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Germany, Argentina set for World Cup final ‘rematch’ England pick up pieces in Norway friendly

DUSSELDORF, Germany, Sept 2, (AFP): Fifty days after winning the World Cup for the fourth time, the German national team assembled in Duesseldorf on Monday for Wednesday’s repeat of the final against Argentina. Wednesday’s match was already set to be a glamour friendly but there is added hype in the wake of Mario Goetze’s extra-time winner when the teams last met in Rio de Janeiro on July 13. Around 45,000 people watched the World Cup-winners train on Monday and Wednesday’s game at the Espirit Arena will attract a sell-out crowd.

On Sunday, Joachim Loew’s side host Scotland in Dortmund in their first qualifier for Euro 2016. For a German team still taking in the World Cup triumph, the two games have come around quickly. “I think it’s not easy for us - that’s clear,” Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said on Monday. “For Scotland it’s the game of the year to start against us. We have to play well against Argentina with regard to the weekend and to be fully prepared for it.” Germany will be without Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose, all of whom retired from international football after this summer’s tournament.
 
Most countries would struggle to replace three players, who amassed 354 caps between them, but Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff is confident that the squad can move on. “After every tournament, we’ve always managed to bring the team to another level and to develop them further,” Bierhoff said at a press conference on Monday. The most pressing question is who will replace Lahm as captain. Neuer, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and defender Mats Hummels are all candidates. “When the coach trusts me to do it, I’ll do it,” Neuer said. “But of course I have to talk to him first to find out what the situation is.”
 
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Marco Reus, who missed the World Cup through injury, is back in the squad along with Fiorentina striker Mario Gomez. Highly-rated VfB Stuttgart centre-back Antonio Ruediger is also included. Mesut Ozil has an ankle injury but Bierhoff said he hoped the Arsenal midfielder would be fit for the Scotland game. Schweinsteiger, however, will miss both matches through injury. Argentina changed manager after the World Cup, with former Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino taking over after Alejandro Sabella stepped down.
 
Martino must cope without captain Lionel Messi for his first match in charge. The Barcelona attacker played in a 1-0 win over Villarreal on Sunday but a groin injury has prevented the 27-year-old from travelling to Germany. “The priority is not the result,” Martino said before leaving for Duesseldorf, taking with him the squad that got to the World Cup final, minus Messi. “What’s important is that there’s a good atmosphere in the squad.” Meanwhile, after a dismal World Cup, England will enter an uncertain new era on Wednesday when they tackle Norway in a low-key friendly game at Wembley Stadium. Manager Roy Hodgson has called up four uncapped players in Calum Chambers, Danny Rose, Fabian Delph, and Jack Colback, but following England’s group-stage elimination in Brazil, supporter interest is at a low ebb.
 
With several players missing due to injury and with former stalwarts such as Frank Lampard and captain Steven Gerrard having retired, the Football Association expects a record low crowd of around 35,000 for the game. The match nonetheless serves an important purpose, with Hodgson’s side due to open their 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign away to Switzerland, their main Group E rivals, in Basel on September 8. The fixture will also see Wayne Rooney lead the team out for the first time since being appointed captain. Amid all the novelty, midfielder Jordan Henderson has urged his team-mates to seize the chance of a fresh start.
 
“This is the first time the group has been together since the World Cup, so I think we’ve got to deal with it and put it to bed now and move on and look towards the future,” said the Liverpool player. “Obviously overall it was very disappointing because we came home far too early, but we’ve got to look at some of the positives as well and hopefully use them to move forwards and start a new chapter.” Versatile defender Chambers, 19, was rewarded with a call-up after impressing in his first few appearances for new club Arsenal following a close-season move from Southampton.
 
He was joined in the squad by Tottenham Hotspur left-back Rose, a seasoned Under-21 international, Aston Villa midfielder Delph, and midfielder Colback, who left formative club Sunderland for Newcastle United in June. Hodgson has jokingly referred to Colback as ‘The Ginger Pirlo’, in reference to the elegant Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo, but the health of England’s midfield is no laughing matter. With Michael Carrick, Ross Barkley, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana sidelined, and Gerrard and Lampard no longer available for selection, Hodgson’s options in the middle of the pitch are seriously diminished.
 
Full-backs Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson, Luke Shaw, and Kieran Gibbs, and forward Jay Rodriguez are also currently out of action, but Hodgson says he has no qualms about blooding new players. “I think they’re good enough to play for England, as the manager and the coaches think they’re good enough to play for England,” said Hodgson, who began his tenure with a 1-0 win over Norway in a friendly in May 2012. “Now they need to put on the shirt and the boots and go out and show they’re good enough.” Like England, Norway are rebuilding after missing out on a place at the World Cup. Manager Per-Mathias Hogmo named a youthful squad for the friendly against England and Norway’s opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Group H rivals Italy in Oslo on September 9.
 
But there was no place for 15-year-old Stromsgodset sensation Martin Odegaard, who became Norway’s youngest ever player when he started against the United Arab Emirates in a goalless friendly last week. Norway have won only one of their 10 games under Hogmo, who was appointed a year ago, but he feels that they are moving in the right direction. “If you look at the results this year, they’re actually quite good,” he said. “We’ve played six games this year: three with a domestic squad, with which we’ve gained a win, a draw and a loss. “And we’ve played against three top nations, including a draw against Russia and a draw away to the Czech Republic with a diminished squad.”
 

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