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FOOTBALL

Germany’s young Turk Özil sinks Turkey

Germany's young playmaker Mesut Özil scored in his side's 3-0 win over Turkey in Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier to keep Joachim Löw's side top of Group A with three straight wins.

Germany's young Turk Özil sinks Turkey
Photo: DPA

With a maximum nine points, Germany are in firm control of Group A while Guus Hiddink-coached Turkey are second and suffered their first defeat of the qualifying campaign.

“The team showed they really wanted this and we have earned a deserved victory,” said Löw.

“I hadn’t expected to win by such a big amount, because it was always going to be a difficult game. For the Turks, the game was always going to be a matter of honour.”

Born and raised in Germany to Turkish parents, Özil, 21, was booed by boisterous Turkish fans who made up more than half of the 74,244-capacity Olympic Stadium crowd, but he silenced the jeers with a 79th-minute goal to seal the win.

His celebrations were muted, almost embarrassed, however, “out of respect for the land of my forefathers,” the midfielder said.

“Of course I was really happy. It was fantastic for me to score in this match. But I made the spontaneous decision not to overdo the celebrations,” he said.

He also managed to block out the boos from the Turkish crowd.

“I just shut it out and focused on the game. I just wanted to play the game and that’s what I did. The team and the German fans were a great support. “That makes me really happy.”

The hosts had taken the lead when veteran striker Miroslav Klose scored just before half-time and the Bayern Munich star slotted his second on 87 minutes.

Remarkably, Klose has yet to score a goal in the Bundesliga this season after seven matches, but he has now netted five times in three internationals already this season in Euro 2012 qualifiers.

The 32-year-old’s second just before the final whistle and was his 57th goal in his 104th international, passing Franz Beckenbauer’s mark of 103, to put him clear second behind Gerd Müller’s all-time record of 68 goals for Germany.

“I ask myself that every time: I have a bit of luck here which I am lacking with Bayern sometimes,” he said.

“Although I have now over-taken Franz Beckenbauer in terms of the number of international matches, but there will always be something special about the Beckenbauer name.”

There were only three changes from the team which beat Argentina 4-0 in the World Cup quarter-finals before finishing third and the Germans kept the Turks under constant pressure.

Germany made the brighter start with Klose and Özil having the best of the chances in the opening 15 minutes with both squandering clear chances to beat Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel of Fenerbahce.

Besiktas’ Mehmet Aurelio was stretchered off after 22 minutes with what looked like a serious leg injury following a clash with Toni Kroos when the pair went for the ball and he made to make way for Stoke City’s Tuncay Sanli.

The opening goal came on 42 minutes and it was a Bayern Munich-inspired effort as defender Philipp Lahm swung in a cross from deep.

Munich’s Thomas Müller’s header was saved by Demirel, but clattered off the crossbar and Klose was on hand to header home after netting twice against Azerbaijan and once against Belgium in last month’s wins.

Turkey’s Eintracht Frankfurt striker Halil Altintop squandered a golden chance to put his side level on 53 minutes when he found himself one-on-one with Germany’s Manuel Neuer only to fire straight at the goalkeeper.

Likewise, Lukas Podolski wasted the perfect chance to make it 2-0 when he fired wide after the perfect pass from Ozil left him alone in front of goal on 69 minutes while Mueller fired at Demirel on 73 minutes.

Özil scored his third goal for his country with nearly ten minutes before Klose struck again to claim the three points.

In the next round of matches, Germany take on Kazahkstan in Astana on Tuesday bidding for their fourth win, while Turkey travel to Baku to play Azerbaijan.

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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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