Hamburg - Optimism is the flavour of the month at 1899 Hoffenheim after the club romped to a first win of the season by beating Hamburger SV 5-1 in the Imtech Arena on Matchday 2.
Throwback to the Rangnick days
The impressive victory evoked memories of Hoffenheim’s maiden Bundesliga campaign back in 2008/09 when they sensationally led the table at the halfway mark. Ambitions will be somewhat more reserved this term after top-flight survival was only achieved via victory in the relegation play-off in May - but an unbeaten start to the campaign has given rise to a belief that the immediate future is bright for the Sinsheimers.
In 2008/09 it was the quartet of Demba Ba, Vedad Ibisevic, Chinedu Obasi and Carlos Eduardo, coached by Ralf Rangnick, that thrilled the Bundesliga with its fast, fluid and exciting brand of attacking football. In 2013/14 it is Kevin Volland, Anthony Modeste, Tarik Elyounoussi and Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino that have taken on the crowd-pleasing mantle.
All four of them ran the HSV defence ragged, with new signing Volland scoring his first of the season and Modeste and Firmino each netting a brace. The latter’s performance was worthy of special mention as he also assisted his team’s other three efforts, meaning he was involved in all five goals, a feat never managed by an 1899 player since the club was promoted to the top flight five years ago.
From a youngster with potential but lacking the maturity to command a regular place in a Bundesliga team, Firmino has developed into one of Gisdol's key men. The 21-year-old has become a goalscorer, playmaker and a de facto leader, netting twice against 1. FC Kaiserslautern to help ensure survival in the play-off and has four goals to his name already this term, having struck two against SG Aumund-Vegesack in the DFB Cup.
Firmino also has the ambition to match his talent and is looking ahead to a certain FIFA World Cup to be staged in his homeland at the end of the season. “I want to be involved,” he said plainly. “It's in my home country. For that to happen, I need to make sure my club performances are good enough.”
Modeste enjoying himself
Frenchman Modeste also stood out against the Bundesliga’s only ever-present club, scoring with two clinical strikes. The 25-year-old only joined the club from FC Girondins de Bordeaux this summer but has already acclimatised himself to the rigours of the German top flight, with an impressive haul of three goals in his opening two league appearances. On his coach Gisdol’s birthday, Modeste was more than happy to make it a pleasant day for the 44-year-old tactician.
“It wasn’t a bad present was it?” he joked. “I’m pleased for him because he’s the coach, he gives the players belief and he also gives his all, both on and off the pitch.” Quite an endorsement for Gisdol from one of his newest recruits, but certainly not undeserved. The former FC Schalke 04 assistant coach was instrumental in leading Hoffenheim to safety last season via a sensational final-day win at Borussia Dortmund before their play-off heroics.
The man himself called for caution and appealed to the fans to “not get carried away with our performances or results from the first two games", adding that "individuals can only shine when the team functions as a whole". After a win and a draw to begin the season, the players seem, at least for now, to be succeeding on both fronts.
Bernie Reeves/Michael Reis