Germany on the brink as world champions seek to avoid embarrassing disaster

Mesut Ozil looked anything but the world-beater he can be during Germany's shock 1-0 defeat to Mexico.
Updated 22 June 2018
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Germany on the brink as world champions seek to avoid embarrassing disaster

  • Germany face Sweden in a must-not-lose clash.
  • After their 1-0 defeat to Mexico the world champions could exit the tournament if beaten by the Swedes.

LONDON: Earlier this week a Swedish journalist pranked Germany’s Sami Khedira by giving him a homemade return ticket from the World Cup for the entire squad. The midfielder took the joke in good spirit but should he and his teammates lose to Sweden tonight it will be no laughing matter.
The defending champions’ shock 1-0 defeat to Mexico last week was worrying not just because it now puts them under huge pressure in a tough group, but also for the manner of the loss.
They team looked bereft of ideas, old and, to be blunt, past it. Can they avoid the fate of Spain four years ago and not become a defending champion who exits at the group stage?
Here we look at what has gone wrong and how they can fix it.

MISSING MIDFIELDERS

That Mesut Ozil went missing during the match against Mexico will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched him play these past few months. But that Khedira and Toni Kroos also had poor games is a shock. Against the Mexicans the Germany midfield, for so long the driving force behind the team’s success, looked like they were running through treacle; their counterparts by sharp contrast were brimming with energy and ideas.
There was one moment which summed up the match for Germany; Carlos Vela was able to pick the ball up 10 yards outside his own box and simply run past the entire German midfield.
The story was no better when they had the ball, Kroos looked out of sorts and Ozil lacked any of the creative spark that once made him one of the best players in the world. “Ozil’s body language is like that of a dead frog, it’s pathetic,” Mario Basler, a Euro 96 winner with Die Mannschaft, told German television. If anything that is being a bit harsh on the dead frog.
Joachim Low needs to freshen things up against Sweden. Khedira should make way for Ilkay Gundogan or Leon Goretzka in central midfield and Marco Reus seems likely to come in, probably for Julian Draxler further forward.

DISHARMONY

The disconnect on the pitch against Mexico was alarming, and hinted at all not being well in the camp. The shock dropping of Leroy Sane (someone who could have injected some much-needed pace into the team) before the tournament was the move of a boss trying to wake up his players, worried they had become too complacent. The results coming into the tournament were proof of that — only one win since October. There have been reports of a no-holds-barred meeting in the camp this week. Apparently no punches were pulled during a crisis meeting between the players and Low. Manuel Neuer was honest enough to admit that he had never heard so many frank words exchanged during his nine years with the national team. “We didn’t mince words, because we want to make things better against Sweden,” the Germany goalkeeper said. “We talked a lot. We’re our harshest critics. It was a wake-up call — there has never been such strong words within the team.”

DEEP-SEATED PROBLEMS

It is clear that the malaise has been present in the side for a few months and not a sudden blip. Tonight we will see whether a few strong words are enough to turn things around for the world champions.
Sweden, as Italy found out in last year’s playoff, are tough to beat and tonight’s clash at the Fisht Stadium on the banks of the Black Sea could very well sink Germany’s hopes of not only getting out the group, but also every cliche about the side 
“being a well-oiled efficient machine,” on the evidence of this year, they are anything but.


Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

Updated 19 July 2019
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Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

  • The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands

CAIRO: Algeria midfielder Adlene Guedioura says Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal represents the “match of a lifetime” as his country bids to capture the title for a second time.

The Desert Foxes lifted their lone trophy on home soil in 1990 but coach Djamel Belmadi has reinvigorated a team that crashed out in the group stage two years ago and then flopped in World Cup qualifying.

“I think it’s the match of a lifetime for a lot of players in the team and for Algeria,” said Guedioura, who at 33 is the oldest member of the squad.

The Nottingham Forest journeyman has started five of six games in Egypt and insisted much of the credit for Algeria’s eye-catching performances must go to former national team midfielder Belmadi.

“He really knows the players and what he wants. The good thing is he knows how to get through to the players and how to listen,” said the 48-time international.

“If you don’t have a good cook you can’t have a good recipe. With that we realize we can be all together and it’s important to be a team.

“It’s important for Algeria because we used to have good individuals and now we feel very strong as a team and we want to achieve as a team.”

A Youcef Belaili goal earned Algeria a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the group stage, but Belmadi was quick to point out the statistics were heavily weighted in their opponents’ favor.

“Of course we can lose this match. We have an opponent that is number one in the FIFA rankings for Africa. They were at the World Cup. We were eliminated in the first round in 2017,” said Belmadi.

“If you get to the final, the aim is obviously to win it. The game in the group stage wasn’t decisive but now it is and that’s the difference.”

He added: “The most important is to stay concentrated and determined yet calm at the same time.”

Algeria will have the backing of an additional 4,800 fans for the final.

Some of them will arrive in Cairo on military planes organized by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands.

In April, long-standing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned after weekly Friday protests against his expected candidacy for elections, and football fans have been heavily involved in demonstrations.

“We know what’s happening. The people we represent have been wonderful,” said Guedioura

“It’s magnificent what is happening. We’re focused on football but we want to win the final for the people,” he added.