2014 World Cup Team Preview: Germany

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Getting to know… Germany: Three times the champions of World Cup, three times the champions of the European Championships and simply a deadly side, Germany is one of the favorites to win World Cup 2014. The biggest question is how their game will translate to the humid climate of Brazil, as their three WC wins were all during Europe-based tournaments.

Record in qualifying: Streamrolled through UEFA’s Group C with a 9W-1D record, the draw a 4-4 thriller against Sweden in Oct. 2012. Scored 36 goals in those 10 games, allowing just 10 (which includes the 4 against Sweden). Boom.

What group are they in? Group G with Ghana, Portugal and the United States

Game schedule: Group G

16 June, 13:00, Salvador – Germany vs. Portugal
21 June, 16:00, Fortaleza – Germany vs. Ghana
26 June, 13:00, Recife – United States vs. Germany

Star player: Manuel Neuer

Must I select only one? Fine, let’s take the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best in the world by many: Manuel Neuer. The Bayern Munich backstop is the latest in a long line of stellar German keepers and, at 28, isn’t going anywhere any time soon. He’s lead Germany to a Euro U-21 title, so perhaps the World Cup is coming this time around.

Manager: Joachim Löw

He looks like a German Beatle and coaches like the equivalent of the Fab Four. Sure, Joachim Low has a wealth of talent from which to form a team, but the former Fenerbahce and Austria Wien boss has done good things since taking over Germany in 2006 (after two years as an assistant). An assistant in 2006, Low was considered just as responsible as Jurgen Klinsmann for Germany’s semifinal run in the ’06 World Cup run, and has followed it up with a loss in the finals of Euro 2008, the third place prize for World Cup 2010 and a semi-final loss to Italy at Euro 2012. All that’s left is the major title.

Secret weapon: Depth

It’s really unfair to claim that there’s a secret weapon for Germany considering that every time they sub, the opposition fans will groan as they realize another known commodity is coming onto the pitch. There are only four players on the roster with less than 10 caps, and not one should see significant time. The one with 11 caps is Julian %^&%^&* Draxler. Their “midfielders” include Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Schurrle, Podolski, Muller, Draxler, Kroos, Gotze, Reus. That’s nine guys.

EDIT: Reus is injured and out of the tournament.

Prediction: Germany wins the group, and has only itself to blame for a run anywhere short of the semifinal. US fans should hope that the Germans beat up Portugal in the opener and get three points from Ghana in the second, allowing them to consider resting some main faces for the knockout round. The Germans do have an American fitness coach: Shad Forsythe.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.