Schweinsteiger tries on underdog collar and says Spain are favourites
Bastian Schweinsteiger insists Spain are the favourites for Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final encounter in Durban, despite Germany being the most impressive team in South Africa so far.
The two European heavyweights have had contrasting runs to the last four, with Germany playing thrilling football and Spain struggling through. But Schweinsteiger, 6/1 to be named player of the tournament, insists the side that beat them in the Euro 2008 final two years ago are still “the better team on paper”.
“Losing a final always causes frustration and disappointment but Spain were definitely the better team,” the Bayern Munich midfielder said. “On paper Spain are still the better team but I think we have shown in our last two games that we can beat teams that appear the better ones on paper. For me, Spain are the best team in the world.”
The Germans, who came into the competition without being given much chance of winning, have silenced many of the doubters with their attacking brand of play and are now 2/1 to win the trophy, ahead of Spain on 9/4.
Schweinsteiger continued: “Now we have fresh faces and different characters. Spain haven’t changed that much.”
Despite admitting full respect for the European champions, he acknowledged that they were not at their best in South Africa. “Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta but also Xabi Alonso and (Gerard) Pique are great players but we still have a chance against them,” he said.
Iniesta and Alonso are 12/1 and 25/1 to score first respectively.
Meanwhile, team manager Oliver Bierhoff has played down reports of a rift between captain Philipp Lahm and regular skipper Michael Ballack.
Right-back Lahm, a 16/1 shot to win the Golden Ball, said earlier this week that he would have to be forced to give the arm-band back to Ballack after the World Cup.
Bierhoff said: “We have freedom of speech in the team and need players willing to speak their mind.” The former Germany striker added: “It is an unfortunate coincidence that Ballack’s departure and Lahm’s statement coincided.”