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Successful course charted by 'super brain' Vogel

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Successful course charted by 'super brain' Vogel

Postby FCBayernNews » Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:20 pm

In a Champions League group stage with more upsets than usual, FC Basel and boss Heiko Vogel were responsible for the biggest shock of the lot, as the Swiss champions eliminated previous season's finalists Manchester United and became the Alpine nation's first-ever club in the last sixteen. Much of the credit has been laid at Vogel's door: not for nothing is the seasoned coach nicknamed 'super brain'.

"Once again, it's David against Goliath for us," Vogel commented following the draw for the Champions League first knockout round, which handed the Basel boss a reunion with FC Bayern, where he worked as a youth coach for the decade between 1998 and 2008. He had a crucial hand in bringing on the likes of Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller and Diego Contento, but his mission now is to make life difficult for his former protégés. "We're delighted to take on the role of David, and this time, let's hope we can trip Goliath," he quipped.

"We've been warned," Bayern's Karl Hopfner responded, "we've seen what they did to Man United." Showing no respect at all for their illustrious opponents, Basel defeated England's most successful club 2-1 in front of a delirious 36,000 full house at their home St Jakob Park in their final group fixture, nosing ahead of the Premier League side to claim second spot in the section. The Swiss came within a minute of winning the first meeting at Old Trafford too, but were ultimately held to a 3-3 draw.

Reaching the last sixteen rates as the 14-time Swiss champions' greatest European success to date, and the achievement is closely associated with Vogel, whose family live in Tegernsee to the south of Munich. The coach took the Basel reins from another former Bayern man, Thorsten Fink, in mid-October when the ex-midfielder accepted a new challenge in Hamburg. Vogel and Fink got to know and appreciate each other in 2004 on a course leading to the German FA's highest coaching qualification. The pair worked together from 2008, first in Ingolstadt and then in Basel, where they led their troops to the domestic league title in 2010.

Historic victory

After Fink's departure, Vogel initially stepped up to the head coaching job as a caretaker, before signing up on a permanent basis on 12 December, a decision which took nobody by surprise. His record so far is exceptional, as the Swiss FCB have 10 wins, two draws and just one defeat from his 13 games in charge. Basel were five points off top spot when Vogel took the hot seat, but now lead the pack by seven points.

"It'll probably be 2017 before I truly realise what we've achieved," he said in a daze after the historic victory over United, "it feels like a dream." He has the local media eating out of his hand. "A bit of Fink, a bit of Löw, but all Vogel," gushed the Zürich Tagesanzeiger, continuing the comparison with Germany boss Joachim Löw: "He was the assistant and meticulous workhorse in the background, but seemingly without any effort, he's been transformed into a Messiah."

Blend of youth and experience

Vogel was largely responsible for the club's training programme under Fink, and has made few changes since his promotion. He has resisted the urge to tinker with a functioning team playing in a 4-4-2 formation, with former Bundesliga stars Marco Streller, Alexander Frei and Benjamin Huggel forming the spine. Ex-Bayern youth Markus Steinhöfer is a regular, while home-grown talents like Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Aleksandar Dragovic and Valentin Stocker are frequently linked with moves abroad.

This blend of youth and experience, schooled and instructed by the 'super brain' himself, now goes into battle with Bayern, although the coach would rather have avoided his former club at this stage. "We played Bayern last season, so we don't really need that again," he commented in the build-up to the draw. Munich won both group stage meetings in 2010/11, by a 2-1 margin in Basel and 3-0 at home.

Hoping for more headlines

However, the luck of the draw means an immediate rematch. Basel, the most successful club in Switzerland in recent years with six league titles, three runners-up finishes and five cup triumphs since 2002, believe they have a chance. "Football is played with your feet, so it's imprecise and unpredictable. Anything can happen," Vogel declared ahead of the famous victory over United. The same now applies to the challenge against Bayern. "Our target for the last sixteen is to make the next round," the coach insisted, "we want to keep hitting the headlines."
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