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Germany hoping to tame Maradona’s Argentina

Two World Cup favourites lock horns in Munich on Wednesday night as Diego Maradona's struggling Argentine side take on solid three-times champions Germany.

Germany hoping to tame Maradona's Argentina
Photo: DPOA

Ninety-nine days before the World Cup starts in South Africa, the clash finds the flamboyant “El Diez” under pressure after the 1978 and 1986 winners came within a whisker of not qualifying for the tournament for first time in 40 years.

“If it was up to Argentinian journalists we should come last in the World Cup,” said Maradona upon arrival in the Bavarian capital. “But the people are behind us.”

The Albiceleste eventually made it though thanks to a goal in the dying minutes against Uruguay in Montevideo, and Argentina’s greatest-ever footballer has found that coaching the national side is not as easy as playing for it.

Since taking over as coach in late 2008 the team has been woefully inconsistent, while his suggestion to journalists in October to “suck it and keep sucking it” earned him a two-month ban from Fifa, football’s governing body.

Argentina, drawn against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in the World Cup, has won its last two friendlies, beating Costa Rica 3-2 and Jamaica 2-1, but Maradona has offered few clues on the makeup of the final team.

He has used around 100 different players, and with only the Germany game and two possible fixtures against Canada and Israel in May before the World Cup, time is running short.

His 20-man squad to face Germany includes 17 foreign-based players including Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, Fifa’s world player of the year 2009, Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez and Newcastle midfielder Jonas Gutierrez.

“All the players are being tested,” Maradona said. “The ones who are not in this list have the same opportunities. I already phoned the 50 per cent of the players who will play the World Cup.”

Germany, by contrast, in Group D with Ghana, Serbia and Australia, have been the model of cool efficiency, finishing top of their qualifying group unbeaten, with eight wins out of 10 including two over a fancied Russian side.

Coach Joachim Löw has brought just two new players into his 26-man squad, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen midfielders Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos, in what will be Germany’s final match before the final choice is made.

With worries about firepower up front, Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez being out of sorts of late, Löw may turn to Brazilian-born Cacau, who has scored seven goals in his last three matches.

“We can’t afford to make lots of mistakes. There are hardly any teams that

are as aggressive and as attacking as Argentina,” Löw said.

In midfield Löw has Chelsea’s Michael Ballack, Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lazio’s Thomas Hitzlsperger and Hamburg’s Piotr Trochowski all

fit and raring to go.

“They have the full repertoire, that’s what makes them so dangerous – but also interesting,” the 33-year-old Ballack said. “We are going to face a team that is absolutely top class, if you look at the individual players.”

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MUNICH

Four injured as WWII bomb explodes near Munich train station

Four people were injured, one of them seriously, when a World War II bomb exploded at a building site near Munich's main train station on Wednesday, emergency services said.

Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich.
Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Privat

Construction workers had been drilling into the ground when the bomb exploded, a spokesman for the fire department said in a statement.

The blast was heard several kilometres away and scattered debris hundreds of metres, according to local media reports.

Images showed a plume of smoke rising directly next to the train tracks.

Bavaria interior minister Joachim Herrmann told Bild that the whole area was being searched.

Deutsche Bahn suspended its services on the affected lines in the afternoon.

Although trains started up again from 3pm, the rail operator said there would still be delays and cancellations to long-distance and local travel in the Munich area until evening. 

According to the fire service, the explosion happened near a bridge that must be passed by all trains travelling to or from the station.

The exact cause of the explosion is unclear, police said. So far, there are no indications of a criminal act.

WWII bombs are common in Germany

Some 75 years after the war, Germany remains littered with unexploded ordnance, often uncovered during construction work.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about WWII bomb disposals in Germany

However, most bombs are defused by experts before they explode.

Last year, seven World War II bombs were found on the future location of Tesla’s first European factory, just outside Berlin.

Sizeable bombs were also defused in Cologne and Dortmund last year.

In 2017, the discovery of a 1.4-tonne bomb in Frankfurt prompted the evacuation of 65,000 people — the largest such operation since the end of the war in Europe in 1945.

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