Union Berlin vs. Wolfsburg: secret of success under the burning glass

Maybe Gilbert Keith Chesterton was wrong after all. The British author, who died in 1936, once explained the primal essence of man by creating an analogy with everyday objects: the walking stick and the umbrella. The latter is useful and necessary, while the walking stick is a nice but in fact completely superfluous accessory. But what do you always leave lying around somewhere? That’s right, the umbrella.

Chesterton believed that man clung to what was superfluous, and that was why socialism was bound to fail. So far that was not entirely wrong, but this derivation has not proven to be completely correct either. About a century later, football gave birth to 1. FC Union Berlin, a club that is not ashamed of its playful minimalism and convinces with an almost socialist collective spirit.

On Sunday, the Köpenickers once again managed to make an umbrella appearance that was limited to the bare minimum. In the end, the opponent VfL Wolfsburg was ahead in all relevant statistics (ball possession, tackles, goal chances, …) and made a far too energetic impression for a comparison with a walking stick or even a cane to be appropriate – but it was that didn’t stop Union from scoring as often as the Werkself.

The result of 1:1, said Union coach Urs Fischer, was primarily due to his team’s fighting spirit and the “necessary luck of the game”. And then he talked about other facts that sounded like meter-high milestones from his mouth: Union had neither scored a goal in Wolfsburg nor ever taken a point in its three first-division years, that on Sunday both succeeded at once was obviously for Fischer similar importance as an Academy Award for film directors. In any case, his colleague Niko Kovac could not quite explain how this precedent came about. “We deserved a win,” said the Croatian and then truthfully added: “But we’re in football and it’s the results that count.”

Union can do a lot better than the opponent

There has already been a lot of debate about the Köpenickers’ fabulous season, in which they made it to the round of 16 in the Europa League and are currently fourth in the league. The game in Wolfsburg showed one of the secrets of success once again like under a magnifying glass: The Unioners can’t do everything, but what they do they can often do a little bit better than the opponent.

The Kovac-Elf was two and a half classes superior in football and could have scored at least three and a half goals through striker Omar Marmoush alone, but with every missed goal chance they also became a bit more nervous and actionistic. Union, on the other hand, kept their rhythm, both before the opening goal by Josip Juranovic (72nd minute/penalty) and after Wolfsburg’s equalizer by Patrick Wimmer (84th). Together with the “we-have-to-be-beaten-us-first” attitude of the Köpenicker team, this results in a mixture that also demands a lot of respect from superior opponents.

“We can compete with the best,” was the conclusion of VfL trainer Kovac, whose hair, soaked from the rainy weather in Lower Saxony, looked like clear evidence of Chesterston’s analogy: Even in 2023, such an umbrella has remained an absolutely useful and necessary utensil.



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