EURO 2016


Schweinsteiger fit for start in semi

Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger will make his first start of Euro 2016 in Thursday's semi-final against France, coach Joachim Löw has confirmed.

Schweinsteiger fit for start in semi
Photo: dpa

The Manchester United star suffered a knee strain in Saturday's quarter-final penalty shoot-out win over Italy, but has recovered in time to face France in Marseille.

“In a game like this, his experience is very valuable and, in any case, he will start,” confirmed Löw on Wednesday.

 “He will be involved. The injury is as good as cured and he is very, very important for our team.”

After recovering from tearing the medial ligament in his right knee in March, all of Schweinsteiger's four appearances so far at this European Championship finals have been off the bench.

The 31-year-old netted with only his third touch off the ball late in Germany's 2-0 win over Ukraine in their opening game.

Schweinsteiger came on for Sami Khedira in the first half of the win over Italy and aggravated his right knee problem in the process, but Germany's medical staff have declared him fit to face the French.

Germany squeezed through 6-5 on penalties against Italy after the match ended 1-1 after extra time, although Schweinsteiger drilled his spot kick over the bar.

Schweinsteiger will win his 120th cap at Marseille's Stade Velodrome and will partner Toni Kroos in central midfield with Khedira ruled out by a groin injury.

But Löw gave away no other clues as to who will replace injured striker Mario Gomez or centre-back Mats Hummels, who is suspended.

“I have the line-up in my head and have answered a few questions I had in the last few days,” said Löw cryptically.

“We are going to have to be compact and close down the space in defence.

“France are going to be the toughest opponents we have had in the tournament until now.

“The game will be similar to 2014 (when Germany won 1-0 in the World Cup quarter-finals) and France have improved since then.”

The world champions have had a day longer than France to recover from the quarter-finals.

While Germany needed 120 minutes and penalties to beat the Azzurri, France dispatched Iceland 5-2 on Sunday over 90 minutes.

“If you compare the two quarter-finals, we had a more intensive game than France,” said Kroos.

“But their game was a day later and in the unlikely case that things go badly wrong for us, I wouldn't use the Italy game as an explanation.”

Daytime temperatures in Marseille are expected to hit 32 degrees, but Kroosdid not expect heat to be a factor for the 9 PM kick-off.

“I'm used to playing in warm temperatures in Madrid. I enjoy playing in the heat far more than in the rain,” said the Real Madrid midfielder.

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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.