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FOOTBALL

Germany fail to break Italian curse

Germany failed to break their 15-year-old run without a win over Italy on Wednesday as striker Giuseppe Rossi came off the bench to score a late equaliser and seal Wednesday's 1-1 friendly draw.

Germany fail to break Italian curse
Photo: DPA

The last time Germany beat Italy was a 2-0 win in Zurich in June 1995 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Swiss Football Federation.

With the Azzurri winning all four games between the two sides since, Italy’s 24-year-old Rossi cancelled out Miroslav Klose’s first-half goal for the hosts.

The Bayern Munich forward’s strike was his 59th on his 106th appearance as he draws closer to Gerd Müller’s all-time Germany record of 68 goals.

Germany hosted Italy at Dortmund’s same Signal Iduna Park stadium where the Italians knocked the hosts out of the 2006 World Cup on their way to winning the title.

The home side have a poor record in matches between the two nations with Italy enjoying 14 wins compared to Germany’s seven victories with now nine games drawn.

“It was a pity that we couldn’t get another goal,” said Germany’s vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger. “It was very difficult on the pitch, we are a team who try and dominate the game through our technical ability.”

“It didn’t work out, but I trust in the fact that we will be able to beat Italy once again in the future.”

With the Azzurri rebuilding after their early exit from last year’s World Cup, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had included veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon less than a month after the veteran made his injury comeback.

Germany made a bright start and took the lead after just 16 minutes. Real Madrid winger Mesut Özil’s long ball found Thomas Müller on the right side of the penalty area and he squared the ball for Klose whose shot clipped Buffon before hitting the back of the net.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer translated his top-class recent form for Schalke onto the international stage as he kept his side in the game early on with several excellent save.

Italy’s best first-half chance came in the 37th-minute came when veteran midfielder Daniele de Rossi blasted his shot straight at Neuer who parried the danger away.

Germany coach Joachim Löw brought on Dortmund’s 18-year-old wunderkind

Mario Götze for Müller at the start of the second half to win his second cap.

The son of a university professor in Dortmund, Götze still lives at home and is rated as a star of the future for the national side.

Having come on just after the break, Rossi made sure Italy left the Ruhr Valley with their 15-year-old unbeaten record intact when he pounced on a mistake in the Germany defence to equalise on 81 minutes.

AFP/bk

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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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