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National football team 'ready to beat Russia' on Saturday

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National football team 'ready to beat Russia' on Saturday
The team, with Hitzlsperger centre, practices for the the game. Photo: DPA
08:07 CEST+02:00
National team member Thomas Hitzlsperger says Germany is determined to close down Russian play-maker Andrei Arshavin to win Saturday's game in Moscow, which would secure their spot at the 2010 World Cup.

The rivals meet at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium with Germany leading Group Four by just one point from second-place Russia - only the winner of the qualification pool is guaranteed a place in South Africa next June.

Stuttgart midfielder Hitzlsperger says the Germans will allow neither Moscow's artificial pitch nor Arsenal's Arshavin to hinder their quest to leave Moscow with all three points from the World Cup qualifier.

"Our goal is to decide the World Cup qualification places for ourselves on Saturday," said ex-Aston Villa player Hitzlsperger before his team flew to Russia. "We are all united on that: We travel to Moscow in order to win. We know Russia has an extremely strong team and we respect them. But we have already beaten the Russians and to go there standing tall as table leaders. We have every reason to be self-confident."

Germany beat Russia 2-1 in Dortmund last October to take control of their World Cup qualification group, but Löw's side knows they have to shut down Arshavin to keep the home side at bay.

"He is not the sort of player you can ever really feel is under control with just a single marker," said Hitzlsperger.

"He would pull you all over the pitch and as we saw in Dortmund, if the whole team is organised then there is little room for him to operate.

"Arshavin can pop up in so many different positions and if we do the same in Moscow as we did in Dortmund, we have a chance."

The Germany squad spent this week training on an artificial pitch in Mainz to get used to the surface, but Hitzlsperger says it must not become an excuse.

"We naturally talked about it, and our coach Joachim Löw has also addressed the topic," said the 27-year-old. "But we have said that it cannot become a big topic for us and will not be an excuse. The ball bounces higher than on a grass pitch and travels much faster when it is wet. We have now trained on the surface several times and we are using each training session to improve, we know its advantages and disadvantages."

Hitzlsperger is expected to be up against his Stuttgart teammate and Russia striker Pavel Pobrebnyak on Saturday and the Russian has warned of the "cauldron" atmosphere expected in the stadium.

Having won 49 caps, Hitzlsperger has scored six times for his country and each time Germany has won.

"It would be fantastic if I played in Moscow, scored and we won, I can't imagine a better outcome on Saturday - that would be a dream!"

Some 5,000 police officers have been called in to keep order at the World Cup qualifier and German police have offered their assistance and provided Moscow with information about travelling supporters.

Both teams have one more World Cup qualifier after Saturday's game when Germany hosts Finland in Hamburg next Wednesday, the same night Russia plays Azerbaijan in Baku.

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