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WORLDCUP

“Sweden are an unpleasant team to play against”

Michael Ballack says Germany need to take their game up one more notch if they are to defeat Sweden in Saturday's second round World Cup tie in Munich.

So far everything has gone swimmingly for the host nation with three consecutive group wins but the German captain said they could not afford to get complacent or start making errors.

“We know that at this stage every error means we could go out,” Ballack said at Thursday’s press conference.

“We are fit and playing well with the fans behind us but we cannot get carried away by the euphoria.”

Some German fans are already starting to look at a potential duel with South Americans in the quarter-finals but Ballack admits Sweden are the first real test after an easy opening group containing Costa Rica, Poland and Ecuador.

“We have been good so far but we need to put that behind us. Sweden are our first really difficult opponents,” Ballack declared.

“This team has to show it can get better and see if we can do that against Sweden. It will be an intense game.”

Sweden pinned England back in their own half in the second 45 minutes of Tuesday’s 2-2 group draw and Ballack was impressed.

“Sweden are tough and anyone who watched them in action against England knows that,” said the new Chelsea man.

“They made a very good impression. They are robust in midfield and good in the tackle. They move well and that is typical of Sweden. They are an unpleasant team to play.”

But Ballack said it was important not to get too caught up on how Sweden would play urging Germany to concentrate on playing to their own strengths.

“We want to concentrate on our game and not focus too much on opponents,” explained the 29-year-old former Bayern Munich playmaker.

“We have been well informed about the strengths and weaknesses of Sweden.”

Germany’s clear weakness in the build-up to the tournament was the leaky defence but Ballack believes two clean sheets against Poland and Ecuador show that is no longer a concern.

“I think it is important that we have realised to be more compact as that is the only way to be successful,” said Ballack.

“The 2002 World Cup showed that.”

Germany reached the 2002 World Cup final with a string of 1-0 wins before falling 2-0 to Brazil in the final, although Ballack was suspended for the final.

“At the moment we are not conceding goals and we are always capable of scoring them,” said Ballack.

Germany are joint top scorers in the competition alongside Argentina after bagging eight goals in three group games. Sweden have scored just three in as many matches.

FOOTBALL

Swedish press hails ‘miracle in Berlin’

Sweden's stunning four-goal comeback to salvage a 4-4 draw against Germany in Berlin on Tuesday night prompted commentators to gush over what many considered an improbable footballing "miracle".

Swedish press hails 'miracle in Berlin'

After an hour of football, Sweden found themselves nursing a four-goal deficit and many fans wondered how bad the night would end.

But a beautiful goal off a header by captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 62nd minute sparked an unprecedented comeback for the Swedes, capped by Rasmus Elm’s game-tying goal in extra time, allowing the squad to leave the pitch with an unexpected draw against a team ranked second in the world.

“I’ve never watched a national team that was so totally outplayed then comeback and salvage a point,” crowed Expressen columnist Marcus Birro.

“A miracle. A total Miracle. With a capital M.”

Birro argued that Sweden’s footballers deserved “the Nobel Prize in everything”, before reflecting on whether Tuesday’s performance might prompt largely secular Swedes to reexamine their religious beliefs.

“According to several studies, Swedes don’t believe in God. How is that possible? Can anyone who saw the miracle in Berlin seriously claim that God doesn’t exist?” he asked

Johan Esk, sports columnist at broadsheet Dagens Nyheter (DN), spared no hyperbole in claiming the 4-4 draw was “Sweden’s biggest upset in footballing history”.

“Sweden created a bomb that will be heard throughout the footballing world,” he continued.

“Sweden went from being outplayed, outclassed, laughable bystanders to shocking heroes.”

According to Esk, Sweden “taught Germany and the entire footballing world that it doesn’t matter what the score is or what name is on the back of the opponents’ shirts”.

“Those who give up never have a chance. Those who never give up always have a chance to succeed. No matter how awful things look,” he wrote.

A jubilant Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, captured on film in the stands pumping his fists in a fit of football euphoria while a dejected German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked on, also praised the performance of Sweden’s national side.

“It was totally improbable,” he told the TT news agency following the match.

“I don’t know if Germany has ever lost a four goal lead before in one half at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.”

Meanwhile, Erik Niva, football columnist with tabloid Aftonbladet took aim at German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s collapse, which saw the normally solid performer let in four goals in thirty minutes.

“On a normal day at work, Manuel Neuer exudes self-confidence. Now he couldn’t catch a beachball,” wrote Niva.

He hailed Sweden’s performance as “one of the most improbably I’ve experienced in my life with Swedish football”.

The press in Germany also lambasted their national team’s performance, with Der Spiegel kicking off the criticism with the headline “60 minutes of heaven, 30 minutes of hell.”

READ MORE PRESS REACTION FROM GERMANY ON WWW.THELOCAL.DE

Columnist Mats Olsson from Expressen proclaimed the away draw against Germany was in a class by itself when it came to sporting “miracles”.

“For 45 minutes the Swedish national team looked like hedgehogs that had been paralyzed by a car’s headlights,” he said.

“I’ve never seen a sicker, more wild and wonderful match.”

The Local/dl

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