DFB Pokal or also called The German Cup is the major national championship apart from Bundesliga which is open for the teams from top, second and the third tier of German football league system. The winner of this annual tournament earns one berth in the second tier of European competition. The current tournament is the UEFA Europa League while before 2000, the ticket was for UEFA Cup winners Cup. Moreover, DFB Pokal champions also have a chance to face off Bundesliga winner in DFB Super Cup in the following season.
Formed in 1935, this tournament was initially known as Tschammer-Pokal. It went on using such term until 1944 due to World War II. It was not until 1952 when it was reorganised again under different name, DFB Pokal in West Germany, whereas in East Germany, it was called FDGB Pokal which was held from 1949 to 1991, the year of Germany reunification. At that time, it was merged with the West German side’s with constantly 64 teams joining it each season.
DFB Pokal is a tournament with knockout-based format with single-leg system. There are 64 teams participating in this competition. They consist of all teams from Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, clubs sitting on the top four in the third tier 3 Liga plus 24 semi pro teams as the winner of regional championships. Since 1982, the semi pro teams have been prioritised to play home first at the first round.
There have been several changes of regulation throughout its history. Firstly, in 1965, the original trophy, Goldfasanen-Pokal was changed to the current trophy as it reminded too much of DFB president in NAZI era, Peco Bauwens. Then, before 1970, the replay format was used for any draw results after extra time at the first match plus by lot if the draw results still remained, including the finals. The penalty shoot out was introduced afterwards and the replay system was abolished entirely in 1991. Some other changes took place in 1985 and 2008. The former year marked the beginning of centralised final game in Olympic Stadium, Berlin while the latter was the end of era of reserved team of the German Bundesliga as the tournament contestants.
Bayern Munich is still the record holder in winning the titles. They have lifted the trophy 20 times, while Schalke 04 is the only team which has been able to win at the finals in the biggest score, 5-0, against Kaiserslautern in 1972 and Duisburg in 2011.
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The historic moments in DFB Pokal, which has attracted more and less 500,000 viewers on TV for each games, are mainly related to the season when Bayern failed to win the titles. The first one was the victory of Fortuna Duesseldorf in 1979 and 1980 edition to complete their record of 18 consecutive wins in the competition. The next iconic moment was the 1983 edition. It is the first and so far the only derby in the summit. The two sides from the city of Koln, FC Koln and Fortuna Koln, squared off in the final with the former won the game in a narrow victory, 1-0. The former German international Pierre Litsbarski bagged the winning goal.
Another memorable one was Die Roeten’s first loss in the final. In 1985 edition which was the first season of Berlin final in the tournament, Lothar Matthaus and Co shockingly slumped to a 1-2 defeat by the dark horse Bayer Uerdingen. Horst Felizer and Wolgang Schafer cancelled out Bayern’s lead through Dieter Hoenes’s early goal. Then, in 1991/92 season, the success of Hannover 96, which was competing in Bundesliga 2 back then, has become the last champions from the second tier of German league. They struggled to snatch the glory after beating Gladbach through penalty shootout after a stalemate in 120 minutes. In the following season, Hertha BSC 2 became the only reserved team which managed to reach the final before losing 0-1 to Bayer Leverkusen. The goal from the East Germany-born prolific striker Ulf Kirsten prevented them from clinching the historic victory.
The next iconic moments then move forward to 2012 when Jurgen Klopp guided Borussia Dortmund with Robert Lewandowski and Shinji Kagawa in the squad to smash Bayern 5-2. Both Polish and Japanese international were also on the score sheet. That was Dortmund’s last stellar season as they sealed a double winner. It was one of their worst defeats in the Bavarian side history in DFB Pokal campaign. Luckily, their manager at that time, Jupp Heynckes could still keep his position before he led his team to a notable treble winner in the following year. The last one was the 2018 final when Eintracht Frankfurt under Nico Kovac trashed Bayern 3-1 before taking charge in Allianz Arena in the following season. Ironically, he was sacked before even finishing his first year in Bavaria.
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