Loew’s moment of truth

Germany have built a reputation as a tournament team under Joachim Loew and, two below-par years since their World Cup triumph.

Now Loew he is relishing the business end of Euro 2016.

After a flattering scoreline in the 2-0 win over Ukraine and an unimpressive goalless draw with Poland, Germany booked their last-16 berth with a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland.

Now comes the moment of truth for Loew's (below) Germany.

They face Slovakia in Lille tonight and, should they advance, their Euro 2016 title credentials will be put to the test against Italy or Spain in the quarter-finals.

As any Germany fan knows, Die Mannschaft have never beaten Italy at either a World Cup or European Championship Finals in eight attempts.

The feeling back in Berlin is that the German team and head coach Loew have rested on their laurels since Brazil 2014.

Two years after right back Philipp Lahm and striker Miroslav Klose retired, Loew has yet to settle on full-time replacements.

Loew, Mario Goetze and Thomas Mueller have all bitten back at thinly-veiled criticism from the German media in press conferences in France.

Michael Ballack, Loew's captain at Euro 2008 when they lost the final to Spain, has been the loudest critic of Loew's side.

In a newspaper column, the ex-Chelsea star described the goalless draw against Poland as a "wake-up call at the right time" adding, "You can't say everything's rosy".

"It's good that there is a discussion in Germany whether this team have the character to sometimes win ugly," wrote the 39-year-old.

Germany had the world at their feet when Goetze's volley sealed their fourth World Cup title at the iconic Maracana stadium.

NATIONAL TREASURE

The performance in the Rio de Janeiro final cemented coach Loew's status as a national treasure and made his players heroes in football-mad Germany.

But now the German public want a fourth European title after their triumphs in 1972, 1980 and 1996.

While Germany left golden memories in Brazil, they forgot to bring their eye-catching brand of attacking football back home with them. Now Loew must prove his side can still cut the mustard on the big stage.

They face Slovakia having lost 3-1 to Jan Kozak's side in a friendly in Augsburg last month.

Mario Gomez's early penalty was cancelled out by three unanswered goals from Marek Hamsik, Michal Duris and Juraj Kucka as Loew blooded four new players.

"We lost to Slovakia at the end of May, so we know what's coming," said Loew, who fielded an inexperienced side for the friendly.

"From now on, opponents are going to have to do something or they know they'll be going home.

"It's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to the knockout stages."

Loew will celebrate a decade in charge after Euro 2016 and, under his guidance, Germany have always reached at least the last four at major tournaments.

Criticism from pundits and former players is water off a duck's back to the 56-year-old.

"Nothing surprises me anymore," said Loew. "I read something from a former leading player and it conjures up a smile on my face.

"In 2014, we already had the same discussion. Then we won the World Cup and suddenly everyone was an awesome leader.

"In all honesty, it's all been said before."

- AFP.

Predator Mueller in search of precision

Loew needs to solve the Bayern star's positional problems for Die Mannschaft to click into gear

Thomas Mueller.

REPORTING 
FROM LILLE

ROUND OF 16

GERMANY v SLOVAKIA
(Tonight, 11.50pm, Singtel TV Ch 142 & StarHub TV Ch 220 - Eleven EURO)

 

Thomas Mueller would loathe the comparison, but he's beginning to look like Wayne Rooney.

Not the current incarnation of Rooney, the deep-lying, string-pulling, defence splitting skipper that Roy Hodgson claims to see in training every morning.

But the old Rooney, the club and national legend blessed with talent, pedigree and a dazzling resume and yet, somehow, in need of a permanent home.

As Germany prepare for their Round-of-16 clash against Slovakia in Lille tonight, they have a proven predator in search of a position.

After three group games without a goal, Mueller is caught between a rock and a hard place, or in this instance, a surprisingly ponderous midfield and a lumbering attack.

Joachim Loew has essentially borrowed his formation from the World Cup, but the execution seems different, slower and more laboured.

The fluid, passing style that characterised their flamboyant brilliance through the knockout stages in Brazil is strangely absent at Euro 2016.

Loew's nimble midfielders - Mesut Oezil, Mario Goetze and Julian Draxler - still buzz around the centre circle's honeypot, but Mueller's lack of involvement has the look of a distant cousin at a family wedding.

He's part of the group, but not quite; his presence warranted if not entirely justified. It's certainly not for the want of trying.

Only the heroic efforts of Michael McGovern, the Northern Irish goalkeeper who put in one of those life-changing performances that captivate international tournaments, denied Mueller a goal in the final group game.

But his positioning, rather like his shooting accuracy, is slightly off.

Five goals in each of the last two World Cups, along with 32 in all competitions last season, practically grant Mueller immunity from German prosecution.

