Low and behold as Germans advance

Germany national team head scout Urs Siegenthaler believes coach Joachim Low is on the verge of the crowning moment of his coaching career.

Low and behold as Germans advance

Low has been Germany’s head coach since after the 2006 World Cup, when he stepped up from his role as assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann. Since then, Germany have reached at least the semi-finals of every tournament they have been in, and Siegenthaler suggests 2014 could be the year they finally take the next step.

“I know, because I’ve been with him for 10 years, that he is on the way to becoming one really great coach,” Siegenthaler told Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.

Germany get their World Cup campaign underway today with arguably their most difficult group game, and Siegenthaler has warned that if they may stumble at the World Cup this year, it could be in this game.

“We’re not only playing against Portugal, but we’re playing against 70,000 people in the stadium,” he said.

“Portugal will have a home advantage.”

For Portugal to triumph, all eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo — and more specifically, on his knee — when the world player of the year takes to the field. Ronaldo has been nursed through a knee injury both by Real Madrid at the end of the club season and by Portugal in the build-up to Brazil 2014.

The messages emanating from the Portugal camp in the last two days have been positive, however: Ronaldo plays.

Among individual players at this World Cup, perhaps only Ronaldo’s long-time rival Argentina’s Lionel Messi holds as much sway over a single team. The former Manchester United player has been taking part in training but his knee has been strapped heavily and he was tentative in some drills.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento admitted Ronaldo’s participation was vital. “A player like Ronaldo is important for any team, and that’s the case for us,” he said.

“Germany may be considered favourites because of their history and potential, but it is a very balanced group. USA and Ghana are well organised and have some good values, but we have the ambition to move forward, grab as much points as we can and reach the last 16.”

Portugal keeper Eduardo was more bullish about Ronaldo, saying he is certain he will be in top condition.

“Cristiano is training well, he’s training hard and we are sure he’s going to be 100%,” Eduardo said.

“He’s healthy and he can’t wait to start this tournament. He’s determined and he wants to play to the limit, like all of us, with an immense will to win and give our best.

“You’re talking about the best player in the world. It’s like the other good players in the other teams that can make a difference. We’re ready for anything, but of course with Cristiano, it’s better for us. Of course we are a group, a lot of good players and nobody wins alone. But of course with Cristiano it’s better for us.”

Meanwhile Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger was airlifted to hospital on Saturday, although there are no concerns about him not being fit to face Portugal on today.

The Bayern Munich midfielder was taken to hospital from Germany’s World Cup base by helicopter to have a scan on a knee injury picked up during a training camp in South Tyrol last month.

However, there is no risk of him not being fit today —– the hospital visit was just an obligatory insurance check-up.

All players appearing in the World Cup who reported an injury before arrival in Brazil were obliged to undergo further tests before their first World Cup match. Schweinsteiger’s Bayern team-mates, Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm, also required a Fifa check-up but they completed the formalities in Munich before flying out to Brazil.

Schweinsteiger’s place in Joachim Low’s team is still not guaranteed, however, with the Germany coach confirming that Lahm would be one of his central midfielders, while Sami Khedira is widely expected to be the other.

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