while Thiago Alcantara has been linked with a return to Barca.

Kovac is expected to ensure Bayern picks up where it left off last season when it secured a sixth straight league title by a 21-point margin.

However, the German league desperately needs a challenger to come forward.

In a recent survey of 2,500 fans for internet provider t-online.de, just 17.9 percent believed a club other than Bayern will be German champion come next April.

Of the sides bidding to wrestle the Bundesliga trophy from Bayern's iron grip, Borussia Dortmund, under new head coach Lucien Favre, and RB Leipzig lead the charge.

Dortmund's signing of Axel Witsel is the Bundesliga's biggest transfer ahead of the new season.

Having paid Tianjin Quanjian $22.9 million for Witsel, the Belgian scored an injurytime equalizer to save Dortmund's bacon in the German Cup at second-tier Greuther Fuerth before Marco Reus earned a 2-1 victory for the visitor in extra time.

Witsel is expected to forge a solid defensive midfield partnership with Denmark's Thomas Delaney, signed from Werder Bremen.

Agence France - Presse

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