Sunday 24 September 2017

Bierhoff urges German players to ignore fuss over public enemy No 1 Boateng

James Lawton IN Soccer City

Pity the Germany players. Holed up in a luxury, five-star spa and resort surrounded by nothing but scorched fields and red dust, the squad were finally allowed out on Saturday for the first time in two weeks to dress in civilian clothes and enjoy dinner in Pretoria.

General manager Oliver Bierhoff said yesterday that they had let the players out of their World Cup base for the first time for a social occasion.

"Some of us went for a meal in a restaurant," he said.

"It's nice to dress in your civvies and go to another place."

With the sprawling red-brick resort situated dozens of miles from the nearest town or even shop, Germany had come prepared for endless hours holed up together in their hotel. Recreation areas are available with table football, computer games and DVDs to distract the squad from the tedium, but they are still struggling.

"Many of the players, even though we suggested the odd leisure programme, said they'd rather stay behind and go to the physio," said Bierhoff.

"Nice as this (place) is, you always meet the same people in the same kind of rooms, and eat the same kind of food."

Even a walk close to the swamp-like Hennops River, which runs through the camp, is out of the question. "Normally nothing should happen, but if you go too close to the river, then the iguanas, and they are quite big, can swing their tails and have been known to break several bones. Luckily, nothing of that sort has happened yet."

Despite the boredom, Bierhoff said Germany wanted to stay in South Africa for as long as possible. They play Ghana in their Group D decider on Wednesday after losing their second game in a surprise defeat by Serbia, albeit after being reduced to 10 men.

Germany must not be affected by the presence of Ghana's Kevin-Prince Boateng -- the man who ended Michael Ballack's World Cup before it began -- when the sides meet for a spot in the last 16 next week, stressed Bierhoff.

Boateng, whose half-brother Jerome is in the Germany squad, was responsible for dashing captain Ballack's World Cup hopes when his tackle during the FA Cup final in May ruled the 33-year-old out of the tournament with an ankle injury.

"I do not think it would be right for us to use our emotions or feelings and channel them against a single person," Bierhoff said.

"Irrespective of who is on the pitch for Ghana, we have to concentrate on the game and avoid being provoked, because we will not be playing against Kevin-Prince Boateng, but against Ghana," he added.

Germany must win to guarantee they advance to the next round, with Ghana top of Group D on four points. Germany are on three points, with Serbia also on three points.

"We will approach the game in a fair-play manner and mindset because personalities are one thing and teams are another," Bierhoff said.

Berlin-born Kevin-Prince Boateng, who had played for Germany's youth teams before opting to compete for Ghana just before the tournament, apologised days after the incident and said he never intended to hurt Ballack. Germany's Jerome Boateng criticised his half-brother for not apologising straight away and said he had broken off any contact with him after arriving in South Africa.

Germany fans declared Kevin-Prince as their 'public enemy No 1', setting up internet chatrooms to vent their anger.

"Obviously we'd like to have Michael. But one player alone cannot decide a game," Bierhoff said. Asked if Germany could have used Ballack's experience against Serbia, Bierhoff said: "It would have been good to have had him from the start, not only against Serbia."

The Boatengs have the same Ghanaian father and different German mothers. Both grew up in Berlin, but Kevin-Prince is the product of a tough, working-class neighbourhood, while Jerome lived in an upmarket district.

Kevin-Prince plays for Portsmouth, while Jerome is reportedly leaving Hamburg to join Manchester City.

Kevin-Prince is the flashier of the two and once bought a Lamborghini, a Hummer and a Cadillac in one day.

Both half-brothers were in Germany's U-21 squad. When one player had to be cut from the squad, Kevin-Prince was the victim of a vote by the team council, which reportedly objected to his late arrival for meetings. Jerome stayed on with the team that went on to win the European U-21 Football Championship last year.

Matthias Sammer, the sports director of the German football federation, told 'Der Spiegel' magazine: "A lack of discipline and egotism can be discerned in Kevin-Prince. When it comes to athletic and mental constitution, Jerome is the stronger player." (© Independent News Service)

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