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EURO 2012

FOOTBALL

Germany’s class of 2010 ready to down Danes

Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has said Germany's rising stars have learnt a few lessons from the 2010 World Cup as they look to down Denmark on Sunday to reach the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

Germany's class of 2010 ready to down Danes
Photo: DPA

Worryingly for their Euro rivals, Schweinsteiger says the Germans are eager to play more of the high-tempo attacking football they have built a reputation for in their quest to win a fourth European crown.

Having so far earned wins over Portugal and Holland, Germany need just a point against Denmark in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to finish as Group B winners, but Schweinsteiger insists they want a third victory.

After grinding out a 1-0 win over Portugal in Lviv last Saturday, thanks to Mario Gomez’s first-half header, Germany then saw off World Cup finalists Holland 2-1 on a balmy night in Kharkiv on Wednesday with Gomez scoring twice.

As one of the team’s senior statesmen having made his debut just before Germany’s unsuccessful Euro 2004 campaign, Schweinsteiger is playing his third European championships, but he says the foundations of the current Euro success were laid at the 2010 World Cup.

Germany finished third in South Africa by playing an eye-catching brand of attacking football, which yielded knock-out wins over England and Argentina before losing to Spain in the semi-finals, to eventually finish third.

Schweinsteiger says he feels the Germans have added patience and the ability to control a game’s tempo to their attacking prowess and solid defence.

“I think the 2010 World Cup tournament did us the world of good,” said the 27-year-old, who has made 92 appearances for his country, scoring 23 goals.

“Many of the new guys earned a wealth of experience and sometimes that it might be a good idea to take a small break with the ball at your feet and let the opponent do the running.

“What we did (against the Dutch) is play well-time passes and avoided doing anything which could be energy sapping.

“We hope in the future we can play more attractive, free-flowing football which Germany is now known for.

“But even the Denmark game will be far from easy, they will be sitting deep and patience will be the name of the game. It is something we have learned.”

Germany carried their World Cup form into their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign as they finished with 10 wins from 10 matches.

Two years ago in South Africa several rising stars came of age with midfielders Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, who won the golden boot, and Manuel Neuer cementing their places as the Germans finished third.

On the back of his dazzling footwork, Özil was snapped up by Real Madrid from Werder Bremen.

Likewise, Khedira’s assured displays alongside Schweinsteiger in the defensive midfield role saw him also head to Madrid from VfB Stuttgart as Jose Mourinho boosted the Real squad.

Having made Germany’s Number One shirt his own in Africa, Neuer began to be courted by Bayern Munich before he left Schalke last summer for Bavaria.

Defenders Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber both came into Joachim Löw’s plans in South Africa and Bayern’s Boateng now looks to have secured the right-back berth.

Munich team-mate Badstuber has forged a strong centre-back partnership alongside Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and both were solid against Portugal and Holland.

As one of Germany’s world-class players, Neuer was only second-choice goalkeeper in May 2010 before injury to Hamburg’s Rene Adler meant the 26-year-old took over permanently after the World Cup.

“Things have changed big time,” said Neuer.

“Prior to the 2010 tournament, it was in no way clear I would be Germany’s number one goalkeeper. “Now things are completely different and I am happy I have the responsibility for Germany between the posts. I just want to do justice to my role by keeping a clean sheet.”

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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