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Euro failure no longer on Germany’s minds – Loew

Euro failure no longer on Germany’s minds – Loew

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s summer of footballing failure will not be preying on their minds as they kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign on Friday, coach Joachim Loew has promised.

The Germans have been given a gentle start, with a home match against the Faroe Islands in Hanover, but even so are likely to be jittery after a traumatic four months.

Germany’s coach Joachim Loew reacts during their friendly soccer match against Argentina in Frankfurt August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Domanski

After Friday it gets more difficult, with a trip to neighbours Austria on Tuesday.

“The players have put their disappointments behind them and there is real hunger for success,” Loew said. “That goes for the coaching staff as well.”

Germany’s troubles began when Bayern Munich lost the Champions League final to Chelsea in their own Allianz Arena, going down on penalties after dominating the game.

The national side then lost to Italy in the Euro 2012 semi-finals, continuing a run of near misses that include second place at the 2002 World Cup, third in 2006, third in 2010, and runners-up at Euro 2008.

Loew’s team was also outclassed by a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina, losing 3-1 at home in a friendly in August.

Germany won all 10 games on their way to Euro 2012 but Loew has warned that a group also containing Sweden, Austria and Ireland, and involving a long trip to Kazakhstan, could pose more difficulties.

“We completed the last qualifies in a rousing manner,” Loew said. “This time it will be more difficult, the group is very even. There won’t be any pushovers.

“We have to improve when we don’t have the ball. I place value on the way we develop going forward, but we must be more active off the ball and make sure we don’t give our opponents any time.”

Loew said that not even the Faroe Islands, who have 12 of their 19-man squad based locally, would be easy.

“The Faroes have only lost recently by narrow margins, one-or two-goal margins. Italy only beat them by a goal,” he said. “They are certainly not cannon-fodder.”

Germany are missing striker Mario Gomez, who is recovering from an ankle operation, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is not match fit.

France know they must make good start against Finns

France know they must make good start against Finns

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – New France football coach Didier Deschamps will be thrown in at the deep end when his side open their World Cup qualifying campaign with a tricky game in Finland on Friday.

France’s national soccer team coach Didier Deschamps (R) speaks to goalkeepers Mickael Landreau (L) and Steve Mandanda (C) during a training session at Clairefontaine, near Paris, September 5, 2012. France team gathers at their training camp in preparation for their Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifying play off against Finland in Helsinki on September 7, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Drawn in Group I with a Spain side who comfortably beat them in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, France have no room for slip-ups against Finland, Belarus or Georgia.

“Our goal is very clear: we want to qualify for the World Cup and the game in Finland is the first step. We have to focus on Finland only,” Deschamps told reporters.

“We want to qualify. We want to top the group but it is no use talking about Spain. First, we have to pass the two first tests,” he added, referring to the ties in Finland and against Belarus on Tuesday at the Stade de France.

“We want to have six points after the Belarus game. In a five-team group, you can’t afford to lose points on your way. Now we focus on taking three in Finland.”

Though they are overwhelming favourites to win in Helsinki, the French will have to overcome a Finnish side capable of playing some very tidy football.

In a group featuring Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary, the Finns collected a respectable 10 points in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign and, a 5-0 thrashing by Sweden aside, they stood up well against their more illustrious opponents.

“This team does not play defensively at all. They are not just waiting for you at the back, they are able to create, to really play,” Deschamps said.

“It’s a good team with experienced players, most of them not playing in the Finnish league.”

Finland’s fleet-footed playmaker Alexei Eremenko said his side had nothing to fear from the French.

“For the players, it’s a good opportunity. We showed a few years ago against Germany that we are able to play against the top teams,” Eremenko told a news conference on Wednesday.

“We have good guys that can cause problems for France. If the game remains tight and we hit them on the counter-attack, we have the potential.”

Deschamps could revamp his back four to add experience in the starting line-up with Laurent Koscielny and Adil Rami likely to replace Mamadou Sakho and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who were paired together in the August friendly against Uruguay.

Down the line, Deschamps will also have to deal with uncertainty following goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris’s move to Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

Spurs coach Andreas Villas Boas has said the France keeper is not guaranteed a starting spot ahead of 41-year-old American Brad Friedel.

“I have no problem at the moment. He’s not the number two (at Spurs) since he was not eligible to play last weekend. If he becomes a substitute, then we’ll see,” Deschamps said. (Additional reporting by Gregory Blachier in Paris; Editing by Clare Fallon)

Football – Netherlands, Turkey seek fresh starts

Football – Netherlands, Turkey seek fresh starts

ROTTERDAM (Reuters) – The Netherlands and Turkey will be looking to make fresh starts when they meet on Friday in the Amsterdam Arena to start their World Cup Group D qualifying campaigns.

The Dutch have to get rid of the sour taste of losing all three group matches at Euro 2012 and a friendly to Belgium as they try to extend their 10-match winning streak in World Cup qualifiers.

The Netherlands, under coach Louis van Gaal, will take on Turkish side who have failed to qualify for a major tournament since Euro 2008.

The Dutch are without Rafael van der Vaart, Nigel de Jong, Gregory van der Wiel and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all left out the squad because they were involved in last-minute transfers.

Jordy Clasie and Leroy Fer, 21 and 22 years old respectively, are expected to join forces with playmaker Wesley Sneijder in the Dutch midfield.

Those two youngsters are not the only new names in the Dutch squad which eight players still eligible for the Under-23 team.

“I told some players already on Monday that they are playing because for them it’s better they can focus on Friday,” Van Gaal told reporters.

The Dutch, who lost 4-2 to neighbours Belgium in a friendly last month, are unbeaten in 22 World Cup qualifying matches.

Their last defeat was in 2001 when Jason McAteer sealed Ireland’s win over Van Gaal’s side, a defeat which kept them out the 2002 World Cup, the only time the Netherlands have missed the tournament since 1986.

Strikers Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie are both in good goal scoring form but Van Gaal said Huntelaar was first choice.

“I consider Robin only as central striker according to the profiles I use,” said Van Gaal.

“But that can change after one match, the team is more important that who is our striker. Who will play is decided by the moment.”

Turkey are likely to have a difficult time defending their goal as first-choice keeper Volkan Demirel will miss the game due to a shoulder injury.

Starting defenders Egemen Korkmaz and Semih Kaya also training separately from the rest of the squad on Wednesday due to injuries.

Turkey, who finished third at the 2002 World Cup, see the game against group favourites Netherlands as critical for their chance of qualifying.

“Netherlands is the group’s strongest team. We’ll play our first and last matches against them. Thus we have an advantageous schedule,” Turkish Football Federation Chairman Yildirim Demiroren told Turkish TV.

“I am hopeful that our team will qualify,” he said.

While Turkey are likely to struggle in defence, Atletico Madrid midfielders Arda Turan and Emre Belozoglu are dangerous along with German-born Nuri Sahin and Hamit Altintop.