Lars Ricken, one of the heroes of the Borussia Dortmund team that won the 1997 UEFA Champions League, celebrated his 41st birthday on Monday. The anniversary provided bundesliga.com with the perfect excuse to look back on Die Schwarzgelben’s famous victory 20 years ago.
Ahead of the 1997 Champions League final, it is fair to say that Dortmund were not favourites to win against Juventus.
Sure, BVB had won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and reached the quarter-finals of the competition the season before, but a German side had not won 'Old Big Ears' since 1983, when a Felix Magath goal gave Hamburg victory over Juventus.
There was also the team they were playing to take into account: La Vecchia Signora had won the Champions League the previous season and en route the 1997 final the Italians had conceded just one goal in their group and swept Ajax aside 6-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals. Standing in the way of a first European title for Dortmund were Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, Alen Boksic and Christian Vieri.
“I think the bookies gave us about a one per cent chance of winning so of course it was a great night,” the former Germany striker recalled.
“That Juventus team with Zidane, Deschamps, Boksic and Co, they were a fantastic team at that time. They were almost unbeatable.”
Indeed, as Ricken put it to 11Freunde, "Juve were a great team and, as holders, they were clear favourites."
Dortmund boss Ottmar Hitzfeld had a plan, though, using set-pieces to exploit a perceived weakness in Juventus goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi’s game.