Surprise semi-finalists set up unforgettable DFB Pokal conclusion

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None of the four DFB Pokal semi-finalists have lifted the title for nearly three decades. Two of them have never gotten their hands on the trophy. Three aren’t even top-flight teams! Clearly, we are approaching the very business end of an incredibly magical cup season.


By Neel Shelat


“Die Magie des Pokals” is the German equivalent of “the magic of the cup”, so that must be being said a lot around the country at this time of year. As we approach the final four of the DFB Pokal, we are promised a memorable end to an incredible season of the cup as giants such as Bayern Munich, defending champions RB Leipzig, and Borussia Dortmund have all fallen.

Instead, it is surprise Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen chasing their second-ever cup trophy who are the favourites. In fact, they are the only top-flight team still standing as the other semi-finalists include giant killers Saarbrücken of the 3. Liga as well as two sides from the 2. Bundesliga.

Ahead of the upcoming semi-finals, let us take a look at each of these four teams and how they got here.

Saarbrücken

The story of the DFB Pokal season so far has to be Saarbrücken’s unbelievable run to the semi-final.

A third-tier team overcoming the country’s strongest team in Bayern Munich, recent Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt, and Borussia Mönchengladbach is a crazy enough story in itself, but it would even have made a smidgen of sense if they were runaway promotion favourites. Instead, Saarbrücken have firmly been a mid-table side in the 3. Liga this season.

It is impossible to say what is possessing them in the cup, but they are somehow putting together incredible performance after incredible performance to hold off Bundesliga attacks and hit them on the counter. That formula has served them well enough to equal their best-ever cup run (they also made the final four in 2020!), so they will now hope that it can take them one or even two steps further.

FC Kaiserslautern

Just a couple of years ago, FC Kaiserslautern regularly faced Saarbrücken in the 3. Liga, so their reunion in the cup semi-final is sure to be a truly special occasion.

In fact, if FCK pay too much attention to their cup campaign at the cost of their league form, they may have to make the trip to Saarbrücken more regularly. At the moment, they sit in the relegation play-off spot, just one point above the direct drop zone from Germany’s second tier.

Kaiserslautern have been a touch fortunate with the draws so far as they have only come up against one Bundesliga side – relegation battlers FC Köln in the second round – and only need to overcome a third-tier team to reach their what would be their first cup final since 2003.

They have the worst defensive record in the league with a grand total of 1 clean sheet so far, so their approach to games certainly is one of outscoring their opponents no matter what. 14-goal striker Ragner Ache has been key to that approach, so the timeline of his return to fitness from a hip injury could prove decisive in Kaiserslautern’s cup campaign.

Bayer Leverkusen

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bayer Leverkusen are now the firm favourites to win the DFB Pokal. If they get the job done, this could be just their third major trophy. Die Werkself’s ambitions will be far greater, though, as they are still unbeaten all season en route to a potential treble.

Their path to the semi-final has not be an overly dramatic one as they eased past lower-tier opponents in the first few rounds, but did get a real run for their money in the quarter-final. Fellow Bundesliga overachievers Stuttgart pushed them all the way in what was one of the best matches of the season in Germany – from a tactical and entertainment standpoint. After the game swung in all sorts of directions, centre-back Jonathan Tah won the day for Leverkusen with a header in the 90th minute!

Leverkusen easily have the quality to cruise past any of the remaining semi-finalists, but as their close-run Europa League tie against Qarabağ would have warned them, they must be careful in their approach of balancing three separate title charges. Xabi Alonso’s men will certainly be keen to avoid a repeat of the club’s 2002 treble horror.

Fortuna Düsseldorf

Fortuna Düsseldorf are enjoying their best cup run since 1979/80 when they sealed back-to-back titles – their only post-War major trophies. If Bayer Leverkusen do slip up, they will be likeliest to make it three as they are also in contention for promotion to the Bundesliga.

Under Daniel Thiourne, they certainly have the firepower to give this cup a really good shot as their return of 59 goals in the 2. Bundesliga is the highest in the league.

They also have the joint second-best defensive record in the league, although that has not really shown in the cup yet as they have failed to keep a single clean sheet despite never coming across top-flight opposition. Their success against 2. Bundesliga leaders St. Pauli in the quarter-final was very encouraging, though, so they will hope to see that momentum carry on in what promises to be their toughest match of the season against Bayer Leverkusen.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every game from the DFB Pokal live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Surprise semi-finalists set up unforgettable DFB Pokal conclusion

None of the four DFB Pokal semi-finalists have lifted the title for nearly three decades. Two of them have never gotten their hands on the trophy. Three aren’t even top-flight teams! Clearly, we are approaching the very business end of an incredibly magical cup season.


