‘Hoffenheim have shown they belong in the Champions League’

Hoffenheim’s German defender Kevin Akpoguma and Lyon’s Dutch forward Memphis Depay (L) vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and Olympique Lyon in Sinsheim, on October 23, 2018. (Photo by Daniel ROLAND / AFP)

Hoffenheim were among the pleasant surprises of last season’s German Bundesliga in which they played so well that they qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history. The team were expected ‘to come tumbling back to reality’ this season, but rather than succumbing to the weight of their battles on different fronts, the ‘Village team’ have picked up from where they stopped last season.

Although things have not worked so brilliantly in the Champions League, they have been playing so well that pundits believe that it is only a matter of time before they start making their impressive play count. That they seem to have started doing with a recent away victory at Nuremberg and Saturday’s 4-0 bashing of Stuttgart at the Wilsol Rhine-Neckar Arena.

The reason for such performances is not farfetched, according to defender, Joshua Brenet. “We are a hard-working team,” he said.

The Dutch international defender scored one goal and made another on Saturday in a game that showed all the finesse in German football. And now he is looking forward to taking that form to Europe. “We played better in the second half, but I did not expect the high goal margin. Perhaps the red card to Stuttgart early in the game helped us to overwhelm them. But I believe that we have shown that we can handle every type of opposition no matter how highly rated,” he said.

Brenet started Saturday’s match from the left wingback position, but he switched to the right flank in the second half, a tactical move by Coach Julen Nagelsmann, which yielded four goals soon after. Brenet described his display on Saturday as one of his best games so far this season, “but I know I am capable of doing better.”

He believes the result would put Hoffenheim in the right frame of mind as they return to the UEFA Champions League, adding, “with better luck, we can achieve success in the group stage of the competition.”

Hoffenheim lost 1-2 to Manchester City and drew 3-3 with Lyon in their last two games of the Champions League.

Also speaking on Saturday’s victory, man of the match, Ishak Belfodil, an Algerian international, said the result had been long in coming. According to him, “It is a very important win for us. We won in Nuremberg and now we have another three points. We can always improve because I think we have to be at our best all the time. We have been working with the coach to make things better for us.”

On his outstanding performance, he said, “I was focused because I wanted to score and so I am happy to score two goals today. We always create chances but we don’t always score, but today was different.”

Brenet opened the scores for Hoffenheim in the 47th minute, Joelinton made it two in the 51st minute before Belfodil added two goals in the 57th and 60th minute to make the game safe for the home team.

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