Argentina beware. Joachim Loew has found weaknesses in Diego Maradona’s team. And his young squad is gung-ho after decimating England.
Loew didn’t share what those weaknesses were. Not with the media at least, but said it’s been discussed with the players. Speaking in Erasmia near Johannesburg, the Germany coach reacted with a mixture of deference and a refusal to be weighed down either by Argentina’s all-win record or all-conquering reputation.
“They have great qualities. For me, they are one of the favourites for this tournament,” he said. “They have a lot of experience and an impressive attack that’s not just about Lionel Messi alone. I expect a very tight game.”
“We have found weaknesses in their side, but I will keep that information for my players. We too have a few forwards who can score goals,” said the Germany coach ahead of Saturday’s quarterfinal in Cape Town. Germany, Loew said, are leaving for Cape Town one day early, on Thursday, to get used to the conditions better.
There was unstinted praise for Maradona too. “He was a phenomenon and an idol. I don’t know much about him as a coach but he must be doing something right to get his team to play this well. He is certainly a positive effect on Argentina.”
But Loew didn’t forget to mention that with three wins, including two where they scored four goals, Germany are ready for Argentina, Messi and all.
“There is a very positive feeling in the team. We have gained a lot of confidence from the victory against England. A lot of the younger players here are European under-21 champions and this (the win against England) has given them a lot of confidence.”
The last time the teams met, Germany won 4-2 on penalties and Loew said, “We have already practiced penalties, each player took two, but you can never recreate the pressure or the nervous tension. You don’t know who will still be on the pitch after 120 minutes of football, injuries can change everything, so we will only decide that after extra-time has been played.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger added to the mind games, saying Argentina try and unsettle opponents before kick-off, even influence the referee. “We shouldn’t be provoked. That is a lack of respect,” the midfielder said.
Schweinsteiger was part of the team that beat Argentina at the same stage last time. The teams brawled after the game and Germany midfielder Torsten Frings was suspended for the semi-final against Italy, which eventually brought the end of the Geman campaign.
Battling a muscle strain, Brazil-born striker Cacau is the only Germany player doubtful for the marquee tie scheduled for Saturday.