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Stuttgart wins German 2nd division to return to Bundesliga

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Stuttgart defeated Wuerzburger Kickers 4-1 at home to return to the Bundesliga as German second division champion on Sunday, joined by Hannover as runner-up on the last day of the season.

[ MORE: Chelsea crowned champions, but more glory on their mind ]

Daniel Ginczek set up three goals and scored late for Stuttgart as the 2007 Bundesliga champion finished with 69 points. Hannover, which drew 1-1 at SV Sandhausen, ended on 67.

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Both Stuttgart and Hannover were relegated from the top flight last season.

Eintracht Braunschweig defeated already relegated Karlsruher SC 2-1 at home to finish third for a relegation/promotion playoff over two games against Wolfsburg, the side that finished third from bottom in the Bundesliga.

Wuerzburg was relegated back to the third division with the defeat at Stuttgart, while 1860 Munich faces a playoff to stay in the second tier after losing 2-1 at Heidenheim.

Fourth-placed Union Berlin finished its campaign with a 2-1 victory at Greuther Fuerth.

Philipp Lahm calls quits on tremendous Bayern Munich career

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Few players get to play for their hometown side, and even fewer are able to do so for the entirety of their playing career.

[ MORE: Bundesliga drama on final day of 2016/17 season ]

Philipp Lahm managed to do both while with Bayern Munich, and Saturday it was time for the veteran defender to call it the end of his storied career with the German giants.

Lahm and his Bayern side ended their 2016/17 Bundesliga-winning season in style on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over Freiburg, but with the league already won prior to kickoff, the momentous occasion was more about reflection for the 33-year-old Munich native.

“I definitely have mixed feelings at the moment, celebrating with the lads for the last time,” Lahm told Sky Deutschland following his final match.

“It’s an emotional day. I’ve experienced so much,” he continued.

For the better part of 16 years, Lahm has graced the pitch for Bayern as one of the club’s most sturdy and creative defenders despite his diminutive size. The outside back appeared over 500 matches for the 27-time German champions and captained the club since 2011.

Additionally, Lahm was a staple of the Germany national team throughout his storied career, making 113 appearances for his country, including traveling to three World Cups — with the 2014 edition resulting in a victory over Argentina in the final.

“It was my life being on the pitch and I especially enjoyed the times together with the team and the staff,” Lahm said.

“I’ll miss that of course. I’m looking forward to the time after but today it’s certain that it’s my last time with such a collective. I’ve always seen football as a big collective, setting goals for the fans and the staff. I think that’s what I’ll miss the most later.

“The past few days I had lots of distractions and training but today is very emotional. It’s very touching when teammates thank me for the time together.

“I am lucky to have been blessed by so many nice moments not just with the team but with the staff and the fans too. It was simply unbelievable.

Germany makes 6 new call-ups for Confed Cup, rests stars

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Germany coach Joachim Loew has made six new call-ups for the Confederations Cup, opting to leave established internationals Marco Reus and Mario Gomez out.

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Loew, who says he is bringing a “perspective squad” to Russia for the June 17-July 2 tournament, nominated Borussia Moenchengladbach captain Lars Stindl, Hertha Berlin defender Marvin Plattenhardt, Ajax winger Amin Younes, Leipzig midfielder Diego Demme and Hoffenheim players Kerem Demirbay and Sandro Wagner, the latter earning his first call-up at 29.

Only three members of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad are included, with Loew opting to give many players a break with the main focus on defending the title next year.

The Germany coach says, however, that “we’ll be as well-prepared for this tournament as if it were a World Cup or European Championship.”

Dortmund’s Bartra resumes team training after bomb attack

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DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Borussia Dortmund defender Marc Bartra returned to team training Wednesday after recovering from injuries sustained in last month’s bomb attack on the team bus.

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Bartra says in a tweet, “I’ve been looking forward to this moment for weeks! So happy to be here today. Can’t wait to compete again next to my team mates!!”

The Spanish defender was hit by shrapnel as three explosions hit the Dortmund bus when it left the team hotel for the Champions League quarterfinal at home to Monaco on April 11. Bartra had surgery on a broken bone in his wrist.

The 26-year-old’s return is a welcome boost for Dortmund ahead of its battle to remain third in the Bundesliga for automatic Champions League qualification. Dortmund also plays Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Cup final on May 27.

Hoffenheim reaches Champions League qualifiers for 1st time

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BERLIN (AP) The youngest coach in the Bundesliga, 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, has steered Hoffenheim to a place in the Champions League qualifiers in the club’s best ever season.

Hoffenheim could even secure its first appearance in the Champions League group stage if it holds on to third place – where it now stands after Benjamin Huebner scored in the last minute to snatch a 1-0 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday. It has three more matches to play this season.

Huebner’s late goal, a powerful header to Sebastian Rudy’s corner, moved the side one point above Borussia Dortmund, which was held to a scoreless draw at home by Cologne on Saturday.

The goal was scored by the son of Frankfurt sporting director Bruno Huebner.

“A lucky win,” acknowledged Hoffenheim backer Dietmar Hopp, the software billionaire whose finances helped his hometown club progress from minor leagues to the Bundesliga.

A co-founder of the SAP software giant, Hopp became the first private owner of a Bundesliga side when he took a majority stake in Hoffenheim in 2015. By then he had already spent an estimated 350 million euros on the team.

However, Hoffenheim’s best appointment to date appears to be that of Nagelsmann, who took over in February 2016 after Huub Stevens stepped down for health reasons.

Then 28, Nagelsmann hadn’t even earned his coaching credentials from the German football federation (DFB). But he saved the side from relegation and Hoffenheim is enjoying its best ever season this year.

The win over Frankfurt extended its unbeaten run at home to 16 games and ensured it beat its previous best-mark of 55 points from the 2008-09 season.

As a player, Nagelsmann lined up for Bavarian sides Augsburg and 1860 Munich before turning his attention to coaching. He spent almost a decade coaching the youth sides of 1860 Munich and then Hoffenheim, for which he was also assistant coach in 2012-13.

Earlier this year, Nagelsmann was named the German football federation’s coach of the year for 2016.

Dortmund hosts Hoffenheim next weekend for a game that is likely to decide which side goes into the qualifiers and which secures automatic qualification for the Champions League.

AUGSBURG 4, HAMBURGER SV 0

Hamburger SV slipped closer to its first ever relegation in a humiliating defeat at fellow struggler Augsburg.

Hamburg, the last founding member of the league to have played every season since its formation in 1963, was left in the relegation playoff place with three games remaining.

“We’re all affected by the performance we showed today,” Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol said. “We were hoping for something different. But we’ve got over other setbacks before and have to deliver the best in the next game.”

Hamburg goalkeeper Tom Mickel and the left post denied Augsburg early on before Halil Altintop fired the home side ahead, midway through the first half.

Altintop scored another before the break, set up by Philipp Max, to give Augsburg some breathing space.

Michael Gregoritsch reacted with a brutal challenge on Dominik Kohr, for which the Hamburg midfielder was fortunate to escape with a yellow card.

Max sealed the result on a counterattack before setting up Raul Bobadilla to complete the scoring late on.

“We could even have scored more goals,” Augsburg coach Manuel Baum said. “But more than three points wouldn’t have been possible.”

Victory lifted Augsburg out of the relegation playoff place and two points above Hamburg, Wolfsburg and Mainz, all level on 33 points. Hamburg, which has conceded a league-worst 59 goals in 31 games, has an inferior goal difference to the other two.

Ingolstadt and Darmstadt occupied the automatic relegation spots. Ingolstadt was four points behind Hamburg, while Darmstadt was all but doomed, nine points behind.