ERASMIA // Spain are the strongest team Germany have faced at the World Cup, Joachim Loew said, and the only way to beat the European champions is to force them into mistakes. Spain have been the world's most successful side for nearly four years, with only two defeats since November 2006. Loew, the Germany coach, said yesterday that Spain are the favourites for the World Cup. But he believes Germany can beat any opponent, including a Spain team whose passing game he praised as a model for his own style.
Germany lost to Spain 1-0 in the final of the 2008 European Championship and the two sides meet again in the semi-final in Durban tomorrow. "We are not speaking of revenge," Loew said. "That hasn't been on my mind at all. We lost the final in 2008 because we were beaten by the best team of the time. "But we have hope that we can win. For me, Spain are the favourites for the title. They have been the most consistent team of the past two or three years and have played at a very high level. Spain have not one Messi, but several Messis who can decide a game."
He was referring to Lionel Messi, Argentina's superstar, who was virtually shut out of the game when Germany thrashed Argentina 4-0 in the quarter-finals. Germany also eliminated England 4-1 and have scored the most goals, 13, while displaying perhaps the best football at the tournament. Spain, however, will be a tougher challenge, Loew acknowledged. "They make almost no mistakes but we have to force them into making errors," said Loew, who devised masterful tactics to beat England and Argentina, exploiting the two teams' defensive liabilities.
"Spain are very strong as a unit, both in attack and defence, they have several players who can decide games and tactically they are very good. But at the moment we are capable of beating everyone." Loew said Germany's technical skills allow the team to dominate for the entire game. "We always try to be a constant attacking threat and to convince with our skills," he said. "And Spanish football also places a lot of importance on technical skill. Their passing game is a celebration of football and how easy they make it look is a model for me."
Meanwhile, Cesc Fabregas, the Spain midfielder, said he is ready to play despite shoulder pain. Fabregas told Spanish media he may need a painkilling injection into his shoulder so he can be available for the match at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Fabregas told the Spanish newspaper Sport that the sore shoulder was "painful" but he is "ready to get an injection in order to play." Fabregas withdrew early from training on Sunday as a precaution.
His shoulder was injured in the 1-0 quarter-final victory over Paraguay. Fabregas replaced Fernando Torres after 56 minutes. Spanish team officials would not say which shoulder was bothering Fabregas. * AP