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Argentina v Germany - Preview
Joachim Low can't get any satisfaction from knowing Mick Jagger is
backing Germany to beat Argentina in their World Cup quarter-final.
The legendary Rolling Stones front-man was in Bloemfontein to watch the Germans dump England out of the competition last Sunday and was impressed enough to declare Low's young side are his tip to go all the way. Given his past record, it is not something Germany should be that comfortable with.
And Low is happy to steer away from good luck charms and ensure his players are totally focused on an eagerly-awaited tussle with Diego Maradona's unbeaten outfit. "We can't bet any money on Mick Jagger's predictions because he's been wrong several times," laughed Low.
"Instead we have to concentrate on what the Argentinian team have shown so far. "They have won all their games, and in terms of numbers, they are almost incomparable attacking players.
"They have some incredibly talented strikers who don't even make it into the side, like Diego Milito, who had such a fantastic season at Inter Milan. Their firepower is remarkable."
Eager to side-step the simmering tension between the two camps that has rumbled on for a couple of days since Bastian Schweinsteiger accused Argentina of being provocative, Low preferred to concentrate on the eagerly-anticipated contest itself.
Prior to the World Cup starting three weeks ago, the star names were all South American. Now Germany have a couple in there as well in 20-year-old Thomas Muller, whose two second-half goals killed English hopes of a comeback, and Mesut Ozil, who has quietly established himself as one of the players of the tournament.
Low has dispelled fitness concerns about the 21-year-old Werder Bremen midfielder, who missed training yesterday purely so he could get some rest after an arduous 12 months, which started with his demolition of England in the European Under-21 Championship final. He is also very wary about putting too much expectation on the youngster's shoulders given he must now go head-to-head with Lionel Messi.
"You cannot compare such players," countered Low. "Messi has a lot more experience. He has been with Barcelona for many years and has won the Champions League and La Liga titles.
"His dribbling is superb and loves to take on opponents one-to-one.
"Ozil is different. Short passing and combination play are his forte. He spots passes rather than takes the ball past people. This is his first tournament, although the matches he has played in South Africa have been very impressive and he shows no fear."
Miroslav Klose is expected to win his 100th cap, an impressive stint for the national side, even more remarkable because he has scored 50 times as well, the latest effort coming against England. Maradona will tell Lionel Messi to go out and destroy Germany just like he did in the 1986 World Cup final.
Messi will be given a free role to play exactly where he likes in the quarter-final at the Green Point stadium despite suffering from a touch of flu. Maradona, who scored five goals in the 1986 World Cup and was their inspiration in a a 3-2 final defeat of Germany, said: "He did feel a bit under the weather, had a slight fever.
"He told me about it and I sent him back inside. It was very cold when we started training at 4.30pm. I gave him a bit of a rest.
"The session went well, but I never considered him not playing in this game. I just let him have a rest so he could play against Germany."
Messi has not scored so far at this World Cup but has provided assists for more than half of Argentina's 10 goals and Maradona will allow him the same free role he used to occupy for the national team.
"I want to give him freedom to play his game," said Maradona. "He has no defined position. These players, like Messi, if you label them or shackle them, you'll detract from their freshness and initiative."
Maradona refused to accept Argentina were now favourites to win the trophy after Brazil's defeat against Holland. He said: "No. No. We're not favourites. But to beat us our opponents are going to have to play better than us and leave their skin on the pitch.
"We don't feel like we're hot favourites. We have to keep playing our football. We're focused."
Maradona, who was written off as a coach by the sceptics before this World Cup, has nurtured a rapport of respect and togetherness with his players, showering them with hugs and kisses before and after all four matches they have won. He is determined not to change anything now, either in the make-up of his team or in his coaching style.
He said: "They're my players, my national side. I'm very grateful to all of them."
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