Six days before the 1. FC Köln plays its first competitive match of the football year, they will travel to Austria for the opportunity to gauge themselves against one of the sport’s most-famous clubs.
And maybe even give Jonas Hector a chance to relive one of the most-memorable moments of the football summer for devotees to the Rut-un-Wiess.
Our FC will meet Juventus for a friendly test in Linz on August 14, bringing with the possibility that Jonas Hector could again experience the thrill of putting a ball past Gianluigi Buffon, albeit under much less-dramatic circumstances than when he scored the decisive penalty for Germany against Italy in the Euro 2016 quarterfinal round.
The affable keeper known simply as “Gigi” will not be the only familiar face among the black-and-white striped opposition, though. Hector’s national-team teammate Sami Khedira is also a current member of the Vecchia Signora “Old Lady,” as are former Bayern goal-getter Mario Mandzukic, rising mega-star Paul Pogba, and he of the ridiculous penalty run-up Simone Zaza.
“We will meet a team that is seasoned with stars,” says Peter Stöger as he heads into his fourth season as head coach of the Billy Goats. “The game is a definite highlight, and the climax of our series of test matches this summer.”
The allure of famous players and clubs aside, it’s easy to be cynical about test matches. With nothing at stake beyond someone potentially getting injured, the result of a friendly is, at best, meaningless. At worst, it can potentially give a club a false reading of its readiness for upcoming competition.
One need look no further than last August for a great example of a test match creating utter fantasy. VfB Stuttgart drilled defending English champion Manchester City last summer 4-2, leading many to believe that new trainer Alexander Zorniger’s high-flying tactics would not only release Stuttgart from their annual role as relegation combatant, but would also made them a dark horse for a Europa League spot.
We all know how that played out, yes? Stuttgart accomplished an ugly palindrome by surrendering 31 goals in 13 matches before Zorniger was shown the door. While Zorniger has already scored a pair of Europa League victories this summer with new employer Bröndby IF, he has no worries about meeting his former side in the competition, as Stuttgart is preparing for the likes of Würzburger Kickers and SV Sandhausen in the 2. Bundesliga.
Fortunately, our 1. FC Köln will not be looking to an afternoon against the Italian giants to tell them what to expect this season. While Stöger showed in the Rückrunde last season that he is prepared to tinker a bit with the tactics, we largely know what to expect from this club. Besides, most effzeh fans do not require a giant-killing to start talking of European expectations and the like. If you’re surrounded by effzeh fans, you’re never too far from someone who will tell you the team is on its way to the Champions League. It’s just how we collectively roll.