FIFA CONFEDERATIONS CUP
Germany and Chile clash for control of Group B at the FIFA Confederations Cup tonight with Germany coach Joachim Loew talking up the south American champions.
“They have shown in the past few years that they belong to the elite of world football,” said Loew ahead of the encounter in Kazan, Russia.
“They are flexible like maybe no other side, very unpredictable.
“Almost every player is capable of scoring and wants to score goals.
“They are so flexible that, from time to time, you cannot tell which player is playing which position.”
Both teams have three points with Chile ahead on goal difference after their 2-0 win over Cameroon and Germany’s 3-2 victory against Australia.
Loew, having rested all of his World Cup-winning stars, will match his young guns against an experienced Chile team which won both the 2015 and 2016 Copa America titles.
Both sides are amongst the favourites to win the 2017 Confed Cup in the St Petersburg final on July 2.
“They are the rival that will give us a good idea of what we can accomplish here,” said Chile’s Edson Puch, who started in place of Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez against Cameroon.
Regardless of their inexperience — the entire Germany squad had just 149 caps between them — Marcelo Diaz said facing the world champions requires a certain mind-set.
“In order to play them, we need to be psychologically prepared, at your best, and we are,” said the midfielder.
“Our mentality is one of our biggest achievements of this team.”
For the eighth match-in-a-row and with first-choice Manuel Neuer recovering from foot surgery, Loew will change his goalkeeper with Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen replacing Bernd Leno.
The Germany boss will also switch some outfield players, but keep his trusted core.
“Jonas Hector, Joshua Kimmich, Shkodran Mustafi and (captain) Julian Draxler will start,” revealed Loew.
“It makes no sense to change seven or eight positions now, but three or four, that’s possible.”
Germany have won all four meetings between the countries in the last 40 years.
The most recent was in 2014 when Mario Goetze’s goal sealed a 1-0 friendly win in Stuttgart.
In Thursday’s other Group B game, Australia play Cameroon in St Petersburg with both teams knowing they can ill afford another Confed Cup defeat.
“Australia play with a lot of fighting spirit and I expect a difficult game against a team with a different style to Chile,” said Cameroon’s Belgian coach Hugo Broos.
“We will have to be at our top level, because if we lose we are done at this tournament.”
Broos is expected to stick with the same line-up which leaked late goals by Vidal and Eduardo Vargas against Chile.
After a quiet opening match, Christian Bassogog – the player of the tournament at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations – will be keen to shine on the right wing.
Having conceded early goals against both Brazil, in last week’s 4-0 friendly defeat, and Germany, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou will want to tighten his defence.
“We’ve had discussions about that, we need to make sure we are brave and we stick to what we have worked on,” said Socceroos captain Mark Milligan.
“If we stay true to ourselves and our structure, it’ll all go better.”
Milligan and fellow midfielder Aaron Mooy will be tasked with making sure Australia maintain possession, an area where they struggled against Germany.