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FOOTBALL

Kazakhstan preps for tough match against Germany

Bernd Stork faces his toughest test as Kazakhstan coach on Tuesday as his underdogs take on his native Germany in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Kazakhstan preps for tough match against Germany
Photo: DPA

The sides, who have never met before at international level, are currently in diametrically opposite positions in their Group A table.

World Cup bronze medallists Germany maintained their perfect record with a confident 3-0 home win over Turkey on Friday as Kazakhstan suffered their third consecutive defeat at the hands of Belgium.

Tuesday’s match at Astana could be the last test for Stork, who has been working in the Central Asian republic since autumn 2008.

The 47-year-old had been set a task of collecting three points against Belgium and Germany but after Friday’s defeat this mission looks unrealizable.

Stork, however, believes that anything is possible for his team at home.

“Germany are almost the perfect team with a flawless game,” he admitted. “But in one single game everything is possible and we shall do our best to produce a miracle on October 12.”

Whatever the outcome he insisted that he remains committed to the Kazakh team.

“I can resign, it’s not a problem,” Stork said. “However, the matter doesn’t concern me. We’re speaking about our main goal: to make the Euro-2016 finals. Our young players have already collected vital experience. Our team is a team for the future and we need to be patient.”

Kazakhstan will however be without several first-line players on Tuesday.

Defender Alexander Kislitsyn will miss the tie after being sent off against Belgium as will midfielder Andrei Karpovich.

But they can take heart as Germany have also suffered losses with former captain Michael Ballack still unavailable with injury along with Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Midfielder Mesut Özil is also an injury doubt after limping off at the end of the Turkey game with an ankle injury.

Germany have however been buoyed by their win over Turkey.

“The team showed they really wanted this,” said coach Joachim 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.”

Germany skipper Philipp Lahm added: “It’s impressive how well the team is playing at the moment. Nine points from three games and now we have defeated our strongest opponent in the group.”

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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