Germany’s surprising run continues
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.
STARS Chilean Alexis Sánchez and German skipper Julian Draxler have been marvels to watch at the Fifa Confederations Cup in Russia