But his countrymen and women are mildly apprehensive ahead of the knockout stages (as they usually are before Die Mannschaft invariably obliterate all before them on the way to the final).

Mueller remains the odd man out.

Initially, Goetze appeared to be out of sync with those around him, clearly unsuited to the demands of a No. 9.

His slight physical attributes and subtle footwork are better served with Goetze facing the goal.

But Loew displayed his customary reluctance to make a major tactical decision until his team had played a couple of tournament games and finally promoted Mario Gomez.

The move paid off, for Gomez.  The Besiktas frontman scored the winner against Northern Ireland, but also betrayed his comparative limitations as a footballer surrounded by fleet-footed dynamos.

ASSISTS

Gomez lacks Goetze's light touch and Mueller's heavy industry, not to mention the latter's assists.

Of all his impressive stats, Mueller's 12 assists at Bayern Munich last season are of equal importance to Loew.

Germany's wily manager resists the obvious temptation to pander to the clamouring masses and throw Mueller up front. He wants those assists.

With only three German goals in three games, he needs them.

Mueller offers more than both Goetze and Gomez combined, but his incisive running, cutting inside from the right to such devastating effect has so far been nullified by smart defending.

The Irish practically tag-teamed the Bayern forward, taking turns to push him further to the periphery and out of harm's way.

Still, the problem isn't really Mueller's marginal influence, but the inability of others to come to the fore.

At the World Cup, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Oezil, Mueller and the now-retired Philipp Lahm appeared to take turns in dominating contests, as if passing the Man-of-the-Match from one standout performer to another.

Khedira and Jerome Boateng both took exception to Michael Ballack's recent criticism that the current crop is short on leaders.

Khedira likened Ballack's remarks to a "comedy", but a "documentary" might have been a fairer interpretation.

Germany trudged around rather aimlessly against both Poland and Northern Ireland, with the performances lacking both direction and leadership.

With neither Kroos nor Khedira establishing a stranglehold in midfield, Mueller was only further isolated out on the right flank.

If he stays out wide against Slovakia, he risks being marginalised by a defensive Slovakia.

If he heads up front, Germany are deprived of his pass and assist qualities and, if he drops into the hole, Loew is left with a less mobile No. 9.

Mueller's position against Slovakia, and its subsequent success or failure, could define Germany's tournament.

Of course, Loew has been here before. Before the World Cup quarter-final, he pulled Lahm out of midfield, dropped him in at right back and suddenly everything clicked.

Now he needs to settle the Mueller conundrum to reconnect Germany's fluid forward line and turn on the goal supply.

For the Germans to finally fire, Mueller must come in from the cold.


i’m not worried about Thomas Mueller not scoring... He was close (against Northern ireland) and i’m sure he’ll score in the next match.

- Germany coach Joachim Loew on Thomas Mueller.

Devils mustdominate

Our analyst is hardly impressed with Belgium's possession stats but believes they will get better

CHANGE NEEDED: Belgium coach Marc Wilmots (right) should play Dries Mertens (left) instead of Yannick Carrasco, says 
TNP analyst Michel Sablon.
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Poland first team to reach last eight

Poles perfect in shoot-out but not potent to go far

ROUND OF 16

SWITZERLAND 1
(Xherdan Shaqiri 82)

POLAND 1
(Jakub Blaszczykowski 39)

l 1-1 after extra-time, Poland 
win 5-4 on penalties

In the end, Poland scraped through to the quarter-finals in the same laborious fashion they made it to the Round of 16.

The strike partnership of Robert Lewandowski (above) and Arkadiusz Milik, one overflowing with potential, once more looked pathetic.

With the front duo firing blanks again, it took Polish winger Jakub Blaszczykowski to give them the breakthrough in the 39th minute at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne yesterday.

But the game's moment of brilliance belonged to Switzerland star Xherdan Shaqiri when he whipped in a stupendous overhead-kick from the edge of the penalty box with eight minutes left to force the game into extra-time and, subsequently, a penalty shoot-out.

The Swiss fans then felt the full brunt of travesty when new Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka failed to find the target from the spot - the only miss in the shoot-out.

This was a game which the fitter Switzerland side looked the far superior team, especially after half-time.

Poland (above) did just enough, but coach Adam Nawalka will find few positives from a lethargic performance.

Lewandowski, top-scorer with 13 goals during a blistering qualifying campaign, has yet to find the net in four Euro 2016 outings.

Milik, the 22-year-old talent touted for big things, continues to miss easy chances.

Even the much-vaunted Polish defence, which did not concede a single goal during the group stage, looked stretched and clueless once Switzerland turned on the style in the second half.

