Germany coach Joachim Low said on Monday that FIFA World Cup™ semi-final opponents Spain will be a tougher proposition for his young team than both England and Argentina were. And he claimed that while Argentina's principal threat was Lionel Messi, Spain have many players of the same calibre.
Germany have dazzled in the finals so far, scoring four goals in three out of their five matches, including humiliating England 4-1 and then Argentina 4-0. But Low thinks they will find the going a lot tougher in Durban on Wednesday against the team who beat them 1-0 in the final of the UEFA European Championships in Vienna two years ago.
"It's not a case of taking revenge for the Euro, Spain were the best team in the tournament and in the final," said Low. "Now the situation is different, we're better than we were in 2008, we have a chance of winning this game. Personally I think Spain are the favourites for the tournament, in the last two-three years they've been the most consistent team, they've always played and won the important matches.
"They don't have just one Messi who is able to make a difference on the pitch. It's a team that doesn't make many mistakes, far fewer than the likes of England or Argentina. They're very organised, they work together both in attack and in defence, they're a great team. Spain make it look easy, they don't have to use up all their energy," he continued.
Low is particularly wary of the havoc Barcelona pair Xavi and Andres Iniesta can cause, but he believes his team will be able to stop them. "They've played together for a long time at Barcelona, that's what makes the difference," he said. "But if we get on top of them and put them under pressure as we did with Messi, that will be the key to the match."
Low believes he will have all his players fit and available for the game except 20-year-old Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller, who is suspended. The coach said that will be a blow to his team but he has confidence that others can take his place. "I always knew he had this freedom in his play, he knows how to be dangerous, he has this instinct," he said. "He's given us a lot, his suspension is a tough blow but I have faith in the players who can replace him. They're in good form but they haven't played a lot. It's tough to replace him but Cacau, Piotr Trochowski and [Toni] Kroos can do it."
One element of his side that has especially pleased Low is his backline, marshalled expertly by centre-backs Per Metersacker and Arne Friedrich. And it is the form of Friedrich, whose club Hertha Berlin were relegated last season - though last Friday he was snapped up by Wolfsburg - that has particularly impressed Loew.
"They were almost perfect against Argentina, they had good organisation, they didn't make any mistakes in their individual battles," he insisted. "Friedrich showed straight away that Berlin's poor season hasn't affected him. The whole team is defending well."
Low also paid tribute to the physical condition of his team which has allowed them to steamroller both England and Argentina. But the coach stopped short of making comparisons between his players and the great stars of the past. "It's difficult to make historic comparisons, right now we're playing in such a way that we could dominate anyone," he said. "We can dominate a match for 90 minutes, whether technically or physically."