Ballack injury creates doubts for qualifier with Wales

Germany captain Michael Ballack sat out training again on Tuesday as doubts grow whether the Chelsea star will be fit for his country in their World Cup qualifier against Wales on Wednesday.

Ballack injury creates doubts for qualifier with Wales
Photo: DPA

Ballack scored a first-half goal in the 2-1 win over Russia in Dortmund on Saturday but damaged his left calf late in the game and missed training with the German squad in Düsseldorf on both Monday and Tuesday.

“Michael is in the hands of the team’s doctors and physios, we are monitoring his situation on an hour-by-hour basis,” said Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff ahead of the game in Mönchengladbach. “He is one of our central figures and we are doing all we can to get him fit.”

Germany are top of Group Four with seven points while Wales are second in the group with six points from two wins and a defeat.

Defender Gareth Bale says underdogs Wales have nothing to lose as they look to topple Germany.

The Welsh struggled to a 2-0 win over Liechtenstein in Cardiff on Saturday which put them second in the group behind the Germans who defeated Russia 2-1 in Dortmund.

But Bale insists Wales can afford to throw caution to the wind and attack hosts Germany in Mönchengladbach.

“We’re going there looking for a result,” said Bale. “And there’s no reason why we can’t do that. There’s no pressure on us, we’re the underdogs and we just need to go out there and play our own football.”

Bale injured an ankle and missed the game when Wales drew 0-0 with Germany in Frankfurt 11 months ago in their final Euro 2008 qualifying match, but says the experience of earning a point away has boosted the Welsh. “Knowing we’ve enjoyed a positive result against them so recently will give us a lot of confidence,” he said.

And Bale’s Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Chris Gunter agreed Wales can leave Mönchengladbach with a point after losing 2-1 to Russia in Moscow last month. “If we are to qualify, we need to pick up points away from home,” Gunter told BBC Sport.

“We were unlucky in Russia, and there’s no reason why we can’t go to Germany and pick something up. We have no fear and are going there to get something.”

Germany showed weaknesses for John Toshack’s team to exploit against Russia in a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance.

The first-half goals by Ballack and Bayern Munich’s Lukas Podolski capped an impressive first 45 minutes dominated by the home side. But their defence creaked, especially down the right flank, as Russia attacked the home side in the second-half and only some good work from Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler, on his debut, prevented Russia from equalising.

Meanwhile Schalke 04 striker Kevin Kuranyi has been told by Germany coach Joachim Löw he will not be selected for his country again after walking out of the squad during Saturday’s win over Russia.

Welsh captain Craig Bellamy, who made his first start for Wales since October last year against Liechtenstein, is set to start as his country’s lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation.

Löw has said he expects his side to take another three points from Wales and a win would put them at least three points clear at the top of the table regardless of what happens when Russia play Finland the same night in Moscow.

“The Welsh play differently from the Russians, they are a typically British team who prevent goals being scored with hard work and a robust defence,” said Löw.


Sweden into World Cup semis after ending German hoodoo

Stina Blackstenius scored the winner as Sweden came from behind to stun old rivals Germany on Saturday and set up a women's World Cup semi-final against the Netherlands.

Sweden into World Cup semis after ending German hoodoo
Photo: AP Photo/David Vincent/TT

Sweden had not beaten Germany at a major women's tournament since the 1995 World Cup, failing to win any of their subsequent meetings at World Cups, European Championships and Olympics in almost quarter of a century.

That run included defeats in the 2003 World Cup final and the gold medal match at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but they gained revenge in Rennes, coming from behind to win their quarter-final 2-1.

Lina Magull had given Germany a 16th-minute lead with a fine finish from a Sara Däbritz assist, but the excellent Sofia Jakobsson equalised soon after on a hot evening in Brittany.

The winner arrived three minutes after half-time, with Blackstenius prodding home the rebound after Almuth Schult had saved a Fridolina Rolfö header.

Despite bringing on star player Dszenifer Marozsan, who had missed the
previous three games with a broken toe, Germany remained blunt as the clock
ticked down.

Blackstenius had scored Sweden's winner against Canada in the last round and also netted against the Germans in that Olympic final defeat in 2016.

“We have talked about the possibilities here for us to go far and win every game,” said a bullish Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.

“There's not a single mitochondria in us that's content. We're going to go for it.”

The Germans will now be deprived of the chance to defend their Olympic title, with defeat here meaning they fail to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games. Sweden will join the Netherlands and Great Britain — who have qualified thanks to England's World Cup run — at the Games instead.

“We are now qualified for the Olympics. That is one thing that has been hanging over our heads for a while,” said Gerhardsson.

Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg told ARD: “The defeat hurts, but we are in a process. We will grow from this experience.”

Sweden go on to a semi-final encounter with the Dutch in Lyon on Wednesday, and they will have a score to settle there too, having lost to the Netherlands at Euro 2017.

The 'Oranje' went on to win that tournament and have coped well in France with their status as reigning European champions.

The tournament now switches for the closing stages to Lyon — home to Europe's top women's club side — with holders the United States and England facing off in the first semi-final on Tuesday.

Megan Rapinoe's double strike gave the USA a 2-1 win over France on Friday, ending the hosts' dream of winning the trophy on home soil.

England reached their second successive World Cup semi-final with a straightforward 3-0 win over Norway on Thursday.

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