Ger­many’s sur­pris­ing run con­tin­ues

CityPress - - Sport - PETER AUF DER HEYDE sports@city­press.co.za

That Ger­many were go­ing to be no pushovers at the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup was ex­pected, but that they would make it to the fi­nal was cer­tainly not some­thing that was taken for granted.

Af­ter all, coach Joachim Loew took what was fun­da­men­tally a “B side” to Rus­sia, giv­ing play­ers such as Mats Hum­mels, Jérôme Boateng, Me­sut Özil, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira and Thomas Müller a much-needed break af­ter a lengthy do­mes­tic sea­son.

Not­with­stand­ing that only a hand­ful of them will be in the squad for next year’s World Cup fi­nals, the Ger­man se­cond-string team have made it all the way to the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup fi­nal, where they will face Chile in Krestovsky Sta­dium in Saint Peters­burg to­day.

To reach the fi­nal, Ger­many out­played Mex­ico en route to a 4-1 vic­tory in the semis, while the South Amer­i­cans needed a penalty shootout to beat the 2016 Euro champs Por­tu­gal 3-0.

Even though Ger­many put in a con­vinc­ing per­for­mance against Mex­ico, Chile will go into the fi­nal as favourites, with Loew say­ing that his team had al­ready done bet­ter than ex­pected.

“Of course, you hope be­fore ev­ery tour­na­ment that your team does well, but the way we have played here was cer­tainly not some­thing that was ex­pected from this side,” said the coach, who achieved his 100th vic­tory as na­tional team coach against Mex­ico.

Ger­many goal­keeper Marc-An­dré ter Ste­gen, who pulled off a num­ber of spec­tac­u­lar saves against Mex­ico, agreed with his coach: “I hope we can win it, but, for now, Chile clearly is the favourite.

“But we have ev­ery chance [of win­ning]. It is a match in which any­thing can hap­pen.”

Chile had one day more to re­cover from their semi­fi­nal, but Ger­many captain Ju­lian Draxler said that he did not think it would make a dif­fer­ence.

“You can no­tice that the sea­son has been very long. The legs are get­ting tired. But in the fi­nal, that will not make a dif­fer­ence. It will not be dif­fi­cult to en­dure an­other 90 or even 120 min­utes in the fi­nal,” the Paris Sain­tGer­main mid­fielder said.

But it will not only be for the hon­our that the Ger­man play­ers will con­test the fi­nal. The as­so­ci­a­tion has al­ready been guar­an­teed $3.6 mil­lion (R47 mil­lion), which the run­nerup gets, with the win­ner re­ceiv­ing a fur­ther $500 000.

The play­ers will pocket $57 000 each if they win and $34 000 if they lose, which, of course pales in com­par­i­son to the $340 000 each player re­ceived for win­ning the tro­phy in Brazil in 2014.

The Ger­mans, though, can take noth­ing for granted against Chile to­day, hav­ing ear­lier faced the same op­po­si­tion in the group phase and played to a 1-1 draw.

The South Amer­i­cans have achieved their high­est rank­ing and man­aged to hold their own against a Por­tuguese side that many ex­pected to go on to win the com­pe­ti­tion, hav­ing fi­nally bro­ken their streak of not win­ning a tour­na­ment last year in the Euro fi­nal against France.

Chilean politi­cians, though, are look­ing with a some­what con­flicted view to­wards Rus­sia. To­day also sees the pri­mary elec­tions for the right wing and the far left for their can­di­dates for Novem­ber’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Ral­lies have been banned dur­ing this time, but of­fi­cials have al­ready con­ceded that, should Chile man­age to win their third tro­phy in the space of three years, they will not be able to stop fans from tak­ing to the streets.

One of the stars in the Chile side, Alexis Sánchez, has called on fans to rally be­hind the team.

“No mat­ter who is the his­toric goal scorer, or who the best goal­keeper in the his­tory of Chile is, or whether we are the golden gen­er­a­tion – in the end, if we do not sup­port our­selves among all Chileans, no one will do it for us. Foot­ballers, for­mer play­ers, ev­ery­one should en­joy and feel proud of this gen­er­a­tion. Let’s go, Chile.”

To­gether with Ar­turo Vidal and goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo, Sánchez is the star in the side. The three play­ers to­gether have more than 300 caps.

Manch­ester City goal­keeper Bravo was the match-win­ner for his side in their shoot-out vic­tory against Por­tu­gal.

PHO­TOS: DAR­REN STA­PLES / REUTERS, ALEXAN­DER HASSENSTEIN / BONGARTS / GETTY IMAGES

STARS Chilean Alexis Sánchez and Ger­man skip­per Ju­lian Draxler have been mar­vels to watch at the Fifa Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup in Rus­sia

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