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FOOTBALL

Germany down Turkey in Euro qualifier

Germany earned their ninth consecutive win in Euro 2012 qualifiers on Friday night in a commanding 3-1 victory over Turkey in Istanbul.

Germany down Turkey in Euro qualifier
Photo: DPA

Bayern Munich trio Mario Gomez, Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger all scored in the match.

Gomez hit his 13th goal of the season in his 13th game for club and country during the first-half before Müller hit the second after being set-up by teenage wunderkind Mario Götze.

“We missed a few opportunities to score even more and can be satisfied but the game wasn’t easy, even though we have already qualified,” said Gomez.

Turkey’s Hakan Balta scored a late consolation goal for the hosts with ten minutes left before Schweinsteiger converted a late penalty to seal the win, but Müller admitted he was at fault for the Balta goal.

“We didn’t deal well with their counter-attacks and I was at fault for their goal, I was marking him and he suddenly got away from me,” said Müller.

The win leaves Germany with 27 points from nine games and Joachim Löw’s team had already booked their place for the finals, in Ukraine and Poland next June, after last month’s win over Austria. Only the Netherlands and Spain also have perfect records in their Euro 2012 campaigns.

The Germans host Belgium in Düsseldorf next Tuesday when Löw wants his side to finish their campaign with the perfect ten record.

“On Tuesday against Belgium, we will not change a lot of players, we are taking this game too seriously for that,” said Löw.

“I must pay a big compliment to the team, we dealt with a good opponent in a difficult atmosphere. To win in front of 50,000 Turks against a motivated team is a good result.”

As Belgium beat Kazakhstan 4-1, the defeat to Germany means Turkey drop to third in Group A and need to beat Azerbaijan next Tuesday, while hoping results go their way, to keep alive their dreams of qualifying for the finals.

Germany started with both veteran striker Miroslav Klose and play-maker Mesut Özil in the stands after the pair dropped out due to knee and Achilles tendon injuries respectively.

Having also been doubtful in the build-up, Gomez proved there was nothing wrong with his groin when he fired Germany into the lead on 35 minutes with a goal which went the length of the field.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who pulled off a superb reflex save to deny Turkey captain Hamit Altintop in the opening minutes, hurled the ball out onto the right wing to midfielder Müller who fired in a cross to Gomez’s feet.

After turning his marker, Gomez fired past Fenerbahce goalkeeper Volkan Demirel and the Bayern star nearly added a second when he drilled in a shot on 54 minutes which needed a full-strength dive from Demirel to keep him out.

At the other end, Germany defender Jerome Boateng, who switched from Manchester City to Bayern in the summer, pulled off a copy-book tackle to deny striker Burak Yilmaz just before the hour mark.

Müller capped a fine display with an impressive goal on 66 minutes when he hit a pass from Goetze at pace and rifled his shot past Demirel.

Berlin-born Turkey midfielder Balta pulled a goal back for the hosts with ten minutes left when he scored from close range to set up a tense finale.

Fenerbahce defender Gokhan Gonul brought down Mueller in the penalty area and English referee Martin Atkinson had no hesitation before pointing to the penalty-spot for Schweinsteiger to make it 3-1 four minutes from the final whistle.

AFP/mry

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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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