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‘Spain the favourites’

sports Updated: Jan 16, 2010 00:16 IST

In the year of the World Cup finals, it’s asked to anyone who’s been there, done that. Given that Lothar Matthaeus has not only played in five editions of football’s quadrennial showpiece but won one too, it was a matter of time before the question came his way. And the former West Germany captain, here to unveil the World Cup trophy, was ready.

“Spain are my favourites. They not only have excellent players but also players who can make a difference,” said Matthaeus, the world’s most-capped World Cup player with 25 finals appearances.

The world will have till July 11 to find out whether Matthaeus’s ability at crystal ball gazing is comparable to his skills as a midfielder or sweeper, but only a day before the last World Cup final in Berlin, he had told HT, Italy would win.

Currently jobless as a coach, Matthaeus didn’t agree with Michael Ballack’s assertion that Germany won’t go to South Africa as one of the favourites. “Germany are always one of the favourites, aren’t they? If you beat Germany, you always earn a lot of respect.

“We sometimes don’t give a player the chance to express himself, but we have a system which makes us a good team. We have the winners’ mentality and never give up. “

He had done that once and it’s led to the regret of a lifetime. “In the 1999 Champions League final, we (Bayern Munich) thought the trophy was ours and then Manchester United scored two goals really late. It’s a match I’d like to forget but I can’t. It’s also a lesson that I’ve learnt. It’s what I now tell my teams all the time; don’t ever give up.”

If the Champions League final was the lowest point of his football career — Matthaeus didn’t make much of the disaster his last match for Germany turned out to be, losing 0-3 to Croatia in the 1998 World Cup quarterfinals — holding the World Cup in 1990 is definitely the highest.

“You can’t explain that feeling of holding the trophy in your right hand. That we won it beating Maradona’s Argentina made it even more special.”