By Neel Shelat


“Die Magie des Pokals” is the German equivalent of “the magic of the cup”, so that must be being said a lot around the country at this time of year. As we approach the final four of the DFB Pokal, we are promised a memorable end to an incredible season of the cup as giants such as Bayern Munich, defending champions RB Leipzig, and Borussia Dortmund have all fallen.

Instead, it is surprise Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen chasing their second-ever cup trophy who are the favourites. In fact, they are the only top-flight team still standing as the other semi-finalists include giant killers Saarbrücken of the 3. Liga as well as two sides from the 2. Bundesliga.

Ahead of the upcoming semi-finals, let us take a look at each of these four teams and how they got here.

Saarbrücken

The story of the DFB Pokal season so far has to be Saarbrücken’s unbelievable run to the semi-final.

A third-tier team overcoming the country’s strongest team in Bayern Munich, recent Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt, and Borussia Mönchengladbach is a crazy enough story in itself, but it would even have made a smidgen of sense if they were runaway promotion favourites. Instead, Saarbrücken have firmly been a mid-table side in the 3. Liga this season.

It is impossible to say what is possessing them in the cup, but they are somehow putting together incredible performance after incredible performance to hold off Bundesliga attacks and hit them on the counter. That formula has served them well enough to equal their best-ever cup run (they also made the final four in 2020!), so they will now hope that it can take them one or even two steps further.

FC Kaiserslautern

Just a couple of years ago, FC Kaiserslautern regularly faced Saarbrücken in the 3. Liga, so their reunion in the cup semi-final is sure to be a truly special occasion.

In fact, if FCK pay too much attention to their cup campaign at the cost of their league form, they may have to make the trip to Saarbrücken more regularly. At the moment, they sit in the relegation play-off spot, just one point above the direct drop zone from Germany’s second tier.

Kaiserslautern have been a touch fortunate with the draws so far as they have only come up against one Bundesliga side – relegation battlers FC Köln in the second round – and only need to overcome a third-tier team to reach their what would be their first cup final since 2003.

They have the worst defensive record in the league with a grand total of 1 clean sheet so far, so their approach to games certainly is one of outscoring their opponents no matter what. 14-goal striker Ragner Ache has been key to that approach, so the timeline of his return to fitness from a hip injury could prove decisive in Kaiserslautern’s cup campaign.

Bayer Leverkusen

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bayer Leverkusen are now the firm favourites to win the DFB Pokal. If they get the job done, this could be just their third major trophy. Die Werkself’s ambitions will be far greater, though, as they are still unbeaten all season en route to a potential treble.

Their path to the semi-final has not be an overly dramatic one as they eased past lower-tier opponents in the first few rounds, but did get a real run for their money in the quarter-final. Fellow Bundesliga overachievers Stuttgart pushed them all the way in what was one of the best matches of the season in Germany – from a tactical and entertainment standpoint. After the game swung in all sorts of directions, centre-back Jonathan Tah won the day for Leverkusen with a header in the 90th minute!

Leverkusen easily have the quality to cruise past any of the remaining semi-finalists, but as their close-run Europa League tie against Qarabağ would have warned them, they must be careful in their approach of balancing three separate title charges. Xabi Alonso’s men will certainly be keen to avoid a repeat of the club’s 2002 treble horror.

Fortuna Düsseldorf

Fortuna Düsseldorf are enjoying their best cup run since 1979/80 when they sealed back-to-back titles – their only post-War major trophies. If Bayer Leverkusen do slip up, they will be likeliest to make it three as they are also in contention for promotion to the Bundesliga.

Under Daniel Thiourne, they certainly have the firepower to give this cup a really good shot as their return of 59 goals in the 2. Bundesliga is the highest in the league.

They also have the joint second-best defensive record in the league, although that has not really shown in the cup yet as they have failed to keep a single clean sheet despite never coming across top-flight opposition. Their success against 2. Bundesliga leaders St. Pauli in the quarter-final was very encouraging, though, so they will hope to see that momentum carry on in what promises to be their toughest match of the season against Bayer Leverkusen.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every game from the DFB Pokal live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.