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FOOTBALL

Rusty Germany manages 1:0 against Belgium

The German football team managed to squeeze a 1:0 victory over Belgium on Friday night with a goal in the 51st minute, after a performance which seemed creaky when compared with the stellar performance in the World Cup.

Rusty Germany manages 1:0 against Belgium
Photo: DPA

Opening the campaign for European Championship qualification, trainer Joachim Löw sent in the same team that came third in South Africa, but even he admitted it showed that they had had a break since then.

“The victory was important, the team showed good spirit. But one did at times feel that the players were only back in training four weeks ago. We needed some time before we got into the swing of things,” said Löw afterwards.

Miroslav Klose saved the Germans from embarrassing themselves with a solid goal set up by Thomas Müller, but only after a first half which had no rhythm or particular pace.

“The beginning is always difficult. That is why it is important that we got three points today. One has to work out such opponents then you can open up possibilities. That is what we did today,” said Philipp Lahm, who was acting captain in the continued absences of Michael Ballack.

“We are happy that we did it here. That was a difficult one. But in any case we managed something good with this start,” said Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Apart from the defenders Marcell Jansen and Holger Badstuber, Löw sent the same team onto the pitch in Brussels as had performed so well in South Africa. But they only really got going in the second half, which resulted in the Klose goal – and a near miss by Müller nine minutes later.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer performed well, particularly in the first half against a Belgian team which started the match in aggressive form, with a shot on goal in the sixth minute, and a second in the ninth minute.

But Sami Khedira and Schweinsteiger were rarely in a state to fire up the game from centre field, as they had during the World Cup, while Khedira, playing in Ballack’s position clearly demonstrated a lack of practice. Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski, stars in South Africa, were both generally disappointing.

Ahead of the match, German police stopped dozens of violent fans from travelling to Brussels in a crackdown on hooliganism.

A police spokesman in Aachen, 42 violent fans had been prevented from travelling by Friday evening with police confiscating numerous weapons, including baseball bats, during checks on the Belgium-Germany border.

Around 1,500 fans were stopped in total and two arrests were made for

inciting violence and a breach of the Explosives Act.

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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