From Mainz to Europe

Posted on May 28, 2011

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It has been a roller-coaster year for one small German club in the Rheinland-Pfalz state of the country.

With a population of just under 190,000, the area is host to a number of Oberliga sides and one  club who made a return to Bundesliga action last season from the second-tier.

However, it is the only other Bundesliga club from the region that has stolen the headlines this season after an impressive campaign that resulted in European qualification.

FSV Mainz were promoted to the Bundesliga in 2009 after finishing second in Bundesliga.2 under Joern Andersen. But not long after, Andersen was sacked and replaced by the inexperienced 35-year-old Thomas Tuchel.

And the rest is history, as they say.

In August 2009, Tuchel said: “I have respect for the Bundesliga but no fear.”

Tuchel had previously led the U19s to a league championship and in his first Bundesliga campaign, over-achieving Mainz finished in an impressive ninth position.

Some of the highlights of Tuchel’s debut season in the Bundesliga include a 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich, a 3-3 draw against champions Wolfsburg and wins over HSV and Dortmund.

One of the positives of General Manager Christian Heidel’s decision to appoint in Tuchel in 2009 was that a host of young players from Mainz’s youth teams would eventually make the step-up to the Bundesliga.

And that’s exactly what young-gun Andre Schurrle did under fresh-faced Tuchel.

Schurrle made his first-team debut in 2009 and went on to make 33 appearances in the Bundesliga that season. The 20-year-old, then just 18, went on to score five goals for Mainz in his debut season.

Along with new signing Lewis Holtby, Schurrle would have a big part to play in Mainz’s improving squad for 2010-2011.

Thomas Tuchel inspired his squad to take Mainz to their best-ever Bundesliga position as they finished fifth and qualified for the UEFA Europa League next season.

Mainz started the season better than they could have hoped, winning seven games in a row, including a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena. Overall, in the first half of the season, they won 11 from 17 games.

The Carnival Club as their known, struggled to maintain that form after the winter shutdown but the bubble certainly did not burst as they continued to pick up valuable points, mainly away from home, even against the Dortmund side that cruised to the championship.

With five games remaining, the race for European positions was hotting up with Mainz and Nurnberg chasing the last available spot for the Europa League.

And Mainz were never in any doubt with a fantastic end to the season, winning four from their last five matches.

Tuchel has promised not to take the UEFA Europa League lightly following Harry Redknapp’s claims that the tournament is one ‘teams want to get back out of as soon as their in it’.

Another boost to the club is the construction of a new 33,000-seater stadium that will be opened in July when some of Germany’s top clubs compete in the LIGA! Total Cup.

So far, it has been nothing but improvement for Mainz under Thomas Tuchel and they will need to do so in order to compete in European competition without the likes of Andre Schurrle, who will leave for Leverkusen, and Lewis Holtby who returns to Schalke.

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Posted in: Feature