Loew: Germany fired up for Portugal
Germany coach Joachim Loew finally has his full squad available and hopes to make a statement against Portugal in their opening World Cup clash.
Following a month of preparation for the tournament in Brazil, Loew's side meet Portugal in Salvador on Monday -- and the 54-year-old believes Paulo Bento's men are the best team in the world on the break.
"We are fired up for the start of the World Cup," he told a news conference in Santo Andre on Thursday.
"The countdown is ticking. The preparation for [Portugal] is getting more and more intense. They are just behind us in the FIFA rankings, and they are world champions in the counter attack. With or without Ronaldo, their style of play remains the same."
Loew will be going into his fourth tournament as coach of Die Nationalmannschaft, who have so far won every opening game with him in charge.
In 2008, they beat Poland 2-0 at the European Championship; two years later an inspired Loew XI beat Australia 4-0 in South Africa, and in 2012 Portugal were defeated 1-0.
"A win would give us a boost for the upcoming games," Loew continued. "In this group it is very important. We have three really unpleasant opponents. And just because of their class, Portugal are a tough nut to crack.
"They have gone far in all recent tournaments. And indeed, only lost to Spain with their last shot in the penalty shootout [in the Euro 2012 semifinal]. Joao Moutinho, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao; they all play at the highest level. They are very dangerous.
"They already prepare for the counter attack when defending. Ronaldo and Nani position themselves in the no-man's land. They have scored ten of their last 12 goals from the counter.
"There is no favourite. Both teams have the same quality. Portugal might base their game on the counter a bit more, and we rely on possession. But there are world-class players in both teams."
Loew revealed much of his starting formation against Portugal, with Philipp Lahm set to play in holding midfield, most likely making way for his Bayern Munich teammate Jerome Boateng to play at right-back.
"Philipp Lahm played in holding midfield against Armenia. And I'd like to think that this will also be the case on Monday," Loew said.
The coach thinks his players must constantly track Ronaldo to nullify the Portuguese forward, though admits there is no chance of keeping the Real Madrid star totally quiet when on the ball.
"How can I keep Ronaldo at bay? Jerome [Boateng] has shown he can do it," Loew said, looking back at the 1-0 win in 2012. "You have to be on alert when playing him. When he sprints with the ball, you can never totally control him. He is a player who scores 50 goals in the league.
"He has the best run paths there are, creeps into the dead angle, gets blind passes from his teammates. You are never allowed to lose sight on him. Whoever plays him must know where Ronaldo is, what he does all the time."