Just 24 hours before their World Cup quarterfinal with France, the German national team are in disarray as several of their players have been struck down by illness.
Speaking in a press conference on Thursday, German head coach Joachim Low confirmed that seven of his players are suffering from “flu like symptoms” as they prepare for their showdown with European rivals France in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
[ RELATED: Full details, Quarterfinal field is set ]
Mats Hummels missed Germany’s last 16 win over Algeria with the illness and the sickness now seems to have spread to the rest of the squad. Not naming any names, although Christoph Kramer and Thomas Muller are both believe to be sick, Low blamed several factors as the illness rips through his squad.
“Seven players are slightly ill with flu symptoms,” Low said. “It is not that bad at the moment and it could be partly about air conditioning, the travel, temperature differences. I do not want to make a drama of it. We hope the situation will ease.”
After a tiring 120 minutes of action against Algeria last time out, this kind of scare is the last thing Low and his team needed. After drawing against Ghana then scrapping wins against the U.S. and Algeria in their last two games, the German public has yet to see the attacking panache and dominance return after it appeared majestically in their opening game against Portugal which they won 4-0.
Instead, Low is under pressure to at least get his side to the semifinals of the World Cup for the third-straight tournament. That seems to be the minimum requirement, even if the DFB say Low’s job is safe no matter what.
Coming up against an in-form and confident French side in the Maracana on Friday should provide Germany with their toughest test of the World Cup so far. Right now, Low is hoping he has 11 fully-fit players to put out on the field.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
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Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.