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FOOTBALL

Löw wary of fit and rested Turkish team

Germany coach Joachim Löw has admitted he is wary of Turkey ahead of Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier and compared Guus Hiddink's side to Bundesliga surprise package Mainz.

Löw wary of fit and rested Turkish team
Photo: DPA

Mainz have shocked the German league with seven straight wins to lead the table by showing a strong team spirit and their young players like André Schürrle and Lewis Holtby are becoming household names.

Likewise, Turkey have won both of their Group A qualifiers so far, are just behind Löw’s side at the top of the table and with Dutch coach Hiddink in charge, they threaten to upset the hosts in the German capital.

“The Turks are rested, they did not play at the 2010 World Cup and have had more time for preparation. Turkey is like Mainz,” Löw told German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Germany’s World Cup stars – particularly those at defending champions Bayern Munich – are struggling for form in the Bundesliga after the national side finished third in South Africa.

“We feel that our players are still below their potential after the World Cup,” admitted Löw.

Löw will be without captain Michael Ballack and playmaker Bastian Schweinsteiger for Friday night, but says he has a good feeling about the match at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

“The match against Turkey is important for us, but not decisive,” said Löw. “This is only the third game of the qualifiers and teams like Belgium and Austria may yet have their say.”

Having coached Turkish sides Fenerbahce and Adanaspor, Löw knows Turkey cannot be taken lightly and they gave Germany a scare two years ago before losing 3-2 in the Euro 2008 semi-final.

“We beat them at Euro 2008, but on that day they were better than us,” admitted Löw. “This team knows how to move the ball quickly, their football is refined, they have six points, they have confidence and we will have to be at our best to beat them.”

Schweinsteiger’s place in the midfield is likely to go to Bayern team-mate Toni Kroos, the national coach said in a press conference in Berlin. The 20-year-old is set to start alongside Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira in the heart of the Germany midfield.

Having missed the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Belgium and Azerbaijan with injury, Manchester City defender Jerome Boateng is likely to start on the left side of the German defence with stand-in captain Philipp Lahm on the right.

Bremen defender Per Mertesacker should partner Bayern’s Holger Badstuber at centre-back while Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller will lead the attack from the midfield.

Bayern striker Miroslav Klose is set to win his 104th cap, which will make him the fourth most capped German of all time, bypassing Franz Beckenbauer’s haul of 103.

Turkey coach Guus Hiddink is likely to start with two Bundesliga players in his side: Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin and Bayern Munich’s Hamit Altintop.

Galatasaray’s Arda Turan will sit out the match after suffering a groin injury in training.

AFP/ka

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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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