Loew plays mind games

GERMANY coach Joachim Loew has sought to divert pressure away from his players ahead of their World Cup semifinal battle royal with Spain in Durban tomorrow.

GERMANY coach Joachim Loew has sought to divert pressure away from his players ahead of their World Cup semifinal battle royal with Spain in Durban tomorrow.

Like most coaches, he acknowledged the strength of his opponents, but Loew went further, falling just short of tipping Spain for victory.

Whether or not it is a ploy to fool the Spaniards into a false sense of supremacy, a strategy typical of European coaches, will be revealed when the two European giants battle it out for a place in the World Cup final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium tomorrow night. Kickoff is at 8.30pm.

"I can't compare my players to the Spaniards, like (Miroslav) Klose and Spain's David Villa," Loew said.

"They are both high-quality players, very dangerous too. Personally, though, I rate Villa higher than Klose. Unlike Klose he often drops deep and works harder for possession. He is a top scorer."

Loew added that midfield maestros Xavi Harnandez and Andres Iniesta, the dazzling Barcelona duo, were the "perfect spine" for the Spanish team.

Whereas Germany have new faces, La Roja look almost every inch the side that defeated Germany to capture the Euro 2008 trophy.

"Spain haven't changed much from then. They have Sergio Busquets for Marcos Senna and generally the team still looks the same," Loew said.

"We have newcomers who, however, have showed character."

Young keeper Manuel Neuer said respect for the Spaniards will be kept aside and that the Germans will need a tactical masterpiece to defeat them.

"Spain are good but they haven't dazzled in the World Cup," Neuer said.

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