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FOOTBALL

Löw to experiment with squad before Euro 2012

Germany coach Joachim Löw said Sunday he will experiment with his first-choice team to build on his side's World Cup performance as the Germans look to win the European crown for the fourth time.

Löw to experiment with squad before Euro 2012
Image source: DPA

With Euro 2012, to be hosted by the Ukraine and Poland, set to start in Warsaw on June 8 next year, Germany are 10 points clear at the top of their qualifying group and virtually assured a place.

Having finished third at last year’s World Cup in South Africa, Löw, who took charge in 2006, says he will use next season to find the perfect combinations in the build up to next year’s European championships.

“I will use the next six months to try and experiment,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“Of course, there is a proven core of players, but I do think there will be a lot of movement in the national side over the next year.”

Germany can complete their Euro 2012 qualification if they beat Austria in Gelsenkirchen on September 9.

The Germans also plan to play friendlies against the Ukraine, in Kiev on November 11, and Holland, in Hamburg on November 15, which Löw says he will use to test different combinations.

“I am not of the opinion that I need to know my strongest side a full six months before the European championships.

“On the contrary, I will probably use a totally different team against Holland than the one which will start Euro 2012.

“I only know that I need to have decided on my starting side four weeks before the tournament begins.”

Löw has an embarrassment of riches up front in with Mario Gomez scoring at will after 28 goals in 32 league games for Bayern last season, while Miroslav Klose is closing in on Gerd Müller’s all-time record of 68 goals for Germany.

Having spent much of last season on the bench at Bayern, Klose signed for Italian side Lazio last week and Löw praised the 33-year-old’s decision to move, having said he wants all his players to have regular football next season.

“It would not have been easy for Miro to sit on the bench for another season,” said Löw.

“Mario had a strong season at Bayern and with an eye on Euro 2012, it is important that Miroslav plays. It is a positive that he faces a new challenge with a new club and gets regular competitive games.”

With Germany currently playing with a lone striker, Löw has not ruled out the possibility of using both forwards in tandem.

“They are the best strikers Germany has, behind them I see no real alternatives,” said Löw.

“It is in my thoughts that they could even play together in the future and to play in another system.

“They are both prepared to play like that.”

Löw also said he is willing to look at where new Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes plays Germany captain Philipp Lahm next season before deciding whether his skipper plays on the left or right side of defence in the national side.

“I will be talking with Jupp Heynckes to see in position he plans on using Philipp,” said Löw.

“It is possible that I may base my decision on that.”

Löw said he had no news on when he will meet with former captain Michael Ballack to discuss whether the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder still has a role to play in the national side.

AFP/The Local

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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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