Newcomers upset the odds

Many promoted clubs would be content to spend their first top-flight season simply consolidating their newly-acquired status, but a clutch of new boys in Europe and South America are delighting football fans this term with a refreshing assault on the established order. turns the spotlight on the high-flying newcomers and examines the reasons behind their success.

Hoffenheim blaze a trail

Any review of overachieving promoted clubs in Europe at the moment has to start with Hoffenheim. Eleven games into the German league season, Ralf Rangnick's team sit proudly atop of the Bundesliga, winning hordes of new fans and confounding the experts with a thrilling brand of attacking football. Their three-pronged strike force Vedad Ibisevic, Demba Ba and Chinedu Obasi have already mustered 20 goals between them.

Nor is there an obvious end in sight to Hoffenheim’s exploits. The newcomers, not short of goalscoring potential in midfield either, thanks to Bosnian Sead Salihovic and Brazilian Carlos Eduardo, are showing astounding consistency in their maiden top-tier campaign. Provided the team based in a village of 3,000 souls maintains their current average of 2.5 goals per game, they need not fear for their place in the leading group.

Times changing in England and Spain
English Premier League new boys Hull City have also started the 2008/09 campaign in a manner as surprising as it is successful. They were relegation certainties according to the bookmakers’ pre-season odds but, thanks in part to Geovanni's impressive contribution, currently lie ahead of Manchester giants United and City with ten games played. Phil Brown’s side occupy fifth spot, just three points off second and a direct qualifying place into the UEFA Champions League. A major reason behind the Tigers’ scintillating run is a haul of 13 points from five away matches.

Malaga are posing a similar threat to the old order in Spain. The promoted side are up to the UEFA Cup qualifying ranks in sixth, after beating Sevilla last weekend to make it four wins in a row, which also happens to be a new club record. Coach Antonio Tapia’s magic formula is continuity. Ten of last week’s starting line-up also featured in last season’s second division squad, Miguel Angel being the sole exception. This Saturday, the men from Andalusia entertain the mighty Barcelona, but even the star-studded Catalan outfit may struggle to resist Malaga’s sparkling form, as the underdogs seek to make it five wins on the trot.

Grenoble and Ivanjica set the pace
French club Grenoble and Serbian side Javor Ivanjica provide two further examples of promoted teams giving their established rivals an early-season run for their money. Experience is the key for the side lying sixth in Ligue 1. Last Sunday’s 2-0 win away to Saint Etienne was achieved with nine players in the starting XI over the age of 30, a list topped by veteran 37-year-old keeper Gregory Wimbee. Coach Mehmed Bazdarevic boasts at least one raw gem in the shape of 18-year-old Sofiane Feghouli, a name already being linked with a host of leading clubs around the continent after an impressive first few weeks.

In Serbia, newly-promoted Javor Ivanjica and Jagodina lie third and seventh respectively in the Super Liga. Both teams look well-placed to remain clear of the relegation mire, and might even challenge for places in Europe this term.

Big-name scalps in Brazil and Peru

Switching continent to South America, Coritiba and Vitoria have been responsible for furore in the Brazilian top flight. The teams are safely in the top half of the standings, in seventh and ninth respectively, and have already claimed a couple of big-name scalps this season. One of the main reasons behind Coritiba’s ascent is 20-year-old Keirrison, currently in the form of his life for the club who play their home games at the Couto Pereira.

The Peruvian league also features two untried teams causing a stir among the big boys, Atletico Minero in fourth and Jose Galvez just a place behind them. Atletico, in particular, have made a stellar recovery in recent months after finishing the Apertura, the first half of the championship, bottom.

The 2008/09 campaign is, so far, providing a refreshing reminder that the so-called minnows are always good for a surprise with the right combination of hard work and self-belief.