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FOOTBALL

Löw targets Euro or World Cup glory

Germany coach Joachim Löw said Monday his side can win Euro 2012 or the 2014 World Cup after showing itself to be one of football's most consistent teams.

Löw targets Euro or World Cup glory
Photo: DPA

“My gut feeling … is that our team can win a title in 2012 or in 2014,” Löw told sports weekly Kicker in an interview.

“Looking back, together with Spain we really are one of the most consistent teams. In the last two years our performances have got better and better … It’s only when this happens that you can win championships.”

Germany finished third in the World Cup in South Africa earlier this year, demolishing England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0 in some of the tournament’s most exciting football. They lost to eventual winners Spain in the semi-finals.

Germany have four wins from four qualifiers for Euro 2012, due to be held in Ukraine and Poland, and are top of Group A with a five-point lead over their rivals.

Löw, whose trademark “lucky” blue cashmere sweater worn during the World Cup sold for €1 million ($1.3 million) for charity on Saturday, also rejected accusations there were too many youngsters in the side.

“I have ascertained that quality and technical ability are more important than experience. I don’t care if someone is only 18 and has only played 10 Bundesliga games,” Löw said.

“I measure players but what they can they do and by what possibilities I see for them.”

In 2011, they face Italy in a friendly in Dortmund, western Germany on February 9 and then South American giants Brazil in August at home, as well as five more Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Löw also said that the Italy clash would be too early for Ballack – who would have captained Germany in the World Cup but for injury – to return to the side.

“I know from talking to him that he is really fighting to make a comeback and wants to remain as a player in the national side,” Löw said.

“But he was injured for half a year. We have to give him some time to return to form … He is not fully back in training with the team (Bayer Leverkusen) and before February 9 there are only four Bundesliga games.”

Ballack returned to the Bundesliga at the start of the season after four years with English side Chelsea, and joined Leverkusen, but a serious knee injury on only his third game back saw him miss the rest of 2010.

Last week he accused Philipp Lahm, who captained Germany in the World Cup, of a lack of “respect” after the Bayern Munich defender said he hoped to stay in charge even if Ballack came back.

In his absence, Bayern star Bastian Schweinsteiger and Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira have formed a strong midfield partnership for the national side and Ballack has admitted he may struggle to win back his place.

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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