Monday, July 5, 2010




ERASMIA, South Africa

Germany coach Joachim Loew thinks the only way to beat Spain is to get them to defeat themselves.Spain has been the most consistent national soccer team of the past two or three years, and is the favorite to win the World Cup title, Loew said Monday, two days before the Germans and Spanish meet in a tournament semifinal in Durban. But he believes Germany can overcome any opponent, including a Spain team with a passing game he praised as a model for his own style. "They make almost no mistakes but we have to force them into making errors," said Loew, who devised great game plans to beat England and Argentina, seizing on the teams' defensive liabilities.

Now comes Spain, which beat Germany 1-0 in the final of the 2008 European Championship.

"We are not speaking of revenge, that hasn't been on my mind at all," Loew said. "We lost the final in 2008 because we were beaten by the best team of the time. "But we have hope that we can win. For me, Spain is the favorite for the title. ... Spain has not one Messi, but several Messis who can decide a game."

Loew was referring to Argentina star Lionel Messi, who was virtually shut out of the game when Germany routed the Albiceleste 4-0 in the quarterfinals. Germany also eliminated England 4-1 and has scored the most goals of any team in South Africa — 13.

Before the Argentina game, Germany engaged in a little trash-talking. This time, the messages from the German camp have been praise for the opponent and confidence in their own abilities. "Spain is very strong as a unit, both in offense and defense. They have several players who can decide games and tactically they are very good," he said. "But at the moment we are capable of beating everyone."

Loew said Germany's technical skills allow the team to dominate for the entire game. "We always try to be a constant offensive threat and to (impress) with our skills," Loew said. "And Spanish football also places a lot of importance on technical skill. Their passing game is a celebration of football and how easy they make it look is a model for me."

Loew said the mood in the team was very good, "but not euphoric" after its convincing wins against England and Argentina.

Germany will be missing Thomas Mueller, who has four goals but is suspended for the match. Backup striker Cacau remains questionable with a back problem. The semifinal will feature two of the leading scorers of the tournament, David Villa of Spain with five and Germany's Miroslav Klose with four.

Loew said the players were too different to compare, "but both have shown great finishing qualities."

Klose needs one goal to pull even with Brazil's Ronaldo as the top World Cup scorer of all time with 15.

While dangerous, Villa is not Spain's only threat, Loew said, singling out a midfield led by Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. "They control the ball so well, you have to keep them under constant pressure," Loew said.

Germany's standout central midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger, says Spain has the making of a top team because it can win even when it does not play at its best. "They such great skills and they control the tempo so well," he said. Schweinsteiger also said that Germany was not looking for revenge. "We have different players now, while Spain is almost the same. Maybe they have not shone at the tournament, but they have played very strongly over the past few years," he said. "Spain will be tougher than England or Argentina, but we've shown that we can be very good."

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