Germany scores lucky draw for 2012 Euro Cup

Germany’s national football team has scored a good draw for the 2012 European Cup qualifying games, facing Turkey, Austria, Belgium, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, organisers announced Sunday.

Germany scores lucky draw for 2012 Euro Cup
Photo: DPA

Qualification from Group A of the UEFA EURO 2012 championship should be an easy job for the three-time European champions, with only Turkey likely to give the Germans too much trouble.

“Of course Germany is the favourite, along with Turkey,” said national coach Joachim Löw in Warsaw, where the draw was announced. But he added that Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan would both be logistically difficult given how far away the countries were.

“I’m neither shocked nor happy,” he said.

As it happens, it will be quite a German affair, given there are two fellow countrymen among the coaches – Azerbaijan is trained by former German national coach Berti Vogts and Kazakhstan by Bernd Storck, who has been assistant coach at various Bundesliga teams.

The qualification matches for the final tournament, to be played in Poland and Ukraine, run from September 3 this year until October 11, 2011.

Germany beat Austria 1:0 in the 2008 Euro Cup, which the latter hosted. It also beat Turkey 3:2 in the semi-final.

When Germany played Belgium last August, it won 2:0.

Azerbaijan coach Vogts was cheerful about the draw.

“We are very pleased,” he said. “We’ll get a lot of money from the games against Germany, which means we can built more stadiums and invest more money in youth training. We’re happy to be able to play against the great Germans, from whom we can learn a lot. We know we’ll have to work on our game, but we’re on the right track.”

Kazakhstan coach Storck was similarly happy. “It is a particular highlight for us, and especially for me. It’s just as nice that Azerbaijan will meet the former German trainer Berti Vogts in a duel of the underdogs.”

Sixteen countries will go through to the final tournament, which kicks on June 8, 2012. Hosts Poland and Ukraine qualify automatically.

The winners of each of the nine groups go through to the final championship, along with the runner up with the best record. The other eight runners up then play off for the final four spots.

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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.