SCORE with theSun JUNE 13, 2018

Out of formbut still bullish

the meeting. The day after, he again stated his loyalty to the German team. “Last game before the World Cup ... and still grateful to play for this country,” he tweeted. Gundogan, who was born in Gelsenkirchen, referred to Erdogan as “my president” and for that he has been singled out by Germany fans. “Some reactions touchedme, including personal attacks,” Gundogan told France Football . “In recent years we have done a lot to promote integration in Germany. “We do not only have a Turkish side, inherited from our parents and our families, we were born and raised in Gelsenkirchen. It is a city with a high percentage of emigrants. “That’swhy Iwas very shocked tohear that wewere (apparently) not integrated and thatwedidnotwant to live according to German values. “It was a difficult experience. Because of our Turkish roots, we still have a very strong relationshipwith Turkey. “That does not mean, however, that we believe that (Frank-Walter) Steinmeier is not our president, or (Angela) Merkel is not our chancellor. It has never been our intention to take a political stance. “We are used to the whistles of the opposing fans, but whenwe are booed by our own fans, it’s hard to live with. “I am always open to criticism. Everyonehas their opinion, that’swhywe have freedomof opinion. “I amfor (freedomof expression), and that’swhy I feel privileged to be born and raised in Germany. But I do not want to be insulted either. “For me, it was important to speak (about the situation). I want to regain normality; I do not want to hide. “Everyone has their own way of handling the situation. Now I want to focus on the basics again.” Juventusmidfielder Sami Khedirawas frustrated it was still an issue. “We have always said that the topic is

over,” he said. “Apparently that is not the case.” And he was also unhappy with Germany’s performance after the break in the game against Saudi Arabia “In the secondhalf, we lost our shape,” he said. “We have to pick ourselves up and prepare for the tournament.Wehave a lot of potential and want to show it in Russia.” Germany begin their World Cup campaign against Mexico this Sunday (11pm Malaysian time) before meeting Sweden and South Korea. However, their Group F opponents will be wary of being too confident. Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng returned against the Saudis and keeperManuelNeuer gainedmorematch practicehavingmissedmost of the season with a broken foot. Neuerwas substitutedas plannedafter 45 minutes and is “absolutely okay,” according to Low. At the other endof the pitch, the coach also heaped praise on Marco Reus with the Borussia Dortmund forward set for a major finals after missing 2014 and 2016 with injury. Reus provided what Low called a “super” assist to Timo Werner for the opening goal. “Marcohadsome reallygoodmoments in the first half, I was very pleased with him,” said Low. Whether that was enough to earn him a starting spot againstMexico remains to be seen. “I don’t know how the teamwill look against Mexico,” Low said. “But one thing is certain - the teamthat plays in the first gamewon’t play through the whole tournament.” How long thewhole tournament is for Germany depends on how much they improve in the comingweeks. But if form is lacking, confidence is not. “Like we’ve said, we’re a team that performs at tournaments and we’ll be ready,” promised Reus. – dpa

Germany finished their World Cup preparation with a win over Saudi Arabia but JoachimLow’s side are still searching for top form as they head to Russia. I T has longbeena cliche that Germany are a “tournament team” and should be considered a threat going intomajor championships regardless of form. Joachim Low and his players will be hoping that is again the case after their build-up to their World Cup title defence inRussia didnot quite measure up to recent high standards. “We’ll continue to improve and, when the tournament starts, we’ll be ready,” Lowsaid after last Friday’s 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia inLeverkusen failed to set the pulse racing. Low has had to deal with important players being injured or regaining fitnesswhile fans no longer fill sell-out stadiums to watch the team. And the supporters that did turn up annoyed those on the p i t ch by boo i ng I l kay Gundoganas a consequenceof a controversialmeetinghe and teammateMesut Ozil hadwith Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month. “That hurt me because a team lives on the basis that every player is supported,” Low said. “If a national player is booed whenever he’s involved from being subbed in to the end, then of course I do not like it.” Ozil, who missed the game with a knee issue, has not yet commented publicly but Gundogan has stressed there was no political motive behind

JoachimLow’s nickname is Jogi. There’s a Facebook page dedicated to his awesome hair called ‘How

awesome is JoachimLow’s hair?’

Low, high inGerman football philosophy

WITH their 1-0 defeat against Brazil at a friendly in late March, Germany reached the end of an impressive 22-game unbeaten run, on the doorstep of matching the 23-game record they set under manager Jupp Derwall in 1978- 80. At that time, a man named JoachimLowwas scoring goals for Freiburg in the second category of German football. Twenty years later, Low was to change Germany ’ s footba l l philosophy to turn them into the world’s most reliable national team. Low, was born on Feb 3, 1960 in the Black Forest town of Schoenau. He played as a striker for several clubs in Germany and Switzerland, and he stood out at Freiburg, where he became their top scorer with 81 goals. In 1995, he retired as a player to become Stuttgart’s assistant

manager, and later their manager. With Stuttgart, he won the German Cup and reached the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Later, he had stints at several Turkish and Austrian clubs. In 2004, when Low was at his lowest after being sacked from Austria Wien, newGermanymanager JurgenKlinsmann asked him to be his assistant in the effort to implement change in the Germany na t i ona l t eam, a f t e r t he ma j or disappointment of crashing out of the Euros in the group round. Low admits that this was a turning- point in his life. WithKlinsmann, he shaped a teamthat came third at the 2006World Cup. Following Klinsmann’s exit, Low succeed him and pressed on with the reinvention of German football. In that process, Germany left behind their trademark style, characterised by efficient, minimalist play and a tough fighting spirit to develop an attacking

style based on having the ball. “Spain are always our rolemodel,” said Low, who incorporated several ideas during an internship with Barcelona. “I wouldn’t say we have changed our basic concept, but simply that we have continued to develop it,” he explained “I amtotally convinced that one can no longer win titles by playing ugly football.” “In recent years, we have made huge progress in terms of play. “Now we have a nimbleness and a creativity that allowus to even be on a par with Brazil or Spain in terms of playing style. “We used to have to compensate for that with guts and will power,” he noted. He will, however, need to renew his team to prevent disappointment, as defending champions Spain saw in Brazil 2014. “If there is one thing I have learned over all these years, it is that we always need to keep changing,” Low said. – dpa

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