Tuesday 12 December 2017

Heavyweights boxing clever to stay alive in Group of Death

TWO big hitters will be keen to avoid a false start which could compromise their title chances in tonight's Group B clash.

After facing Portugal in Lviv, Germany take on Holland in their second group game, while Portugal face the Dutch in their final fixture after meeting Denmark.

Losing tonight could therefore have serious repercussions which Germany star Thomas Mueller is particularly keen to avoid.

"Making a good start is crucial because you avoid a pressure situation with the game against Holland," the Bayern Munich forward said.

"We don't want to go into the Holland game with a bad feeling and being nervous that we might not make the quarter-finals.

"All three group opponents are very strong, so you really cannot afford to slip up."

While Germany may have one eye on Holland, coach Joachim Loew does not want them to lose their focus against one of the sides he believes will have a big say in where the title goes this year.

"Portugal are a team who can beat anybody," Loew warned. "They have very good players who play for big clubs, and they have always been a top nation in tournaments.

"I don't just mean Cristiano Ronaldo, who of course has fantastic skills and can decide games on his own, but also Nani, Pepe; Portugal have a strong backbone and are technically very strong."

Ronaldo returned the compliment, but made it clear that Portugal's game plan will not be based on trying to contain the Germans.

"When we enter any competition, we do so with the intention of winning it," he said. "We know it will be very difficult, but maybe this will be our turn.

"Germany have great players, but I think that Portugal are a team who can always play well against top opponents.

"We are facing one of the best opponents, but we have to concentrate on our strengths and be organised and keep our concentration, then we will see what result comes out of it."


Portugal coach Paulo Bento echoed Ronaldo's sentiments, reiterating that the focus must be placed on winning.

"We will remain faithful to our own style of play," he said. "We always try to win and we will try this from the very first minute."

Either Miroslav Klose or Mario Gomez will lead the German attack ahead of midfield trio Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski.

Bento has one injury doubt, with Nani unable to train in recent days and facing a late test. "We will evaluate his condition," Bento said.

Germany v Portugal,

Live, RTE 2/BBC, 7.45

Irish Independent

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