BRIGHT START

It started brightly for Lewandowski and Co. though.

They could have taken the lead inside a minute. A poor backpass by defender Johan Djourou saw Lewandowski sneak in on goal, before goalkeeper Yann Sommer came sliding in to make the block.

The ball ricochetted to Milik at the edge of the area but, with an open goal to aim at, the Ajax Amsterdam forward missed the target.

Just after the half-hour mark, Milik again found himself with an excellent opportunity, but his shot was wild.

For the second match in a row, Blaszczykowski put his side in front.

Showing the composure and finishing missing from Poland's frontline, he unleashed a stiff grounder through the legs of Sommer to give Poland a first-half lead.

But Switzerland returned from the break looking the hungrier side.

Shaqiri fired the first warning to the Poles when he forced Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski into a fine save after cutting inside and whipping in an effort from the edge of the box shortly after the restart.

Ricardo Rodriguez's solid 73rd-minute free-kick was flying towards the top-right corner until Fabianski's timely intervention.

Five minutes later, Haris Seferovic rattled the Polish bar.

The Swiss finally got the equaliser they deserved when Shaqiri thumped in his late stunner to force the game into extra-time.

In the 113th minute, Fabianski again pulled off a world-class save, this time from Eren Derdiyok's header at point-blank range.

The final whistle came as a huge relief to Poland. Eventually, Xhaka's miss gave them a victory they didn't deserve. If yesterday's performance was anything to go by, they will soon be following the Swiss out of France.

He’s disappointed, but that’s football and mistakes can happen. I think Granit is very professional and he can cope with it.

— Xherdan Shaqiri (left, No. 23) says Arsenal-bound Granit Xhaka can cope with Euro 2016 heartache after his penalty miss sends Poland into the quarter-finals at Switzerland’s expense

Joy for Wales, sorrow for N. Ireland

Late, undeserved own goal ends Northern Ireland's fine romance

RELIEF: Wales forward Hal Robson-Kanu (left) celebrating after an own goal by Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley (on ground).

REPORTING FROM PARIS

ROUND OF 16

WALES 1

(Gareth McAuley 75-og)

NORTHERN IRELAND 0

The problem with romance is it can break your heart.

And the manner of Northern Ireland's crushing, late defeat tore Irish hearts to shreds.

Gareth McAuley hadn't put a foot wrong all game. And then he did, horrendously so.

In his deepest dreams, the own goal will haunt him forever. 

He didn't deserve it and nor did the plucky Irish, but football really is the cruellest game.

With 15 minutes left on the clock and extra-time looming in the Round-of-16 clash this morning (Singapore time), Gareth Bale swung a devastating low cross from the left.

Until that moment, the pony-tailed prancer had been a peripheral figure, his impact negligible.

But the cross was vicious and McAuley, aware of the pressure around him, swung out a boot. 

The Irish had one foot in extra time. McAuley had one foot out of time and now his devastated teammates are out of the tournament.

Tears filled the terraces. The Welsh cried at reaching the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1958.

INSPIRING SUPPORTERS

Their opponents wept at what might have been.

Michael O'Neill's men, with half the talent and twice the tenacity, were so close, so desperately close to extending their run at Euro 2016 and giving their genuinely inspiring supporters the ending their devotion deserved.

France will desperately miss them and the party they brought to Parc des Princes long before kick-off. Welsh and Irish fans posed together for selfies, well lubricated certainly, but never belligerent.

Intriguingly, the stadium's vibrant colours replicated the respective populations of their two nations, with reds outnumbering greens by at least two to one.

A one-word din rolled down the stands, creating a blanket of noise that covered Parc des Princes, the confidence unmistakable.

Wales, Wales, Wales.

The Dragons were breathing fire before their bouncing boyos had even made it onto the pitch.

But if the Welsh brought the swagger, their opponents brought the salsa. The Irish danced in the stands from first minute to last, looking like a giggling, singing gang of green Teletubbies.

Sitting was optional throughout. It was standing room only.

Never mind the Battle of Britain. This was a battle of the bands.

Occasionally, between the musical intermissions, a game of football broke out.

Despite O'Neill's understandably conservative 4-5-1, the Irish mostly dominated, with Stuart Dallas forcing a smart save from Wayne Hennessey in the 10th minute.

Traditionally, Wales have laboured with the favourites tag and their opponents sensed their unease, pushing Jamie Ward forward to join Kyle Lafferty up front.

Hennessy's reflexes were again called upon to tip over Ward's rising drive midway through the first half, with Wales struggling to impose any authority and Bale a virtual passenger.

Northern Ireland essentially vandalised the Welsh engine room. Corry Evans displayed a limpet's tenacity, refusing to let Joe Allen go, constantly checking over his shoulder and tracking the Liverpool midfielder's runs.

