Löw confident Liechtenstein will fall to Germany

Coach Joachim Löw says Germany will win both their opening games on the road to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as they begin their campaign at minnows Liechtenstein on Saturday.

Löw confident Liechtenstein will fall to Germany

Germany, ranked third in the world by FIFA, expect few problems in Vaduz against the team from the tiny central European state – ranked 130 – which is just 160 square kilometres large and has a population of just over 35,000.

“We want to win and we will win,” said Löw, who is without injured midfield veterans Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings at Rheinpark Stadion in Vaduz which has a 7,000 capacity.

Löw expects things will get tougher for Germany when they play Finland at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium on Wednesday. “Many favourites have been beaten in Helsinki and we must not fall into that trap,” he said.

With only the top team from each of the nine European qualifying groups guaranteed a place in South Africa, Löw says Germany’s main threats are Russia and Finland.

“Only first place means you qualify as of rights, naturally we want to take our place without the need of a detour, so six points from our first two games would be enormously important,” he said.

“I do not want to talk Liechtenstein up, but they have only lost by a relatively narrow margin to big teams like England or Spain.”

But regardless of Löw’s comments, Liechtenstein have leaked 17 goals against Germany in their only two previous meetings. In June 1996, Germany beat them 9-1 in Mannheim and four years later managed an 8-2 win in Freiburg.

But Löw warned against expectations of a goal bonanza like in the 13-0 victory over San Marino in a Euro 2008 qualifier two years ago.

“This team are not on the same level as Luxembourg, Andorra or San Marino,

they are stronger,” he insisted.

Missing midfielders Ballack and Frings, plus defenders Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich, Löw says he would prefer to take a full strength side to Vaduz.

He said, “The injuries are annoying. They are very importantly for us and I would rather have them here.”

With their main Group 4 rivals Russia and Wales the next two opponents in October’s round of matches, Löw fears his team’s Euro 2008 exertions could catch up with his team who have had little break since reaching June’s final.

“It concerns me that the national players had such a short break and short preparation time after such a big tournament,” he said.

“We are missing the basis of six weeks conditioning and there is a danger players will get injured,” said Löw. “But we have to get on with the situation.”

With Ballack and Frings out, Löw is expected to play VfB Stuttgart’s Thomas Hitzlsperger and Simon Rolfes as central midfielders, while winger Bastian Schweinsteiger is also an option.

In the absence of Ballack, Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose will captain Germany, but it is unclear whether team-mate Lukas Podolski, who has failed to win a regular place in Bayern, will partner him.

“Lukas Podolski has a role for me as either a striker or attacking midfielder,” said Löw, who used the 23-year-old to devastating effect during Euro 2008.


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.