Bundesliga: Waldschmidt shows his class as Freiburg keep Dortmund at bay | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 05.10.2019
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Bundesliga: Waldschmidt shows his class as Freiburg keep Dortmund at bay

Borussia Dortmund succumbed to a late equalizer in Freiburg, who kept their fine start to the season going. There was one Freiburg player who impressed more than any other.

Borussia Dortmund traveled to the fringes of the Black Forest looking to kick start their domestic campaign after a somewhat underwhelming start to their latest attempt to win a first Bundesliga title since 2012. Freiburg and their new hero had other ideas.

This game exploded into action on 20 minutes, when Axel Witsel rifled in a goal-of-the-season contender that stunned the Schwarzwald-Stadion into silence. It was a perfectly executed volley by the Belgian, who has discovered a knack for scoring in recent weeks. Just as well, given that Lucien Favre decided to leave Jadon Sancho and Julian Brandt on the bench at a time when the team has struggled to find the net since Paco Alcacer was sidelined with a knee-tendon problem.

Waldschmidt's week

But before and after Witsel's wonder strike, this game was about Luca Waldschmidt. He has enjoyed a good week; the winner from the bench last week in Düsseldorf, a second successive call-up to the Germany squad, and now he had the chance to impress in one of the showpiece games of the season in the far southwest corner of Germany. He had been pushing for a start, now he is surely the first name on the teamsheet.

The wiry Waldschmidt's languid style and ability to traverse from left to right with the ball at his feet bears a resemblance to the playing style of Mesut Özil. As Waldschmidt continues to enjoy the highs of his breakout season it's apparent that it's not just Joachim Löw who's a fan. His face is plastered all over the city and in the club shop before kickoff there's a real danger they may soon run out of "Waldschmidt 11" shirts, given how popular the young man is here.

Their hope in Waldschmidt isn't misplaced. It was clear that Freiburg's strategy of seeking out the 23-year-old at every opportunity was working as early as the 17th minute, when he got a sight of goal but lashed his shot over the top. Manuel Akanji and Mats Hummels were scared to get near him. With Freiburg behind heading towards the break, Waldschmidt came even closer with a fine shot on the run that just rattled the wrong side of the post – he was getting closer.

Shades of a World Cup winner

It's not just Waldschmidt's eye for goal that impresses, but his movement and awareness. He has a slight frame and thin bandy legs but a calm assurance on the ball and, like all top class players, an ability to drop into space without seeming to try that hard. That came in handy five minutes after the break when he arrowed a shot centimeters over, at which point a Waldschmidt goal seemed like a matter of when, not if.

Luca Waldschmidt (Getty Images/A. Sabattini)

Luca Waldschmidt has been named in the Germany squad

Five minutes later, it came. A deft drop of the shoulder afforded him a moment to think about picking his spot, and a powerful low shot arrowed into the bottom corner. The roar echoed through the valley that surrounds the stadium, the young hero had his moment. His coach, Christian Streich, was jumping for joy along the touchline, no doubt celebrating the the vindication of his own decision to start Waldschmidt after his cameo from the bench last weekend.

"I was happy to start and of course it was nice to get a goal and help the team today," Waldschmidt told DW. "I'm happy to be playing well and I feel confident that I can score goals for Freiburg. We're so satisfied with the start we've made this season." 

And what about that Germany call-up?

"It's a dream come true,” he said, with a beaming smile. "Just to be involved will be a great experience, and it's something I can't wait for."

Freiburg earned a deserved point to keep their fine season going courtesy of an Akanji own goal, leaving Dortmund to rue another missed opportunity. But for Freiburg, it was all about Waldschmidt. The way it's going, perhaps that'll be the case for Germany against Argentina too.

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