Bale's horrendously over-hit free-kick, sailing over the heads of his teammates and out of play, summed up a tentative half for a side that struggled against Andorra in the qualifying campaign.

Chris Coleman's siege mentality is diluted somewhat when there is no siege.

With both nations favouring counter-attacking, there was, essentially, no attacking, with the game taking on the complexion of a mid-table English Premier League clash played out in the early season sunshine.

When the half-time whistle went, the fabulous Irish jig began again with aplomb, as if the sporadic outbreaks of football had somehow got in the way of the party.

On the pitch, both sides were seemingly engaged in an act of sabotage to prove that the expanded knockout stages really had diminished the tournament's quality.

The romantic narrative of the British underdog can only be stretched so far. At some point, the football must take precedence.

When Sam Vokes missed an open header from 12 metres, Coleman had seen enough, hauling him off for Hal Robson-Kanu.

The impact was almost immediate, with Bale resembling a legitimate threat for the first time, stinging Michael McGovern's palms with a swerving free-kick in the 58th minute.

But the Irish held on and the game threatened to drift aimlessly, rather tediously, towards extra-time.

And then McAuley's unfortunate boot killed the romance stone dead.

Denim summer

Summer style does not mean wearing little. A careful take on layering is one good way to style up a simple outfit.

Let's start with the evergreen denim jacket ($59) from Forever 21 as the key piece for layering your summer on a nautical note.

Set sail with one denim jacket in three styles.

GO SHORTS

A popular trend this summer is to go short - a high-waist option with a relax fit gives an illusion of a smaller waist. Work it with a long-sleeved boat neck striped top under your denim jacket.

Straw hat ($19) and linen shorts ($24) from Forever 21. Ray Ban aviator ($235) from Sunglass Hut.

Boat neck striped top ($29.90) from Uniqlo and bi-colour leather brogues ($329.90) from Ecco.

DOUBLE DENIM

You can never go wrong withthe fuss-free option of pairing your denim jacket with basic denim jeans.

Ditch those heels and go for ankle boots to get that masculine look.

Long-sleeved denim shirt ($149) and yellow boots $249 from Timberland. April 77 indigo denim jeans ($179) from The Denim Store.

OVER A DRESS

The polo dress, a twist from the classic polo T-shirt, is here to stay.

Freshen up by pairing it with a denim jacket. Less is more, so go without accessories except a scarf worn as headband.

Striped polo dress ($199) and lace up leather sneakers ($139) from Lacoste. Large scarf ($49) from Kipling.


PHOTOGRAPHY: KENNETH CHOO

STYLIST: KOVIT ANG

HAIR AND MAKE-UP: 
ANGEL GWEE USING PRODUCTS FROM L'OREAL HAIR PROFESSIONAL AND COLOURS FROM BURBERRY

MODELS: ALICJA B. 
(DIVA MODELS)

ALL ITEMS FEATURED HERE ARE FROM 313@SOMERSET.

Tags: fashion, clothes and shoes

People - match & score

He wins for the first time

Man buys multiple copies of TNP daily to collect jerseys

HAPPY: Mr Chan Thim Poh was one of seven winners last night in the TNP Match & Score contest.

He says he has never won anything.

Determined to change that, Mr Chan Thim Poh, 41, bought at least four copies of The New Paper every day to gather the winning jerseys for the TNP Match & Score contest.

His efforts paid off yesterday when he walked away with $100 cash.

The quality control engineer told TNP: "The feeling of winning something really does feel good. I feel a mix of surprise and happiness."

Mr Chan said he will now double his efforts and buy twice as many copies.

"I really hope to win the jackpot," he said.

HAPPY: Mr Chan Thim Poh was one of seven winners last night in the TNP Match & Score contest. PHOTO: SPH MARKETING

Mr Chan was one of seven winners last night who each won $100.

For the contest, images of football jerseys, featuring either a number or a country, are printed in TNP from Monday to Thursday.

New printing technology allows every copy of TNP to feature a different combination of jerseys.

These jerseys can be collected to later match the winning combinations published in TNP from Friday to Sunday.

The jerseys are valid only for that particular week.

JACKPOT

During those three days, there will be a daily jackpot prize of $1,000, which will snowball if it goes unclaimed.

As there was no jackpot prize winner today, the jackpot prize is now $3,000.

There will also be combinations for the $100 and $200 cash prizes.

Up to $31,000 can be won in the contest, which ends on July 10.

Winners must collect their prizes at the SPH News Centre at 1000, Toa Payoh North, between 8pm and 9pm on the same day.

People

22 rescued after boat capsizes

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