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‘A step forward’

Bayern begin to find form on Japan trip

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Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Urawa Red Diamonds secured Bayern the Saitama City Cup 2008, the first trophy of the Jürgen Klinsmann era. Perhaps even more meaningful for the new head coach was the appearance of Guido Buchwald in front of him on the Saitama stadium turf. The 1990 World Cup winners, friends for many years now, embraced warmly and later spent a lengthy period deep in conversation over dinner. Buchwald almost certainly agreed with the assessment Klinsmann gave at the final whistle: “For a friendly, it was a great game.“

Klinsmann’s signature high-tempo passing and aggressive attacking philosophy was clearly on display in the first period. “Certain aspects of the attacking moves“ were directly attributable to Klinsmann, Buchwald reasoned. The team “passed extremely well,” continued the former Urawa Red Diamonds supremo. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was equally satisfied: “That was definitely our best pre-season performance.“

Always comfortable

After weary displays in Cologne and Dortmund, Munich looked a great deal more sprightly against the current Asian Champions League holders, all the more impressive given the Tokyo outfit are at the midpoint of their domestic season. With ten days to go until their first competitive fixture, Bayern are beginning to find their form. “The first half was well worth watching,” commented Klinsmann, “there were some good moves, tactically we kept it tight, and our understanding was good. It was a step forward.“

Miroslav Klose (16), Bastian Schweinsteiger (21) and Lukas Podolski (43) fired the German double winners into a deserved 3-0 half-time lead. “The tempo we maintained in the first half hardly allowed Urawa a look-in,” remarked Klinsmann. FCB made a number of changes at the break and Urawa finally made an impact, scoring consolation goals through Tsukasa Umesaki (57) and Yuki Abe (80). However, Podolski’s 63rd-minute strike for Bayern’s fourth meant the victory was never in doubt.

Let the ball do the work

“We played refreshingly good football,” Uli Hoeneß enthused. The players at least partially translated Klinsmann’s practice ground tactics into action. “We’ve trained to let the ball do the work. That’s becoming part of the player’s instinctive thoughts,” the coach commented.

The team also appears to be taking on board Klinsmann’s desire for broad positional flexibility. Whereas two holding midfielders appeared in Cologne, Thursday’s formation featured a diamond, but the transition was seamless. “We can play 4-4-2 with two lines of four or with a midfield diamond, but we’re also capable of playing 3-5-2,” the coach explained.

Much work ahead

However, the meeting with the Red Diamonds was just a start. Klinsmann feels his men will still be settling down until “late August, early September. We have a great deal of work still to do. We’ve not even started with set plays and certain moves which I want the players to memorise by heart.” Nevertheless, in the Land of the Rising Sun, the new Bayern provided plenty of rays of light.